Why Real Creativity Requires Significant Work, Part 2

In my previous post on this topic, I told the story of publishing my first book. I shared the significant amount of work it required and a number of setbacks that I had to overcome. I used this story as an introduction to the talk I gave on the Re:create Cruise on “The Role of Work in Creativity.”

Writer’s Desk with Notes - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/MiquelMunill, Image #4792809

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/MiquelMunill

In this post, I want to share the essence of my talk, including the common myths that aspiring writers and other creatives have about the creative life. It is what I refer to as “The Romantic View of Creativity.” It includes four assumptions:

  1. The creative life is easy and effortless.
  2. People will beat a path to your door.
  3. People will love you for your art.
  4. You might just get rich—or at least able to make a living.

However, unlike this romantic notion of creativity:

  1. Real creativity involves significant work. In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “10,000-Hour Rule.” The basic idea is that success in any field is, to a large extent, the result of practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours—or more. It also applies to creativity.

    Whether you want to be a great author, musician, painter, or comedian, it takes lots of practice. You don’t just suddenly show up and demand to be acknowledged because you think you have talent. It’s not that easy. You must do the hard work of practicing and investing in your craft.

    With respect to writing books—the field I know best—doing the work requires you to:

    • Come up with a great idea
    • Develop a proposal
    • Find an agent
    • Shop the proposal
    • Secure a publishing contract
    • Write the book
    • Process the edits
    • Rewrite the book

    It’s not easy. This all requires significant effort. Contrary to the common myth, great artists, including writers, are incredibly disciplined.

  2. Real creativity requires significant promotion. A few years ago, a famous author told me, “Look, my job is to write the books. Your job is to promote them.” Sadly, this hasn’t been true for at least twenty years. This author was simply out of touch with reality.

    Successful publishing requires that the author both write the book and assist in its promotion. It’s no wonder that the author I referenced is a shadow of his former self. He has almost completely lost his audience. As a publisher, we simply can’t make it work without his cooperation.

    I understand why many authors are uncomfortable promoting their own work. But I think this inclination is misguided. If you have invested the hours creating the work and really believe in it, then wouldn’t you want to get the work out to as many people as possible?

    Today, it is more important than ever to have a “platform.” A few authors can succeed without one, but it is rare. And the time to build a platform is before you need it. The first question we ask at Thomas Nelson is about the book’s content. The second question s about the author’s platform. It’s rare for us to offer a contract to a new author that doesn’t have both.

  3. Real creativity invokes criticism. From a distance, fame looks very attractive. You think the famous among us are endlessly praised and adored. Not so. Anytime your head rises above the crowd, someone is going to take a shot at you.

    As a result, it’s easy to lose perspective. I know. It often happens to me. (Ask my wife.) I can receive one hundred positive blog comments, yet one negative one will throw me into a tizzy. I suddenly think that everyone hates me, and I am ready to quit. (Most authors I know express the same sentiment.)

    You have to distinguish between friends, critics and trolls:

    • Friends love you and are willing to share with you the truth, even if it hurts a little bit.
    • Critics don’t have anything personal against you; they simply disagree with you.
    • Trolls are spoiling for a fight. They attack you because something is wrong with their heart. My best advice is to ignore them. If you engage them, it only strengthens their resolve.
  4. Real creativity can be monetized, but it requires deliberate action. Whenever someone tells me, “It’s not about the money,” I know one thing for sure: it’s all about the money. For some reason, Christians often have an uneasy relationship with money.

    However, the Bible has a lot to say about money. One important verse for creatives is this: “A laborer is worthy of his hire” (1 Timothy 5:18). We should not feel guilty about charging for our work—and even maximizing our earnings. This is simply good stewardship (assuming it is not motivated by greed).

    When you put a price on something, you create value. Art that is offered freely without charge is often disregarded. In other words, if you, as the artist, don’t think it is worth anything, why should I? This is why I don’t think giving your work away for free is good for you or for recipient. If you believe in your work, charge for it.

If you are a true creative, the work won’t scare you. Embrace it. There really aren’t any shortcuts, despite what you may hear. The only thing standing between you and your dream is hard work and persistence.

Question: Are you ready to get to work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.diiarts.com SJ

    Thank you, Michael Hyatt, you are a truly wise gentleman. I could tell you of my experiences on a certain website created by a certain publisher (I am sure they rather wish that they had not!) but it would take far too long.

    There are so many excellent points here, I am spoiled for choice.

    You have said the one thing about the trolls that I have been trying to impart to so many friends. Do not engage! It isn’t clever, it isn’t funny, and the more ammunition you feed these creatures the worse it gets. Eventually lawyers get fat and sleek and happy. I don’t like lawyers.

    Publishing a book is an almost endless creative process. Yet some authors still believe that write the story and they are done. So far from the truth.

    Thank you for your superb, succinct post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      So true about the trolls. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    1. involves significant work.
    2. requires significant promotion.
    3. invokes criticism.
    4. can be monetized, but it requires deliberate action.
    All the above four criteria suit well to my profession too (accounting and auditing).

    Though I am not a professional author/ writer, I can use many of the priniciples outlined here in my profession.

    Your post is head on in teaching us HOW to excel and succeed in every sphere of life.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I hadn’t thought about it, but I think you are right: this does apply to almost any career or pursuit.

  • A.R.Sago

    I LOVE this! This one is a keeper for me to refer back to again and again. I especially love your comment, “Anytime your head rises above the crowd, someone is going to take a shot at you.”

    Very motivational and inspirational! I’m definitely hitting LIKE and SHARE on this one. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for passing this along to your Facebook friends!

  • Anonymous

    It does require lot of work.

    Creativity is not for the faint of heart.

  • Mike

    I wanted to mention my own story of publication very briefly to say that this is not always the case. Instead of a book, this was a game I made, but I see from what you outline that it is a very similar path to publication in both markets.

    I worked hard at creating many games for about 12 years. One lesson I took away is that hard work often pays off, but sometimes God wants to do it another way.

    My most widely published game was eventually published when I stopped working. I felt God was telling me no every time I tried to push open another door. I was stubborn and I kept pushing, but I came to a point where I gave up and I prayed about it. Within a month I received a call from an agent who told me he believed God brought us together at just that time. I had never sought an agent, yet he came to me. We had a contract with a very successful publisher within a year.


    My advice to creative individuals is to follow God’s lead. The path may look differently each time, but it’s the only way to really learn what he’s trying to teach.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, indeed. Sometimes, God works by other means. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/Belinda_Pollard Belinda Pollard

    Thanks for the discussion. Why do we feel so bad charging a fee to create a book or work of art, when we wouldn’t feel bad about charging to build a wall or clean a bathroom?

    And I agree with you that promotion is vital for authors nowadays, even though it can feel uncomfortable and un-humble. But it’s not actually about being “famous”, at least I don’t think it is when it’s done right… it’s about making a genuine two-way connection with readers… allowing yourself as a writer to be known by your readers, and taking the trouble to know them in return. There’s nothing proud or sinful about that.

  • Jordan

    Encouraging post! Thanks Michael. I’m about to get out right now to write.

