022: How to Succeed as a Writer in an Era of Change [Podcast]

Recently, I learned the word literally no longer means what it used to mean. This bothers me, but this is the nature of language — it’s always evolving. In this week’s podcast, we discuss the state of flux of the writing world and how to survive the changes.

Man reading a book
Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc

In today’s episode of the podcast, my co-host Andy Traub and I experiment with a new show format (we had perhaps too much fun with this), including five new segments that blend both the informative with the informal.

On the show, we share a weird way to become more disciplined, some tips on what it takes to overcome procrastination, and the bright future of publishing.

Not to mention: a profound thought on life, a prediction regarding the future of dictionaries, and why you should be paying more attention to Dunkin’ Donuts (seriously). Enjoy!

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (if viewing this in email click here).

You can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

If you are more of a text person, I totally understand. Below is an article based on the podcast, but if you have about 20 minutes, I really hope you give the show a listen. I think you’ll like it.

A surprising secret to becoming more disciplined

For me, building a daily habit of writing was hard. In fact, it was easier to get up and run five miles than to develop the habit of writing every day. So I got up and ran.

And then a surprising thing happened. When I got back from a run, it was easier to sit down and write. As I grew the discipline in one area of my life, I found that discipline in other areas came a little easier. Or as I’ve heard my friend Jon Acuff say:

Discipline begets discipline.

If you’re struggling to develop discipline with anything, whether it’s writing or exercise or something else entirely, try starting with something easier. And I’m not above bribery, either. Find little ways to reward yourself for your discipline. It works.

The three phases of mastery

Once you’ve committed a certain discipline and started to grow in that skill, you have a choice. You can settle for good or aspire for greatness. Not too long ago, I interviewed a man named Robert Greene who changed what I thought about that.

In his book Mastery, Green shares a simple but counterintuitive message. While most people tend to talk about success and how to make more money or beat your competitors, he says that if you focus on mastering your craft, success will follow. According to him, being great at what you do is the secret to any sustainable success.

His process for achieving mastery looks like this:

  1. Preparation: You’ll spend a portion of your life, often before you even realize it, preparing for your calling.
  2. Apprenticeship: It takes an extended period intentional practice to become great at what to do.
  3. Creative/Active Phase: Mastery comes when you actually live out your calling.

What I love about this is the aspect of apprenticeship, something that I think is lost on our modern culture. Before you can become great yourself, you have to see what greatness in action looks like.

Why now is the best time to be an author

Recently, Amazon opened up pre-orders for independent authors. This, I think, is a game-changer. The inability for indie authors to offer pre-orders used to give an advantage to traditional publishing, and now Amazon is leveling the playing field. That’s a big deal.

If you are enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program (which is free), you can now make your eBook available for pre-order for up to 90 days prior to its release. This allows authors to build energy for their book launch, which means more sales and ultimately more readers.

In other news, you may have heard about the conflict between Amazon and the publisher Hachette. Among the issues between them (which I don’t pretend to fully understand), one surrounds who gets to set book prices. Here’s my thought on that: Amazon is a business. And a business gets to set prices for what it sells.

But isn’t that a monopoly? Shouldn’t we writers boycott Amazon for being evil? Maybe not.

Amazon knows that by offering the products readers want at a better price, they will sell more books. And from an author’s perspective, this is a good thing. If writers are worrying about prices going down, the best way to respond is not with a scarcity mindset, but with an abundance mindset.

In other words, I will continue to use Amazon to reach readers and sell books. And though I’m not necessarily “pro-Amazon” I certainly respect their right to sell books at the prices they choose to sell them at. They’ve done some interesting testing on books priced above $9.99 versus those priced below and have seen the lower-priced books sell more copies and generate more revenue.

Based on Amazon’s sales history, lower prices (to a point) mean significantly more books in the hands of readers. And that’s what I care about.

On writing and living

For me, writing has never been about the cash. It’s always been about sharing a message that resonates with people. Since I began this journey years ago, I aspired to help as many people as possible while providing for my family.

As time has gone by, I’ve learned an important lesson: Writing doesn’t just make me just a better writer, it makes me a better person. I read about this recently, discovering that daily journaling (by hand, in cursive — yes, cursive) increases cognitive activity in ways that typing doesn’t.

