If you want to be a writer, one of the best things you can do is read. Read the works of those that have come before you and learn from them. Read the advice of authors and get their perspective.
This is true of any endeavor; the way to learn how to do something to the best of your ability is to see what others have done before you.
Reading isn’t just for writers. I also think reading can help entrepreneurs of any stamp. By reading, you get a glimpse into the psychology of different types of people, something you will want to understand as you market your products or services.
You get to see different perspectives when you read, get to explore new ideas and get a taste for how those new ideas could be presented.
I also think reading helps you hone in on creativity. Every author is different, and every author can open something new to you.
Authors can also offer advice to those trying to make a name for themselves.
As one of my favorite authors, Agatha Christie, says:
“Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.”
With that in mind, let’s explore the wisdom that Agatha Christie has to offer.
To Become a Professional, You Have to Start Doing
When do you go from amateur to professional?
“There was a moment when I changed from amateur to professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
The doing and continuing to do is what separates the professional from the amateur. They show up every day, put the work in no matter how they feel about it, and keep moving along. They may hate the work they are doing that day, but they do it anyway.
A professional shows up no matter what.
So, what else marks the difference between professional and amateur?
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
This seems like a simple idea, but this one is so often ignored. You can talk all day about what you are going to do, what you want to do, even how good you would be at it.
So what? Unless you go from talking to action, nothing will ever come of it.
How do you go from talking to action?
“I mean what can you say about how you write your books? What I mean is, first you’ve got to think of something, and then when you’ve thought of it you’ve got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That’s all.”
It really is that simple. To go from talking to action, you do it. You make yourself come to the table each day. You make yourself put forth the effort. You make yourself produce something.
Today’s work may not be your masterpiece, but by putting in the work you’ve brought yourself one step closer to that masterpiece.
Let Go of Fear
Stepping out to grasp that dream can be scary. Every person that has created something themselves has been afraid in the beginning. What separates them from the rest?
They understand that anything they want requires something from them.
“But surely for everything you love you have to pay a price.”
Yes, everything worth doing requires something from you. It requires your time, your resources, your willingness to fail.
This is scary because there is always the chance you are going to fail. You have to determine, is the fear of failure greater than the fear of not doing?
“Fear is incomplete knowledge.”
That is the crux of the matter. We don’t know what to expect, we don’t know what will come of our endeavors.
To be willing to fail, we must be ready to face that incomplete knowledge.
“Courage is the resolution to face the unforeseen.”
Yes, we may fail. We may also succeed beautifully. You don’t know. That’s the thing about life, there’s a lot we don’t know.
When you graduated high school, you didn’t know what was waiting for you out there. Did that stop you from graduating?
The first time you went up to someone to make friends you didn’t know how that would turn out. Did that stop you?
If it did, you may not be ready to be on your own. If not, apply that to your business idea. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you have a track record of making it through the unforeseen.
There are always obstacles, there are always reasons not to do something. There are also plenty of reasons to do it. You can’t let the obstacles and doubts stop you in your tracks.
“Difficulties are made to be overcome.”
Every endeavor in your life is going to have some difficulties attached to it. If you let the difficulties keep you from pursuing something, you will never get anywhere.
Nobody can escape difficulties, so you might as well encounter them doing something you want to accomplish.
Always be Learning, Thinking, and Creating
The moment we quit seeking new knowledge and ideas is the moment we become obsolete. We have brains, everyone (despite appearances sometimes) and we were meant to use them.
“I have been thinking.
An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”
Thinking requires a mixture of creativity and reason. You need creativity and imagination to help explore ideas and make them seem possible.
You also need to counter this with reason to make sure you don’t get too ahead of yourself.
“You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.”
Simple doesn’t mean boring. Simple means using what makes the most sense. Simple still requires imagination, but it also requires a check, to keep up from throwing important information out because it does not fit with our imagination.
“They conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit that are significant.”
Imagination, left to itself, will ignore the obvious. If something doesn’t fit in with what we have imagined, left unchecked by reason, imagination will ignore those important facts. To make something worthwhile, we need to keep all the facts in mind.
“Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory – let the theory go.”
Too often, we do this backwards. We want something to the point where we ignore the obvious because it doesn’t fit the picture we have created in our minds.
If you want to make your vision come to life, you have to take all facts into account, you have to be willing to see all sides and adapt to the situation.
Communication Should Be Approached with Discretion
Communication is an important part of every day life. That being said, you don’t have to share everything you know with everyone you come across.
“Never tell all you know – not even to the person you know best.”
There are many reasons to keep information back.
- The other person may not be as excited as you are, and therefore sharing with them will do nothing for either of you.
- Someone may not understand where you are coming from and your communication may not be helpful in enlightening them.
- Your idea may not be ready to be presented.
“Words, mademoiselle, are only the outer clothing of ideas.”
While you want to be cooperative and helpful to other people, you don’t have to share everything with everyone. You need to give other people the chance to put their own work into something and make their own deductions.
“Never part with information unnecessarily. That’s my rule.”
Plus, if you are too busy trying to convince people of your ideas, they may not be ready. Actions and words need balance. Too many words may mean your actions aren’t up to par.
“To rush into explanations is always a sign of weakness.”
Too much communication is also a useful procrastination tool. Often, when we don’t want to put the work in, or we don’t know how to start something, we fall back on talking about it.
Words can give us an excuse to feel like we’re doing something even if we’re not.
“Speech, so a wise old Frenchman said to me once, is an invention of man’s to prevent him from thinking.”
Words give us the allusion we are doing more than we are at times. It is easy to feel accomplished if we talk a great talk.
Be Willing to Look at All Sides of a Problem
The beauty of this life is that no two people are going to look at something exactly the same way. This opens up a world of opportunities and exploration.
“Two people rarely see the same thing.”
So often, despite how much we want to view the world as black and white, there is more than one way to approach something to get a solution.
Just look at math as an example. With every problem you encounter, there are multiple ways to get the right answer. They all work on the same principle, but no two people have to approach the problem exactly the same.
This is true in everything. Just because I see the world through the lens of words, doesn’t mean you do. Just because I like to get in and dissect something until I understand its parts doesn’t mean you do. This doesn’t make either of us right or wrong, just different.
This also means we will see solutions the other missed.
“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”
What seems impossible to me may seem simple and obvious to you. That is why you need to be ready to take action on your ideas.
By expounding on what is simple to you, you may be able to offer something that I could use but never would have come across on my own.
“Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained or ignored.”
We each have our own ways of viewing the world. This colors our instincts, and makes what we have to offer valuable.
“Intuition is like reading a word without having to spell it out. A child can’t do that because it has had so little experience. A grown-up person knows the word because they have seen it before.”
We all have experiences to contribute. What seems obvious to you may seem impossible to me. This should be a motivation to make your contribution and to grow your knowledge and understanding.
There is No Need to Hang Out on the Sidelines
You may fail, you may discover that you just don’t have what it takes to see your ideas through to something more material. Is that a reason not to try?
What’s the worst that can happen if you fail? If the worst seems dreadful to you, then by all means step away from your ideas. Just know, someone else is likely to come along with that idea later and make a success of it.
When that happens, you will have no valid reason to be upset. You would have given up your rights to that idea by not acting on it.
If you see the potential to learn in all failures, then you may just be ready to put your ideas and words into action.
As a parting thought from Agatha Christie:
“I don’t go in for being sorry for people. For one thing it’s insulting. One is sorry for people if they are sorry for themselves. Self-pity is the biggest stumbling block in our world today.”