  • Sequoiajoy

    There is much truth in what you say. A winning idea, creativity, craftsmanship, practice, persistence, another who believes in you and your work, salesmanship, platform — all these are essential for today’s authors.

    Thanks for sticking with it to complete it when you wanted to quit. And thank you for sharing.

    I wonder how you choose a project you can go the distance with. How do you weed out projects for which you can’t do what it takes. When you stand at the early crossroads, how do you choose?

    I wonder also how you specifically overcome temptations to quit.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Deciding which projects have the most potential is part talent and part experience. I don’t have a formula. With regard to overcoming the temptations to quit, I have written on this quite a bit. Just search for “quit” or “quitting” in the right-hand sidebar. Thanks.

  • http://www.jeremysconfessions.com Jeremy@confessionsofalegalist

    Thanks for saying that sometimes you get down and feel like quitting. I have found more ups and downs in writing than I have in anything else I have done.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Me, too. I deal with it almost daily. It does get easier over time. It’s not unlike running or other exercise. The most difficult part is putting your running shoes on and starting.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        And sometimes, I feel like quitting before I’ve even begun. It’s easy for a creative to get down, it seems…

  • Billie Brownell

    Thanks Mike — I face point #2 often.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kenneth.purdom Kenneth Purdom

    Wow – So true. In the Nashville TN area we see a lot of this.

  • Toyka1

    Well stated.

  • Gregg Fraley

    Thanks for exposing some of the common myths about creativity. Creativity does require work, and I would add that it requires deliberate, structured, process. There is another creativity myth — that has a creative person think they can stumble to success with ad hoc, on-again, off-again efforts. Creativity requires consistent effort in exploration, idea generation, and action. These steps apply to both the creation of something, and the promoting/selling of it. Thanks for another valuable post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You make a very good point. I definitely use a structured process in my blogging and other writing.

  • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

    Um, yes, I think so. ;-)

    Actually, I was reading bits of this article to my husband and asked his permission before even jumping (or easing) into an endeavor. He was fully supportive. (Said it would be like Cheaper by the Dozen – the new one, except he would keep his kids under control, lol)

    Anyways, thanks for giving us an inside look. :) I really didn’t expect anything less, but this confirms it all. :)

  • Cara

    I’ve been intimidated by the creative process my whole life. I’ve always thought you’re either creative or you’re not. If you have to work at it, you must not be creative. But the 10,000-Hour Rule, now there’s a lot of wisdom in that concept. So maybe I am creative, and maybe I have been all along I was just lacking the effort to stick with it and give creatively a chance. I think I was just fooled by all of the “overnight success” stories I’ve seen my entire life. That’s what’s been intimidating me and holding me back. … I am creative. I’ve most certainly invested 10,000 hours, many times over, in my field. Now I just need to do something with it. Next step…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The media loves to promote the overnight success story. It has various forms, but it is basically the “lottery mentality.” I think that hoping for this is unproductive, since it keeps you from doing the real work that will ultimately advance your career and your art. Thanks.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        What? The world won’t come knocking at my door! Shucks!

  • http://amysorrells.wordpress.com Amy K. Sorrells

    Thank you for the important reminder that creativity IS work! It makes sense, though, considering God made us in His image and He spends so much of His time creating . . . and even He needed to rest from the work of it all! I love how our God is gracious to us creative- types. Every time I’m worn and weary with my craft, He gives me an encouragement or a word or a reason to carry on. May He continue to bless your creativity!

  • http://twitter.com/PaulEvans Paul Evans

    Thanks Michael!

    As artists or creatives it’s easy to forget the hard work necessary to be great.

    This morning SportsCenter reflected on Manny Ramirez’s career. A former teammate said, “When we talk about Manny being Manny people often think that means he was lazy. He wasn’t. He was in the batting cage long after everyone went home. He would watch film after film on his day off.”

    (I guess it proves that even drug users have to work hard!) :-)

    None of us are so solid with our craft that it’s perfect the first or fifth time around. I think…

    “Process the edits”
    “Rewrite the book”

    …are the two most hated steps for authors. But it’s the equivalent of staying long after everyone is gone and watching film on your day off. No one really wants to, but the best do it anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Michael, great work…..I don’t know if you have caught wind of this guy on THEDANPLAN…http://www.tampabay.com/features/can-a-complete-novice-become-a-golf-pro-with-10000-hours-of-practice/1159357

    It’s in response to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour to be a professional

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a great article. I just read the whole thing and then subscribed to Dan’s blog. Thanks for sharing!

      • Anonymous

        No problem, Appreciate the time you invest in others through this blog.

  • Gary Runn

    Great, helpful insights Michael-I am using your book proposal e-book now to create something-time will tell. But while I have a passion for my topic I am totally seeing what you are talking about by way of the work it takes,even to get a good proposal together (your e-book has helped a lot I might add). Thanks for sharing your experience and insight.

  • http://twitter.com/TheronMathis Theron Mathis


    I love this. I have always wanted to write a book, and recently I did. I must admit it was one of the hardest and most insecure thing I have ever done. For me, it was an amazing discovery of hard work and at times tedium. Also dealing with my own doubts was an unexpected struggle.

    I am finding that the creative life extends beyond what is often consider the domains of art. My “real” job is in sales and marketing, and my writing experience has improved my effort at creating strategies, workflows, marketing plans, etc. If I want good work, the effort must be more strenuous and deliberate than I ever thought. Any excellent product, whether it be a book, blog, sales process, presentation, etc., is merely the 10% of the iceburg that everyone sees and experiences. The 90% is the grit and sweat that no one sees.

    Expect hard work. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely. I like your iceberg metaphor!

  • http://jancoxabetterway.wordpress.com Jan Cox

    I read Outliers and I agree totally – if you have a passion for something and want it – you will put the effort into it. My problem in retirement (realignment) is to find which passion God wants me to put the hours into. I see the world, since finding Christ, as full of colourful balloons. Which to choose is still a challenge. Gradually I see a narrower path – but I can get easily sidetracked by all the “good things” to do. The great part is there is no frustration – only joy in following where He leads. Thanks for the post – it certainly gives me something more to think about.

  • http://twitter.com/davebaldwin Dave Baldwin

    What you have written really resonates with me Michael. We have a 37 year old daughter with Down Syndrome. It’s a long story, but a bit over a year ago she came back to live with us. In the state of Maryland there’s a 10,000 person waiting list for services for those with developmental disabilities. So not wanting here to sit around doing nothing we started a small business for her. It took tons of time and work and trial and error to make an excellent product. We are still learning. Coffee roasting is part science part art, so we’ll always be learning. There’s also a creative side to it. That’s the fun part. She has mastered the roasting really well and we are growing. We’ve added staff and are moving to a store front in our small town. All this while I’ve also been the Pastor of Ministries at a church that averages 2500 in attendance on the weekends. So my plate has been full.
    I think building a successful coffee roasting business is like writing a book. We’ve had to be creative, it’s been hard work, we used the platform I had and developed other platforms (Joel Comm’s book, “Twitter Power…” is excellent on that topic) as well.
    Thanks so much for sharing your struggles and successes with us.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for this great story, Dave. It is very inspiring.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Back in the 1300’s, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote these words…

    The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
    Th’assay so hard, so sharp the conquering.