In other words, writing can help you:

  • Be more disciplined.
  • Think better.
  • Get more done.

That’s why I’m writer. That’s why I encourage other people to claim the title of writer. Because good writing inspires great living, and great living inspires better writing. (Tweet that)

To hear more tips on writing and living, check out to the full podcast. If you disagree with Andy’s prediction about Dunkin Donuts rivaling the popularity of Starbucks, let us know. While you’re at it, please drop a review on iTunes. It helps more people find the show.

Resources mentioned in the show

Here are some books, articles, and podcasts you might be interested in:

Have you subscribed to the podcast yet, so you can get brand-new, weekly episodes delivered straight to you? You can do that with any podcast player by copying and pasting this URL into the app:


If you need a recommendation on what to use, I recommend using iTunes to subscribe and then listening on your computer or via the podcast app (for instructions on how to do that, click here), or you can also use Stitcher.

Let me know if you need any help!

What habit are you trying to master? Share in the comments.

52 thoughts on “022: How to Succeed as a Writer in an Era of Change [Podcast]

  1. I am trying to build my daily writing habit but of course with a full time job and two young kids it is hard. I am probably somewhere between preparation and apprenticeship in my mastery of being a writer. My blog has been my outlet for several years but now I find it almost getting in the way of the writing I want to accomplish. Time to re-evaluate my writing goals.

    1. I can relate with that totally, with an office to run and a an 8 months old son… it gets impossible. I try on weekends though

      I wish you best of luck and hope to see your writings soon

      1. Thanks Dania, it is a good reminder to write when I can. Weekends are lunch hours are my best times to get it in. Good luck to you too!

  2. “Discipline begets discipline” that’s a very accurate statement. I can relate to the running example. It’s helped me to focus and persevere in other areas of my life too. I’m also a cheerleader of rewards. My reward is chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. And, if that’s not around…then pretty much any ice cream will do. 🙂

  3. Great points on the cyclical nature of the writing life. I fall into the trap of chaining myself to my computer and not getting out enough to experience life. It’s little wonder I feel a bit stuck in regard to my own writing projects!

  4. I really liked the banter and the conversation today. I’d definitely say do it again. I also really enjoy the interviews with other authors and marketers. My least favorite was just reading the post. The site here is so clean and well-designed, it doesn’t need a podcast to replace it. I can see how it would be helpful for those who are more auditory learners than visual, but if any of the 3 types gets the axe, that’d be the one I’d say is okay to go.

  5. I’m doing a pre-order for my book on Kindle right now! I was so glad to see that they offer that when I went to publish my book. I’ve also done a pre-order using Amazon Associates to handle the pre-order and then switching over to CreateSpace the day that the book was to be released. That also worked well but it was a little cumbersome. It would be nice if CreateSpace would allow pre-orders without resorting to Amazon Associates.

  6. That’s news to me a bout the word ‘literally’ – ugh. I too have my concerns about the state of our beloved language. The Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year (WOTY) for 2012 was ‘GIF’ – the WOTY for 2013 was ‘Selfie’. I find this disturbing. Weird Al Yankovich did a hilarious song parody – “Work Crimes” – I included it in a recent post about the state of our language.


    As for Amazon. I think from a self-publishing perspective they have been great for authors – KDP is has opened a huge market to indie authors. The flood of new Kindle books on the market has made it difficult for a new writer to get noticed. Authors have to produce a quality product and establish at minimum following to get noticed on the Amazon Platform. This is a great example of a self-correcting market-driven economy. Quality products with consumer support do well and the rest languish – as they should.

    Look at Google. They are the big dog and they set the rules of the game. As a result, managing Google has become an integral part of our business culture. Google’s goal is to deliver the best experience possible to their users – Amazon appears to be to unfolding in a similar fashion. The great thing that’s happening is that as Google matures and gets better at rewarding good content -the marketing strategies are moving from the old SEO model to just plain old writing good content.

    BTW Jeff – enjoying the new format. I’m starting to warm up to podcasts and yours is a great supplement to your blog posts.

