I just returned from a conference in Vegas for self-published authors, and it was a wonderful experience. Three days of full-time lectures was absolutely intensive, but I learned tons.
There were various speakers, all with expert knowledge in several areas pertaining to indie publishing, like running ads, cover design, the business aspect of being a self published author, and more. Not all of these lectures were equally interesting to me, and as usual, there were definitely some weaker ones, but the overall experience was a positive one. I mean, I have about twenty-five pages of notes, so that says enough.
As an author, it’s sometimes hard to make the time for deliberate learning. There’s always so much on our to do list, aside from writing the next book. There is marketing and social media and formatting and fuck knows what else. Investing time in learning won’t happen by accident. You have to plan it, deliberately set aside time to do it.
Before my first book released, I did nothing but learn for a few months. I read every blog post, every article, every book on self-publishing, writing, marketing, and being a successful author I could get my hands on. But once I got on the whole treadmill of writing, releasing, and then starting on the next book, it was a hell of a lot harder to make the time to keep learning.
Here’s the thing, though. If you stop learning, if you don’t take the time to deliberately gain new knowledge, you stop growing. So one of my goals recently—and definitely a goal for 2019—is to create that time to learn. Every week, I want to spend at least a few hours growing and knowledge about something having to do with writing, whether it be working on my craft, learning new marketing techniques, or experimenting with strategies that could grow as an author.
But learning alone is not enough.
Deliberate Applying and Trying
Those twenty-five pages of notes won’t apply themselves. One thing I realized all over again after this conference was that it’s not enough to take the time to learn. You also have to take the time to apply and try what you have learned.
Building in time to learn into your daily or weekly schedule is a great start, but you also have to build in time to apply your knowledge, to experiment, and try those new things. Otherwise, everything you have learned will go to waste.
My Dictation Process
Let me illustrate this with a very practical example. A couple of months ago, my wrist really started bothering me. I didn’t even have to Google the symptoms to know that it was a beginning case of repetitive strain injury in some variation. Because I had no intention of slowing down in my writing, I had to figure out a solution.
I did some research and concluded that dictation would be a good alternative. I’ve written a little about this in a previous blog post which you can find here. My first experiences with dictation were positive, as you can read in this post, but after a few weeks, I kept getting frustrated. Not only was the software prone to crash, the accuracy seems to be declining rather than growing.
As a result, I switched from using that particular dictation software (Dragon) to using the native dictation on my iPhone. Because of my slight Dutch accident, the accuracy there wasn’t exactly perfect either. I was happy to provide some hilarious dictation fails to my beta readers and even my editor, but it wasn’t a solution that was sustainable in the long term.
Still, it took me until today to actually take the time to fix that problem. One of the lectures during that conference in Vegas was about dictation, and even though it was not one of the best workshops, I did get some tips that inspired me to try the software again. I bought two books that were recommended, installed two pieces of software, and today, I set aside the time to work through it.
After reading both books (and this sounds more time intensive than it was, considering both were super short, practical books about using dictation), I worked through the recommended steps. I deleted the software, reinstalled it and started over. Using the tips I had learned, I discovered that I had my microphone set up wrong and that I had made some crucial errors in using the software, causing it to learn wrong dictation patterns from me. With just four hours of time investment, I am now dictating this blog post using that software, and so far there have been three small errors — all homonyms (ironically, it misspelled homonyms initially, making it the fifth error, haha).
Growth Comes Through Deliberate Learning
It is just one example of how sometimes, a one time investment in time and maybe a little money can massively improve your work, or in this case, workflow. I could’ve muddled on for months, using the native dictation on my iPhone, with growing frustration as a result.
The thing is that it’s sometimes easier to not fix it and keep working with what we know, with what’s familiar, even if it’s not working perfectly. We somehow grow accustomed to the frustration, to the shortcomings of whatever strategy were using. The necessary time investment to fix it, really fix it, can’t seem so daunting we don’t even try. But by choosing that road of least resistance, were actually selling ourselves short. If we push through our discomfort, if we decide that the frustration of learning and trying something new is worth it, because we will eliminate another much bigger frustration in the long run, that’s when we grow.
So I guess my challenge to you today is this: what’s frustration are you experiencing on a regular basis that you could fix by investing a little time and money? How could you build in deliberate time into your writing schedule to learn and apply what you need to grow as an author? Where do you see areas that you could grow in and where will you get that knowledge?
I’d love to hear some thoughts in the comments.