    Life is short, as Chaucer explains, the craft takes a long time to learn, the work is hard, but when it is right, the writer’s joy is immense.

    Maybe this craft of writing is truly worth the time and effort it takes!

  • Debbie

    Sigh. Deep Sigh. :0)

  • http://twitter.com/BrettVaden Brett Vaden

    I’ve done some pretty disciplined things–trained for a marathon and several half-marathons…written many papers…and earned a couple of degrees (working on PhD now).

    Writing a book seems like a whole new level. Thanks for the encouragement; I am ready to step up!

  • http://www.tracyantonioli.com Tracy Antonioli

    Wow–I really needed this post (and the previous post) today. I’m at the ‘running out of steam’ point as I work on my proposal. I realize that I’m still at the very beginning of this process–if I’m lucky–and it isn’t time to give up. It’s time to start working even harder. Balancing research and writing with a day job is challenging–but it is so much better than the alternative, which is ‘never even trying’. Am I ready to get to work? Absolutely!!! Thanks for this post!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great. I’m glad it gave you a boost when it sounds like you needed it!

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    I just deleted all my whining….

    Mike, thank you very much for the pep talk. I needed it today because I’ve discovered there is no formula to follow for turning the spotlight on my book. I’m just steadily lighting one candle at a time, and trusting God to do the rest. God always provides for His work, and His word never comes back void, therefore giving Him the elbow room to work plus doing my part there is our success. The great thing is, I’m not doing this alone even though it sometimes feels like it. I just pray every day that God heads me in the right direction to plant the correct seeds with the right amount of water.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you, Gina. You have the right attitude. That’s 90% of life—and writing!

  • http://www.hansschiefelbein.com Hans Schiefelbein

    I understand you approach to charging for content but other (newer) readers may say ” But you just gave away your e-book for free last week.” do you need to include another post on that strategy? Also you should link “platform” to your platfor post instead of “it’s important…” b/c I’ve hears it’s a little better for SEO purposes to have the text match the content of the link.

    I would greatly appreciate a whole series on platform. I have such a limited Twitter following and it’s hard to both be a real person (and include personal and family Tweets) while also getting deep into my niche. Does that make sense? It seems like guys with 20,000+ followers have more leeway to ” be themselves” while also delivering great content to be shared.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I intend to write a post on my e-book strategy. While I gave it away free form a monetary perspective, I was exchanging it for something much more important over the long-haul: a permission-based newsletter list. I have gone from 2,800 subscribers two weeks ago to almost 12,000 today. This list will be invaluable to me in the future. My goal is to get to 50,000 by calendar year-end.

      I think you should be yourself regardless of how many followers you may have. I haven’t changed my content strategy at all since I first began Twittering. I share a lot of links I believe my readers will find helpful as well as peeks into my private life.

      Thanks for your input.

      • http://www.hansschiefelbein.com Hans Schiefelbein

        To be clear, I knew you had an e-book strategy. I only meant to give a quick reaction to what I anticipated newer readers might be thinking. Congrats on your increased subscriptions. I love the weekly option rather than the daily. And thanks for the Twitter thoughts. I agree with it all in theory but I’m not seeing the results in followers, mentions, or RT. Maybe I’m not delving into my niche enough. But I know I’m establishing a platform and now it’s a matter of improving its quality and in turn it’s reach.

        Have a great Saturday.

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    Just one more thing… I believe blogging is more creative than just about any other writing thing out there. I can’t tell you how often I’ve surfed into someone’s blog and they are talking about not having anything to say! Why even post then? Then others will blog for up to a couple of years and then not post for six months or more.

    When I had gone back to finish my degree (earned my bachelor’s after 30-hiatus) there were times when I wanted to shut down my computer and melt into a puddle, but God kept urging me to write, write, write. He told me, “Gina, you are going to need these one day!” . That told me His plan was for me to use those posts in an even more creative way later. I did use some of them, polished up, trimmed up and knitted into 300-400 words when I wrote a weekly column for the Picayune Item as the Lifestyles Editor, and I used them for my weekly columns at Studylight.org. What is so astounding is that these posts have meshed beautifully into a wonderful book for any one who’s been betrayed, or hurt, or faced the storms of life because God said the message of the cross is “No stones,” but He never promised “No storms.”

  • Dale Flannery

    Hi Michael

    You said “the Bible has more to say about money than almost any other topic” … this is a commonly repeated, but mistaken idea.

    I think the “almost” qualifier betrays the fact that it is not *actually* true. The Bible does NOT have more to say about money than any other topic, rather it is mainly about God and his relationship with people.

    Often even the references to handling money are secondary to the moral aspect (relationship with God), and sometimes merely a historical record of a transaction. In those cases it is not “saying something” about money at all.

    Could I suggest that when repeating other people’s ideas or any commonly accepted wisdom that you do a quick fact check (in this case a word count, merging variants and synonyms).

    Why should you avoid such an exaggeration? Well, being accurate brings its own rewards, but you also won’t attract the attention of pedants like myself :-) I really do think that one item of exaggeration might cause some readers to place less value on the rest of the text which would be to their loss.

    You don’t need to publish this, I just wanted to alert you to an opportunity for improvement. If I am mistaken I will look for a “Gibbs-slap” from you in the comments. :-)

    Kind regards


    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for this correction, Dale. You are correct. I am mistaken. I should have fact-checked it.

      I made a correction to the post. It now reads: “However, the Bible has a lot to say about money. One important verse for creatives is this …”

      Appreciate you pointing this out.

    • http://allanwhite.net/ allanwhite

      Dale, that was an excellent example of constructive criticism. Well-put and insightful. I’ve heard that whole “bible & money” canard many times.

      Quality critique makes a huge difference in the end product and the process itself.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I agree. Respectful, but direct.

  • http://www.moneypress.com Richard Hartian

    Michael, I so know what you mean when you say:
    “I can receive one hundred positive blog comments, yet one negative one will throw me into a tizzy. I suddenly think that everyone hates me, and I am ready to quit.”
    Thanks so much for saying it…I so often feel that I am the only one who feels this way and that there has to be something wrong with my character…it causes me to think I need to take another path

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Whenever I speak to creatives, they almost all express the same sentiment. It must just come as part of the package. ;-)

      • Sheri Schofield

        Hi Michael. I’m a creative in a part of the country where people rarely encourage me. The common attitude is: “If I tell you I like your work, it will go to your head, and I wouldn’t want you to become big-headed.” Also, this is a very competitive, jealous environment. There are two people who occasionally praise my work, whether it’s writing or painting. I really LIKE those two people! I’ve poured my life out in my church in children’s ministries and music, giving them years of creativity. Yet, because I’m a woman, I am expected to give this freely, without praise, without pay.

        It is TOUGH WORK! The only way I’ve been able to continue giving has been to look to Jesus for that encouragement that I so need. It would be lovely to be in a part of the world where praise occurs often! But this is where I’ve been called to serve. The challenge is to remain sweet and not allow bitterness to grow in my heart, for bitterness would shut down the creativity. I serve my Jesus with a ratio of about 20 criticisms to 1 praise. It would be so nice to have 1 criticism to every 100 words of praise! I’d be in Paradise!