    Best, Sam

  7. Great podcast conversation today! I really like the format—it works well for both of you. Andy is an effective host/co-host. So cool you guys can record in the same physical place now! I do like how you’ve tried different formats with your podcast. Some would say keeping a consistent format let’s the audience know what to expect. The variety seems to suit you well.
    The Portfolio Life is on my “must-listen” list of podcasts. You teach me something each episode and truly admire your genuine and authentic communication style. Keep up the awesome work!

  8. I have noticed what you mentioned about hand writing a manuscript. It does yield a much higher quality of work, a much deeper expression of heart content, and a much broader appeal.
    Try to get the Common Core pushers to grasp that, though. Ha.
    Anyway, I almost always write at least my outline by hand, and most usually, my rough draft, too. It really does employ a different part of the brain, a more observant part.
    Thanks for the affirmation.

  9. Anything served in a cup greater than an espresso cup is not worth to be called coffee. Black, sweet, hot – not brewed, but pressed through an espresso maker. Drunk in one or two sips. You ask for feedback on the Starbucks comment – it is not worth it. They both hardly serve any coffee. They serve liquid breakfasts.

    I agree totally on the part about writing and living. Writing sure does make you a better person. For me, writing is part of my conversation with God. When I write about his word, usually a verse or two, he gives me all these insights and teaches me about himself. It is a privilege, but also a side effect, if anybody else profits from what comes from that.

    And then, I am a teacher. My raison d’être is a relationship with God, but my call is to help others grow in their own relationship with him, until they come to their full stature and maturity. I feel humbled and awestruck by the task.

    I do hope to reach my creative/active phase in my writing, God willing. Until then, I just keep on writing.

    1. I actually agree Ralph. Starbucks isn’t good coffee. Not when live had real espresso. My goto beverage is a macchiato (the real kind, not the Starbucks kind).

  10. Great show, as usual. Liked Andy’s comments about Amazon versus Hachette. I figure Amazon (as a retailer) has a much better idea on the optimum price for a book than I do, so if they think my book will sell better at price x, let them. It’s better to have a percent of something than a percent of zero. People also seem to be forgetting that Hachette and other publishers were convicted earlier this year for price fixing on ebooks. That’s why the contracts are being renegotiated. I don’t think Hachette has the customer in mind.

    And I can’t wait to try out preorders.

  11. HEYYYY, Jeff and Andy, THAT ABSOLUTELY ROCKED!!!!! (The kid in me, Andy)

    Absolutely brilliant podcast, beginning to end! LOOOOVE the way you create anticipation and got me sitting forward, waiting somewhat excitedly, for the next segment.

    Love the clear transitions! Love the different genres AND generations of music – brilliant brain wave there, as you most definitely covered the spectrum of what strikes not just a good chord, but the ‘awesome’ chord with about EVERYONE listening. Yeah, OK, I’m confident I’m one OF a million, rather than one IN a million :-))

    Loved the topics. Every one! Appreciate that each is distinctly different from the next.

    Loved the dynamic and naturalism between you two! The spontaneous laughs from each of you at various times REALLY ADDS to the whole picture, making it a MASTERPIECE.

    PUHLEASE, do this again!!!

    So, I’d best mention this is my first listen of you Jeff. I’m a member of Platform University and just watched your Masterclass with Michael Hyatt last night. THAT was BRILLIANT, and we were so impressed by your presence AND what you had to say. That meant action, and listening as I worked just now at a long awaited task which I purposed to make anawesome fun thing. THANKS for making it the BEST!!!!!

  12. I love that discipline begets discipline quote! Haven’t read whole post yet, but that jumped out at me. Reminds me of what Steven Pressfield said in War of Art about how simply doing the dishes got him motivated to do his writing work. Can’t wait to read your post when I get home today! So needed this reminder!!

  13. Hey mate, just a heads up don’t think your ‘tweet that’ button is working. If not for everyone, it is me. Love your work.

  14. I love the idea of a culture of generosity with content, you model this well and it resonates with people. The FREE U2 album is another great example of an artist sharing their work.

  15. I so enjoyed the podcast .. the two of you make a great team! You guys certainly could land a morning news show on the side with all your extra free time! God Bless ! Rick =)

  16. “Long-time listener, first-time caller.” Always wanted to say that. 🙂 Have been enjoying your work for some time now. Very inspirational, and has been a beacon for me toward my own blog launch (just this morning). Thanks for the no-nonsense advice. Wishing you continued success.

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