    • http://allanwhite.net/ allanwhite

      My field is visual design. One thing I try to help young creatives with is this: “it’s not about you”. Even when delivered poorly, critique is usually about the product, not the person.

      It’s very difficult to separate ourselves from our work. We pour ourselves into it. But, separation is essential if you’re going to make a life of your creative passion. Criticism doesn’t have to feel devastating; with practice & prayer you can cultivate this mental attitude.

  • http://www.destanley.com Dustan Stanley

    Thanks for the last two post.

    The point about a worker being worth his hire and valuing your art really hit me. I really must change the way I think. My work is good, but something somewhere makes me feel funny about monetizing it. For me I think it comes from being a minister, and not wanting to charge for what I was freely given, but this DOES not apply to my personal work. I must get over it. It would help my life, art, and ministry if I would.

    Where do you think this wrong thinking comes from?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t know where this thinking comes from. My guess is probably faulty thinking about money and our own self-worth. I can tell you that most creatives struggle with this.

  • http://deandeguara.wordpress.com Ddeguara

    Sounds like a chapter in a book to be…Treading with the Trolls! – It not only gets us tied up in knots it kills the spirit of creativity.

  • TNeal

    I’m reading your post and interacting with your thoughts. Before I finish the article, I want to explore platform a bit more with you. I’ve heard and read a lot about platform. I understand the basic premise. Since this is a relatively new idea for me, I may have a bigger platform than I realize. It could actually be even smaller than I think.

    In practical terms, what does a platform look like? If I’m known in an area (could be geographical, could be expertise outside of writing, etc.) but not as an author, can I build on that particular platform?

    Example: As a former pastor and missionary, I’ve spoken across the nation and around the world. In the past, my wife and I maintained contact with mission supporters through a monthly newsletter.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      If you haven’t read Tribes by Seth Godin, start there. A platform is basically the way(s) you connect with the tribe you lead. It could be a blog, Facebook, Twitter, a radio or television show, or even your speaking engagements. It is all of that—and more.

      • TNeal

        Excellent! I’m halfway through “Tribes” right now. Love it when your advice dovetails with what I’m already doing. Makes it easier. And after reading your two posts on real creativity, I feel a little uneasy with easy. :-D

        • Jonathan Bigler

          Thanks, I’m not that familiar with the concept of platform. I just ordered Tribes too :-) Thanks for those great inputs in your blog, I started following you a few weeks ago and it’s really inspiring !

          Could we get a blog post on Platformes one day ?!? I would love to hear you on that topic.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            You can search my blog. I have written on it quite a bit!

  • Anonymous

    This talk inspired me to pay the price for pursuing my dreams. You are right that Christians have an ‘uneasy relationship’ with money. This also includes paying for expert help. Sometimes we think that if God gives us a dream it will come without a cost to us. I’m going to shoot Alice Sullivan an email today! Great post.

  • TNeal

    Again, I’m still reading through your post and have read as far as point #3 and criticism.

    First of all, your 100-positive-1-negative comments reminds me of the typical response to praise. For example, my wife and I painted the rooms in our house before we moved into it. When someone commented about the color in the living room, my wife would point at the one not-quite-so-nice spot. We do tend to focus on the negative.

    Secondly, I had the privilege of meeting Jerry Jenkins a number of years ago. I noted that his “Left Behind” series drew both praise and criticism. Some of the latter was downright incendiary. How did he keep going? “Changed lives.” That’s not a direct quote but it gets at the gist of his statement.

    Thanks for the three types of critics authors face. That’s extremely helpful.

  • TNeal

    Finally finished. Good article.

    Concerning money, I’m reminded of bonuses in the NFL and how they affect a player’s career. The more financial investment in a player the more likely the team will keep him.

    I’ve heard a similar truth in regards to a writer’s advance. The bigger the advance the greater a publisher’s commitment to the project.

    As in both cases, a high-paid veteran who stinks and a large-advance author with a poorly written manuscript may get cut anyway.

    I agree with the idea that an artist shouldn’t sell himself or herself short. If you’re confident in your work and you write well, you should be ready to promote the book and get paid for it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      There is a subtle point on the advance that I should bring up. While an advance does in some way represent a publisher’s commitment, you have to be careful that the publisher doesn’t pay too much. (It would be easy to write this off as a self-serving statement made by a publisher—me—but I am speaking as an author.)

      No matter how successful a project is, if the publisher doesn’t recoup his advance, his perception is that the project was a loser. Even if you can demonstrate empirically that he made money while writing off a portion of the advance, the perception still lingers.

      The right size for the advance in my opinion is something that demonstrates that the publisher is an engaged partner but something he can recoup in a reasonable time frame. Three to six months is best from my perspective. When the publisher recoups, he feels like he won and will often re-double his efforts to market the book.

    • http://allanwhite.net/ allanwhite

      This was very, very hard for me starting out. I had to force myself to start billing for my value as a freelancer.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      There is a subtle point on the advance that I should bring up. While an advance does in some way represent a publisher’s commitment, you have to be careful that the publisher doesn’t pay too much. (It would be easy to write this off as a self-serving statement made by a publisher—me—but I am speaking as an author.)

      No matter how successful a project is, if the publisher doesn’t recoup his advance, his perception is that the project was a loser. Even if you can demonstrate empirically that he made money while writing off a portion of the advance, the perception still lingers.

      The right size for the advance in my opinion is something that demonstrates that the publisher is an engaged partner but something he can recoup in a reasonable time frame. Three to six months is best from my perspective. When the publisher recoups, he feels like he won and will often re-double his efforts to market the book.

  • http://markjmartin.com Mark Martin

    I haven’t written a book, but I have found it’s easy to think that talent substitutes for hard work. As a musician, I’ve tried my hand at songwriting and it is hard work.

    Thanks for the post!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1162216277 Kevin A. Kierstead

    I have a few issues with this post. First, I am creative and others I know are, naturally, and it does come easy. Secondly, I will tell you that it’s not about the money, and when I do, it’s NOT about the money. I write because I have to. I can’t not write. I won’t get rich, but I won’t stop writing. How could I possibly be thinking about the money? A few assertions in your claim just sort of sounded like gongs. I am in no way a troll. I won’t even send food back to the kitchen when it’s half raw.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t personally know of anyone for whom their creative work came easily. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen; obviously it does. I just don’t know anyone. (Obviously, this post is not for them.)

      With regard to the money, I understand what you are saying when you declare that you can’t help but write. My issue is with those who are duplicitous in saying it’s not about the money when, in fact, it is about the money.

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Curtis Marshall

    This is a challenging post for me right now. Although I’m not an author outside of my blog, the idea of selling content (writing/speaking) is one that is very uncomfortable. How do you put a price tag on your thoughts?

    After reading this blog for awhile, I have definitely realized the value-added for my own life and would willingly pay for much of its content. But I don’t have a platform like you do. I’m just a guy who’s passionate about leadership and feels like I have something to say to the world.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I would read Tribes by Seth Godin. It might give you a vision for where to start.

      • http://crashleadership.com Curtis Marshall

        Thanks! I actually just finished it a few weeks ago. Now, I’m looking for my tribe. This blog seemed like a great place to start!

  • Ruthaki1

    Excellent advice which I will share with my creative writing classes (I’m an instructor) and also with members of my writer’s critique group. I’m just in the process of doing final edits on my historical fiction novel which took literally years to write. And yes, I DOES take a lot of dedication and determination to get a novel written.

  • http://twitter.com/RachelSayers Rachel Sayers

    Thank you Michael! I really appreciate what you have shared the past two posts!

  • http://www.janieseltzer.com Janie Seltzer

    Mike, you have no idea how many people you touch with your outstanding insights~ full of truth, transparency and toughness that we all need. Thank you. Janie Seltzer

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Janie. I take that as a huge blessing.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Great reminders on creative work!

  • http://twitter.com/jennrothschild Jennifer Rothschild

    Outstanding Michael. Wish Phil and I could have been on the cruise with you. Let us know if you will be doing one in 2012.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      We are indeed planning to do one. In fact, we are gathering at my home tonight to plan it, while the last one is fresh on our memory. I would love to have the Rothschild’s!

  • Katherine Hyde

    I would take everything you say and raise it by a power of 10 for those who are writing fiction. I’ve been working hard at writing and promoting for eight years now and have only earned a few hundred dollars so far.

    What I want to know is this: Why does no one in publishing seem to recognize that the model which requires full-time work from a writer, but in 90% of cases does not pay him/her enough to live on, is broken? Everyone involved in publishing gets to make a living (maybe not a posh one, but a living) from it except the writers–without whom the industry would not exist.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree on fiction. I write one novel, and it almost killed me.

      I personally don’t think the publishing model is broken. Writers do get paid. But not what they think they are worth; it is what the market says they are worth. (I know, this is a hard pill to swallow.)

      Take the world of golf. Does everyone who practice hard at the game deserve to make a living from it? There are only 150 PGA slots available. Very few make the cut, though they may spend years trying and invest thousands trying to improve. Even once you make the tour, the ones at the bottom end of the ranking barely make a living. The ones at the top make enormous sums of money. Is this unfair? Or is this just supply, demand, and market economics?

      My own view is that no one is entitled to anything, other than equal opportunity. Beyond that, it is up to you (and God).

      • TNeal

        Your illustration highlights the oft-illusory nature of writing. We dream of making it big and having our book made into a blockbuster film. The reality is most of us are duffers wishing we could hit the fairway more often or sink the winning putt. (Talk about mixing your metaphors!)

        Michael, you’ve given us a metaphor that helps interpret the real world of publishing and the dream of making a living as an author.

      • Katherine

        Your point is well taken, but my point is, not too many people have the energy and freedom from other commitments to be able to invest the time it takes to learn to write well, keep writing, AND spend the expected time on promotion while also holding down the job they need to keep food on the table. It’s like having three full-time jobs. Everything you’ve been saying about balance goes completely out the window.

        Also, unlike in golf, being the most skilled does not by any means guarantee you one of those coveted slots as a writer who can make a living by writing. It’s not about skill as much as it is about catering to the market, which is very fickle.

        Therefore, I think it’s reasonable to say that writers (and other creative people) do not have an equal opportunity to make a living given the way our economy is structured.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          So how would you restructure it?

          • Katherine Hyde

            I’m still working on that. It’s definitely complicated. No writer really wants to be on salary, because that would mean writing what the boss says to write. And I don’t think publishers are obsolete; writers need all their services more than many would care to admit. But I think it could be time in the near future to rethink pricing and distribution, so that there’s more pie to go around. Advances should be reasonable (no six or seven figures), and royalties should be significantly higher. And publishers need to return to doing more of the marketing, at least for fiction, because the marketing gene and the fiction gene rarely coexist in the same person, and the two activities can really detract from each other.

            I’m not asking for the moon on behalf of writers. I never had grandiose dreams myself; all I ever wanted (and still want) is to make a modest living by writing so that I can devote all my work-related energies to what I consider an art, instead of being so scattered that I can achieve only a tiny fraction of my potential.

          • TNeal


            You’ve opened up a line of discussion that highlights the tension which exists in writers. How can I make a living, modest or otherwise, as a writer so that I actually can do what I love to do?

            I appreciate both your thoughts and your humor in wading through the frustration of the writing/publishing world.

            Currently, if I had to depend on my writing income, I’d starve (cliche of starving artist, oh my).

            Thanks for keeping this thought thread going.


          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I think this is true for almost every type of artist: writers, painters, musicians, etc.

          • TNeal

            Being in the winnowing process and learning the craft of writing, I recognize the hard work involved for successful artists in other fields. I don’t watch much television (isn’t that what we all say? :-D) but I have a better understanding of the work involved to be an “American Idol.” Whether I like a particular singer or not, I recognize how challenging her/his world can be beyond the glitz we see on the program.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I think this is true for almost every type of artist: writers, painters, musicians, etc.

        • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

          Katherine, why not start a blog for struggling writers and monetize it with specific e-books. With 8 years in the craft many of us would love to read about your experiences.

          • Katherine Hyde

            I might try that. How much do you think people would pay for “How to Fail at Writing While Trying Really Hard”?

            Seriously, I have thought of it, but figured I needed more credentials to interest any buyers. There are so many advice-to-writers blogs and books out there already, many written by people with a lot better qualifications than I have.

  • http://simplemom.net Tsh @ Simple Mom

    A few years ago, a famous author told me, “Look, my job is to write the books. Your job is to promote them.” Sadly, this hasn’t been true for at least twenty years. This author was simply out of touch with reality.

    I had no idea how true this was until a few months ago, when my first book came out. Publicity has been incredible, time-intensive work — almost as much work as the writing itself. In this era, writers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and any other type of self-starters really do have to wear myriad hats. No longer can you be content doing just one thing well. You play to your strengths, of course, but it really bodes well to learn the basics of lots of different roles. Graphic designer, PR rep, editor, ad manager, accountant… I’m finding I have to do it all. I like about 90% of those hats, thankfully.

  • Scott Valentine

    Indeed creativity is a lot of work but when you love what you do those 10,000+ hours seem to fly by unnoticed. When I’m focused on a project the rest of the world just fades a little from view. Great post. Definitely going to pass this one along & share the #Inspiration.

    • TNeal

      You’ve reminded me of an excellent book on creativity called “Art & Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. They tell the story of a pottery class divided into two groups. In one group, individual grades depended on nothing but quantity. At the end of the semester, their “art” would simply be weighed, the heavier the weight the higher the grade.

      In the other group, quality would determine the grade. A student had to only present one piece for his final grade.

      What happened was those who made lots and lots of pottery gained greater skill and not only provided the most “art” but provided the best “art.”

      So 10,000 hours? Seems tough but doable given time.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Interesting experiment. Hmmm.

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    Michael, thanks to your input through this blog, I did get to work and I am just about ready to hold the fruit of that work in my hands. Because my content is enough “different” than what traditional Christian publishers would accept, I went with self-publishing. I’m ready to take on reaching out to others with the message of God’s absolute love–fortunately (because I have a demanding day job that I love), I can do that reaching out at my own pace.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Congratulations on your new book, Patricia! There is nothing quite as exciting as holding a new book that you have written in your hands for the first time.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    I just wrote a letter to my Senator requesting that the 10,000-hour rule be reduced to 100 hours max. Ten-thousand hours simply isn’t fair toward the less persistent among us. The American Dream must be equally available to all, myself included. The only thing standing between you and your dream is hard work and persistence.Exactly, and I will never allow anything to stand between me and my dream. There is no place in my life for hard work and persistence. And yes, I should stop giving away my work for free and start charging for my tweets. Do you happen to know of any plug-in that does that? I see no reason to continue sharing by dazzling little aphorisms for free. After all, when taken seriously and done properly, tweeting is work: one must stay within the 140 limit, be clear, and keep ‘em snappy. These little buggers don’t write themselves. So what am I? Friend, critic, or troll? Then, of course, there are the hybrids: fritic, frill, and croll. It’s all very complicated.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      If your senator can sponsor the bill, I will support it!

  • Reece Powell

    The last reply mentioned self publishing. This used to be a no-no, something that was looked down upon. But now it seem more and more to be the thing to do. Would love to know your thoughts on this.

    • Reece Powell

      Sorry, it wasn’t the last reply but an earlier one by Patricia Zell. Michael, you know the biz. What’s your take on self publishing.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I think I just answered this above. Sorry to be redundant, but I have a post on this. It is called “Should You Consider Self Publishing?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have expanded on this in a post: “Should You Consider Self Publishing?

      • Reece Powell

        Okay. Sorry. It’s easy to get lost in all the responses.

  • KCMoog

    Thank you for sharing your insights. They are very helpful.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottPostma Scott Postma


    Thank you for the realism. It’s affirming, once again, to know that the hard work is not in vain. When my desire to write became nearly insatiable, I started a blog and started developing my writing by going back to school, doing a lot of reading and a lot of writing, sure I was born to write. When I started, though, I had “The Romantic View” you spoke of. I was sure real writers poured eloquence and meaning out of beautiful fountain pens onto fine linen paper with every stroke of the pen. But everything I wrote modeled Hemingway’s famous quote on first writes–and my rewrite weren’t much better. I had myself believing I had as much potential as a frog on a freeway, that I was just hopping for nothing and would eventually die never seeing the other side. I was not a natural at something I so strongly desired and that was discouraging. I finally realized how much work it really takes, and although I’ve yet to publish anything, I’m working on about 3,000 of my 10,000 hrs. Blessing and thanks again for the affirmation!


  • http://www.theanimusproject.com Jamie O’Donoghue

    Mike, great post again, I’m curious about your comment on ‘ignoring trolls.’ While I agree with you, how do you personally translate that over into your blog posts? If a troll were to leave you with a nasty comment, how would you handle it? Delete the comment? Reply once and leave it at that? Appreciate all you do.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      If it’s really nasty, I delete it. If it’s not nasty, then I just ignore it without a reply.

  • Rev. Robert Bryan Anthony


    Very inspiring article and insights to keep us “focused” on what is vital for authorship and professionalism! People tell me constantly that I have a “Story to Tell” and I know that God’s allowed the TESTS in my life so I’ll have a unique TESTimony that will Inspire others to Greatness.

    If I’m an “expert” at anything worth sharing, it’s in adapting and overcoming challenges because…I’m almost TOTALLY BLIND! I create videos, hunt, play golf, softball, and horseshoes, ride a bike, and tackle anything God allows me opportunity to do so.

    2 Cor. 12: 9 & Hebrews 10:35-36 are KEY to my life’s success!

    I LOVE God, people, and LIFE! You’re article reminded me that, since I really do have an inspirational “Story to Tell” of overcoming life’s challenges, that it “requires deliberate action” on my part.

    I pray that God places the right people in my life that will help guide and mentor me to share what He’s done in my life.

    Thank you, Mike!

    Rev. R Bryan Anthony

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great testimony. Thanks for sharing it.

    • TNeal

      When you couple “TOTALLY BLIND” with “I create videos, hunt, play golf…” you’ve hooked me. I want to know more. And that’s exactly where you begin your story-the place that arouses curiosity. Great TESTimony!

  • Karl Mealor

    Loved Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. Another anecdote from the book that I loved:

    Every four years, an international group of educators administers a mathematics and science test to elementary and junior high students around the world. (It’s sometimes referred to as the TIMMS.) When students sit down to take the TIMMS exam, they also have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire. This questionnaire asks about everything from their parents’ background to what their friends are like. It’s a very demanding exercise, so demanding that most students leave ten to twenty of the approximately 120 questions blank.

    Here’s the kicker: if you rank each country by how many questions they answer on the questionaire and compare it to the rankings of the scores on the TIMMS, the rankings are exactly the same!

    In other words, if you want to predict how well a country will do on the math exam, give them a task that measures how hard they are willing to work. It doesn’t even have to be math related. Students who stick with the demanding task are more likely to be successful on the exam.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I had forgotten that anecdote. It is excellent!

    • TNeal

      You’ve made it into my Evernote. Thanks for a great anecdote and adding another book to my reading list.

  • http://joeburnham.com joeburnham

    Thank you for this. I’ve added a reminder to reread it as part of my weekly Sunday night review/prep (something else I got from you). So yeah, that means I’ll be reading it 52 times a year.

  • http://twitter.com/AdamsOrganizing Elise Adams

    So much of what you say here resonates deeply with me. An aspect of this creative/effort-centric process that you didn’t focus on in this article is time. A wonderful Spiritual Father of mine keeps reminding me that building a career or platform that is strong and stable takes time…a lot of time. I’ve discovered since starting down this bumpy, tough-lesson-imbued road that time is a gift, not an obstacle. Admittedly, I haven’t been at this for years and years, yet I am grateful that I am learning these lessons –how to write, grow my business (tribe), promote myself and ever-more-clearly articulate the message I’m meant to deliver– while my platform is small. I believe that the degree that I remain open to the lessons inherent in all this stumbling while my mission/message have a small reach is the degree to which I will be prepared for a bigger audience. If I was impatient to skip over these lessons ‘sudden fame’ wouldn’t be of much long term use to me, or to those I hope to encourage and bless.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Michael, I’m a photographer. In regards to point number 3, I don’t get any criticism for my work. Everyone I show my photos to loves them. That worries me. What advice can you give a creative who wants to push past the wall of average to the land of real creativity, where criticism is inevitable?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Push the boundaries. Try something new, perhaps something that hasn’t been done.

  • http://www.kristyblogs.com/ Kristy K

    The platform part is killing me right now. I have the book (on paper), but no platform for it. I’m attending a writing conference this summer (She Speaks) and have a chance to meet with a publisher to present my proposal. Would you suggest that I wait until I have a platform before I talk to a publisher about my work?

    My poor husband… he thought the hard part was done when I finished the book. I hate to tell him that it’s only just beginning. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I think you can move forward by talking to publishers. It would help if you at least have the platform piece under construction.

  • http://twitter.com/MacKinnonChris Chris MacKinnon

    After reading these posts, I have a nagging question. Does a publisher prefer to receive the proposal BEFORE the book has been written? I guess I’ve been under the impression that if you have something to write, write it first and then go after a publisher. Now I’m not so sure.

    Having written but not traditionally published, I wonder if some frustration would be avoided by following that model. At the same time I am wired in a way that I have to get thoughts out so I can move on to the idea I’m supposed to working on. Do you have any suggestions?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It depends. If it is non-fiction, you should submit a proposal and two sample chapters only. Do not go further than that. If it is fiction, you will likely need to complete the entire manuscript. I explain how to handle both in my e-books, Writing a Winning Non-fiction Book Proposal and Writing a Winning Fiction Book Proposal.

  • Francarona

    Dear Michael,
    I subscribe to many daily posts and feeds, but yours is one I always take the time to read. Often I will buy the books of the authors you promote. Your advice has been very helpful to me. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to others.
    Fran Carona

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Fran.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FJRLITL5IEFHDDFURAESLXOOZ4 Jim Whitaker

    Creativity is not my strong suit. In a world where I am torn between logic and linear thinking, I am not real creative on my own. But then I realized that was my narrow view of creativity from the standpoint of art in the literal sense of pictures, sculptures and so forth. It was the book Getting Things Done that opened my eyes to the ability to be creative and how to live a life that will help to tap into that creativity. So it is with this foundation of Getting Things Done that enabled me to have the time to practice the things that help me to be creative in the first place. Whether it is writing a sermon or writing lecture notes for a class that I am teaching, if I don’t have a clear mind, I will not be able to be creative in the least bit. Promotion is a hard part for me. I started my business life with a lot of self promotion and it came to bite me and it took a long time for me to gain proper perspective and humility. So it is very hard for me now to be in a position for any type of promotion. I do what I do because I love it and it is what God has called me to do, so I come to things with an attitude of, “if I do my best and try to honor God in the process, then that is all I need.” Though in the book world, I can certainly understand why you would want to promote, promote, promote. Criticism was a difficult part for me to embrace as well. The key is to have folks that provide criticism with a heart of love. My wife and my pastor are good examples of people who I can talk to and get honest, critical feedback without the fear of being banged over the head with a bat. Thanks for the insight into creativity. This is a good look at the process you use.

  • http://bigcchurch.blogspot.com/ bdillenback

    I have heard the 1o year rule. That to master something it takes 10 years of sticking with it.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      Yeah, 10 years or 10,000 hours.

  • Brent Trickett

    I especially like point number 3. In China there is a saying “The nail that sticks up gets pounded down”. This is so true especially when you go out on a limb and do something different. This is why real creativity takes courage. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Michael.

    • TNeal

      In Russia, the saying goes “The tallest grass gets cut.”

      I remember a Russian friend saying that architectural creativity meant you included both “red and white bricks.” How novel!

      • Brent Trickett

        I wonder if anyone knows of similar sayings from other regions. I like that one.

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  • http://twitter.com/LauraParkerBlog Laura Parker

    As always, I love the advice given here. I love the reminder that art takes work, creativity takes practice, success takes time.

    I am currently blogging from Thailand, and I especially loved what you wrote about an author’s platform being an important facet of an author’s success, gained and cultivated before book proposals are ever agreed upon. While I’m not sure if a book is in my future, I do think it’s valuable for me to remember that building a following through my blog is prepping the soil for the potential for a published book, in later years.

    It’s so easy for us to want to jump to the World Series early-on without working our way through the sweat and quiet of the Minor Leagues, first.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      Laura, I checked out your boot, and it looks great! I think that blogging can be a great way to create a platform for yourself.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Thanks to Robert’s reply I was drawn back to your original comment. I loved two things about what you said.

      First of all, your quote…”art takes work, creativity takes practice, success takes time.” It’s now in my Evernote.

      Second, anyone who uses baseball analogies hits a home run in my ballpark. Couldn’t help myself on that one.

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  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    I love this post! I especially resonate with your comments in #4. I’m writing an ebook on leadership. Granted, I still have a lot of work to do; I’ve just managed my outline and have started to expand my ideas into chapters. Maybe I’m getting the cart ahead of the horse here, but I’ve been thinking about whether or not to give away my book on my blog, or charge for it. Since I’m an unknown author, I was leaning towards giving it away… Who would want ot buy something from an unknown? But now I’m reconsidering that idea. Thanks for giving me something to chew on here.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      As you know, I give mine away. But I do so for something I think is more valuable: permission to keep engaging with my readers.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        True. But you also sell the other books still, correct?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Yes, correct.

  • Anonymous

    As someone interested in writing a book, these posts are very helpful. Thank you for your insight!

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  • http://www.millerbrothersbooks.com The Miller Brothers

    Great article. I’ll be re-tweeting it soon. I do, however, feel compelled to add something on behalf of all those hard-working authors out there. (The ones who often work harder at marketing than they do at writing.)

    It IS the publisher’s job to market you too…don’t be bullied into thinking otherwise. I’m happy with my publisher, but I know far too many authors who are being taken advantage of by publishers who are simply sitting on the sidelines, doing nothing to promote the books. The publisher holds a larger percentage of ownership in the book than the author – they need to act like it.

    Yes, it’s true that the author must participate in the marketing (shame on those who don’t) but I disagree that the primary responsibility to promote an author’s work lies with the author. If that were the case, why would they need to enter into a contract with a publisher in the first place? An author enters into a relationship with their publisher in hopes of gaining a broader audience than they are capable of reaching on their own. And let’s be honest: putting a book in your catalog is not promotion. Authors work far too hard for the few pennies of royalty they will eventually earn on each book sold to invest more time into marketing than their publishers do.

    Affordable printing and broad distribution are no longer an exclusive advantage of publishers. Maybe 20 years ago it was, but times have changed. Quality editing and product PROMOTION is the role of the publishing house today.

    Bottom line: Publishers that don’t promote their authors will cease to attract talent and cease to exist.

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  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Hi Michael, I’ve been thinking about this paragraph from this post all week:

    When you put a price on something, you create value. Art that is offered freely without charge is often disregarded. In other words, if you, as the artist, don’t think it is worth anything, why should I? This is why I don’t think giving your work away for free is good for you or for recipient. If you believe in your work, charge for it.

    You make a great point, but there are some other principles that are in tension with that. This issue of whether to charge for your work or not is one a lot of creatives wrestle with, so I thought would be good to blog about & discuss. I quoted you in it…

    Should writers, musicians, and artists give away digital copies of their work for free? http://ow.ly/4zAmZ

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Interesting. I will have to process this when I get a little more time.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      Also, something to think about… what about when what you’re working on has value to you other than money (I’m thinking about a giveaway on one’s blog that increases traffic or subscribers). Maybe that’s a form of payment/price?

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Absolutely. Value can take many forms.

  • http://epicwritingblog.blogspot.com Epic Writer

    I loved this post. I suppose watching the instant success of some, many think they can do the same. Thanks for pointing out reality.

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  • Kendrailia

    Thank you for the incredible encouragement!!! God keeps putting people in my path to keep me focused.. you must be one of them because this entry (and part 1) has given me another push in the right direction.

    Time to work. ;)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4PPQY6VDDQG5I7KY7EK6TMHH4E JustinW

    I’ve only started reading your blog this week and I’ve already got two of your posts bookmarked! Please keep the wisdom and advice coming. It’s great to hear it from someone so experienced and so driven. Keep it up! We’re listening!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your encouraging words, Justin!

  • Karl Mealor

    Loved #4. I sometimes struggle with putting a price tag on things that I do or create.

  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    I like #3. I think what is holding me back is the fear of criticism.

  • http://creativelycreatingmycreation.wordpress.com Andrea

    Thanks for this post Michael and for sharing your lessons learned.

    Like you if I had known how involved it was to write my memoir I would have easily talked myself out of it. I am in the process of round 2 of my editing and hope to have it published in the near future.

    I’m working hard and putting in long hours because I believe in the product and at first I thought write the book and that’s that. But I recognize that I know my product best and I am the only person that can sell it.—[Brace yourself in this memoir filled with drama, emotional turmoil and an inspiration to never give up! ]

  • Dday

    MH, I have been passing my manuscript around to peers, and I got some interesting feedback yesterday. The first four peers got back to me with corrections, but nothing over-the-top. And then a friend got back to me with corrections in every sentence. The problem is that I don’t know how to assimilate all of the different ideas to know which corrections to make and which ones are overly critical withdrawing my voice. Any thoughts on a book or two I could read on writing well? Secondly, any advice on how to recognize good feedback and overly critical feedback? Thanks!

  • Mafiou_p

    Hi! Good on you for these interesting advices!

    I am a student photographer, and when it gets down to photography I am all about hard work, research and the creative process..

    However I also love drawing and painting, which for me is more a personal task which has for purpose to express inner feelings. I have only done one painting so far and was quite happy with it (although it was a simple portrait for school and not a personal initiative) but every time I think about starting to draw or paint, I get anxious and just can’t do it! Not even the slightest energy to fight back!!

    Why is this happening?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I suggest you read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

  • http://twitter.com/Thumbelina137 Gayle Nicholson

    I’m ready. What now?

  • http://twitter.com/Thumbelina137 Gayle Nicholson

    I’m ready. What now?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Do the work. In fact, read Steven Pressfield’s new book by the same title: Do the Work (Domino Press, 2011).

  • Rabernathy03

    As with most authors who have completed a work, I am proud of my manuscript and hope many will have the opportunity to read. If you are like me, I am sure you completed the manuscript and showed it to your mom or wife-generating (hopefully) positive comments.

    In my first novel, The Walk to Walden Hill, I sat down with an idea an it expanded into a completed Christian novel within a month.  It was almost as if someone else was writing and I had a front row seat.  Being that it was my first stab at writing a book, I had no idea where to send it.

    I came across a link on a site that directed me to Athanatos Christian Ministries where they conduct a writing contest each year for short stories, poetry and novels. Meanwhile, I researched self-publishing and chose to go that route on my inaugural book. So, submitted my manuscript twice–once to Crossbooks Publishing, a division of Lifeway and to the Novel Contest.

    Fist, I recieved a Theological Review from Crossbooks that read (“This is BY FAR THE VERY BEST BOOK I HAVE READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I could not put it down. In fact, I would go so far to say that Lifeway should be picking this baby up to publish themselves. I would purchase this book for myself, I would give it as a gift to others, I would donate copies to libraries… If I could throw a parade for this book, I would…it is about hope and forgiveness and JESUS and hard lives and real people and redemption and IT IS FANTASTIC!”)

    Now, Im not tooting my own horn or anything…(ok maybe a little)..but thats the kind of thing my mom says. (and my wife on good days). It verified that…”Ok I have a book that someone will enjoy”

    Next, I recieve word that the book won an award with the Novel Contest.  The novel contest prize included a cash prize as well as a publishing contract.

    I have already paid for the book to be self-published.  The novel contest publisher who has offered a contract is a small publisher who will likely sell less than 1000 books.  I have not accepted a contract yet.

    How do I get the book noticed by the parent publsihing company of Crossbooks without spending the money to find an agent?  I would like to think that it has somewhat proven that it is good enough to at least be read and considered.

    What steps do I need to be taking right now?  Should I fork out the money to have marketed? Should I go with the smaller publisher?  The Crossbooks version will be available to purchase in a few weeks.  I still retain the rights to my book.

    Your thoughts are much appreciated.

    R. Abernathy

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You will not get a major publisher to consider it without an agent. Period.

      I would ignore the review from Crossbooks or any self-publisher, including our own, Westbow. Both are selling services. They are not investing anything, so their opinion doesn’t mean much.

      I would start by reading my post, “Advice to First Time Authors.” It provides step-by-step guidance.

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  • 2darlings

    I hope that a post here doesn’t already answer my question, I have not taken the time to read them all….yet.   I am a custom home designer that has a passion for a certain type of novel…so…being a creative person already I sat down about a year ago and began “writing” my novel.  I have absolutely no training or skills in the literary field and have even less of an idea of who to contact to find an editor to work with…I need someone to help me with structure and prose, plus someone to bounce ideas off of.  Do I need an agent?  How do I make contact ,  find publishers who might be interested?  Any assistance will be greatly appreciated. 

  • Dan Snow

    Perhaps I haven’t read far enough yet, but can you give me an example of a ‘platform’?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Probably the easiest thing is just to search my archives (see the search bar in the right-hand sidebar.) You can start here: 3 Benefits to Building Your Own Platform.

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  • http://linda-rosenbaum.blogspot.com Lindar Rosenbaum

    Thanks Michael. I just completed my book and am heading into the marketplace, so read your post about friends, critics and trolls at exactly the right time. I hope you don’t mind that I quoted you in my blog:  linda-rosenbaum.blogspot.com

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    Writers need thick skins. We’re not the only ones of course,
    but shopping a book around for a publislher is tough, and it’s the rare writer
    who doesn’t meet with a stack of rejection notices along the way. So I’m trying
    to toughen up in preparation.


    I’ve learned from my book editors that criticism can be
    highly constructive. Yet, I still bristle with hurt sometimes when my book or
    writing is criticized. I’m not sure why since overall, good solid constructive
    criticism has only served to improve my writing. I’ve had to ask myself why then,
    do I sometimes lose perspective.


    I found the answer this morning when I read a passage in a
    blog by Michael Hyatt, the Chair of Thomas Nelson Publishers http://michaelhyatt.com/why-real-creativity-requires-significant-work-part-2.html  


    “You have to distinguish between friends, critics and
    trolls,”  Hyatt says:


    * Friends love you and are willing to share with you the truth, even if
    it hurts a little                bit.

    Critics don’t have anything personal against you; they simply disagree with

    Trolls are spoiling for a fight. They attack you because something is wrong
    with their heart. My best advice is to ignore them. If you engage them, it only
    strengthens their resolve.


    Okay friends and critics, sock it to me if you must. Notice
    to all trolls: just stay away, you hear?

  • Steven Romero99

    Mr. Hyatt, could you write the book and then try to interest publishers, or do you have to get the contract first?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I would start by reading my post, “Advice to First Time Authors.” It provides step-by-step guidance.

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  • Precious Miriam

    Great article!!!