You Are a Writer. An Interview with Jeff Goins

“Most people don’t realize that the thing they dream of doing is closer than they think.” – Jeff Goins

I was first introduced to Jeff Goins on Twitter when a tweet from a friend led me to his blog. After clicking through, it took roughly 30 seconds for me to realize how much Jeff and I have in common. We both have young families, work full-time jobs, and write/blog on the side, among others. More importantly, I noticed Jeff was offering valuable material for his readers – providing both inspiration and practical tools for them to become better writers. His writing began inspiring me as well.

So when he wrote a book about the writer’s life, I was anxious to dig in and be encouraged. After reading the book, I looked Jeff up and asked for an opportunity to further explore some of the concepts in the book. And I’m positive if you are a writer (or aspiring to be one), you’ll enjoy the resulting conversation:

1) For Becoming Minimalist readers who are not familiar with your story, can you give us the quick sketch in less than 4 sentences?

Sure. Here goes: I used to write a lot but didn’t consider myself a writer, so I used words like “aspiring” and “wannabe” to minimize my own gifts — mostly because I was scared. Then one day, a friend said, “You are a writer; you just need to write.” So I did, and before I realized it, I had an audience and a book deal.

2) Thanks, why did you decide to write You Are a Writer: So Start Acting Like One? And what are you hoping to accomplish with it?

Really, I just wanted to tell my story. I wanted to create something short and impacting that I could point people to when they asked, “How do you become a writer?” Now, I can share with people what I believe is one of my most important messages: If you’ve written, then you’re a writer. Time to start acting like it. My hope is people will read it, make that bold declaration in calling themselves a writer, and then start taking their skills more seriously.

3) Your book is founded on a simple theme, “The journey of becoming a writer begins with a simple but important statement of belief: I am a writer (hence the title of the book).” What are the biggest reasons people who would love to become writers fail to believe this about themselves and subsequently neglect to pursue their dreams?

Fear. It’s always fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being ourselves. I find that for me one of the reasons I’m afraid to own my gifts is because there is responsibility that comes along with such ownership. I tell people it’s because I don’t want to appear haughty, but really I’m afraid of doing the work — and then failing. Better to just not try and never get disappointed, or so the rationalizing goes.

4) Your book strikes an intentional balance concerning both the positives and negatives of writing as a profession. At one point, you write, “This is the difference between professionals and amateurs. Pros are always looking for a chance to get better, to improve their craft just a little bit more.” What specific, helpful advice would you give to a new writer who desires to improve their skill?

This is simple, and you’ve heard it before, but there’s no other way to say it: Show up. Most amateurs I know (and to be clear: being an amateur is simply a mindset, as is being a professional) say they struggle with knowing what to write, or feeling confident, or having an outlet to publish their work. All of those are excuses, justifications for stalling. Most pros I meet (real full-fledged authors) struggle with those same doubts; they just don’t let that stop them. They get up every morning, sit at the desk, and just start typing. If you want to get real, you’re going to have to do the same.

5) You work full-time, you’ve got the young family, you blog 3-4 times per week, you write plainly about the hard work that goes into writing, and yet you were still able to launch and build a very engaged writing platform. Quite impressive. How do you find your balance in life? Are there any specific habits you have put in place to keep you successful in each of your endeavors?

Well, shucks, thanks. :)

Personally, I don’t believe in balance. If I had to pick a “thing” that I believe in, it would be harmony — the idea that over time, there is a rhythm of life we must fall into. I treat my life as a series of seasons, and for the past year, I’ve been building a writing platform. That meant saying “no” to a lot of really good things that weren’t writing. Now, I’m entering a season of being a father, which I’m sure will have its own series of “no”s associated with it.

I’m not very disciplined and am pretty terrible at commitment, but if there’s one habit I’ve learned it’s this: You have to focus. You don’t have to do something every day for the rest of your life in order to be good at it. You really only have to do it for a concentrated amount of time. It’s like working out: if you do it several times a week for 30–60 minutes, you’re going to get good. Writing is the same way. It only took me eight months of writing like a maniac to get a book deal. Most people don’t realize that the thing they dream of doing is closer than they think. It’s just a matter of dedicated practice.

6) You encourage your readers to build a community online that focuses on building people rather than counting numbers. And I LOVE that distinction (I wish I had written it). Why do you think we have such a tendency to show more concern tracking statistics rather than making friends? And how did you go about turning that corner in your own life?

I think it’s human nature. The desire to compete. To try to measure up. We can’t help it. At very least, it’s a result of capitalism (which is a great thing) and consumerism (which is not such a great thing). In the U.S. (where I live), we’re taught to aspire and achieve, to make things. However, very few people talk about enough. That’s the deceit of chasing numbers: you never know when enough is enough.

I don’t know that I’ve turned a corner; it’s a daily struggle. However, I was fortunate enough to have an article go viral, getting over 50,000 page views in a single day (it’s been shared over 90,000 times on Facebook). After that, I didn’t have anywhere to go but down. It would’ve been insane to try to reproduce that kind of traffic the next day and the one after. But for awhile, I struggled with that. Then, I saw it for the liberation that it was. I had seen the top and still didn’t feel satisfied, so I realized I must need to create for another reason.

7) You own quite a list of well-known writers who have endorsed your work (Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt, Darren Rowse, Sarah Mae). And I’m glad to see you give practical advice in your book about how to build your platform by approaching influencers (or as you call them, patrons). What encouragement would you give to somebody who thinks they could never get the attention of someone so well-known in their niche?

Most people (especially online) are more accessible than you realize. You just have the courage to ask and the sensitivity to care. Pay attention, be patient, and don’t give up — that’s the formula for earning influence.

8) You’ve got some interesting bundle packages that you are offering with the book. Would you care to tell us about them?

Sure. You can buy the eBook on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but you can also get it bundled at You Are A Writer with some other goodies (like a worksheet and an audio interview I did) if you want to go a little deeper into the content. Of course, if you’re not sure you want to make the investments into one of those packages, you can always buy the eBook, then go back to add the other stuff on later. It was just my attempt at giving people a little bit more than words.

Thanks so much for the time Jeff. My hope is that aspiring writers will find motivation and meaning in this interview. And that everyone else can find inspiration in your journey to pursue their dreams as well. Best of luck in the future. Know that I’ll be cheering for you.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. Amanda says

    Wow, this stirred long boxed-up dreams that I’ve kept since high school. I’ve always kept this dream of being a writer but put it aside to pursue more…realistic? profitable? Let’s just say, other endeavors. Even with outlines of stories littering my hard drive, my dream of being a writer was just that — a dream.

    Today I told myself, “I am a writer.”

  2. says

    I was excited to see this interview in my email box this morning as I have known Jeff for many years and his writing has influenced my very own writing. I always had this desire to write but I am plagued by many of the issues that keep most people from accomplishing their desires. Last year, after reading several of Jeff’s articles, I decided to start a quilt blog. Am I a fantastic blogger? Well no, not really. But just getting myself into the habit of writing something has already improved the way I write. It’s like the process of forming any habit, one has to do over and over. Thank you so much for sharing this interview!

  3. says

    I have to admit, fear is a big driver in not pushing forward for me sometimes. Lately, I have jumped off the ledge a bit to get some materials out there. It can be a little scary throwing yourself out for the world to see.

    Practice will make perfect (or at least good), I hope one day. Sometimes friends will proof some of my work and help by pointing out if I use too many of one word. This seems to happen when writing late in the evenings.

    Great interview and the line that hit me was “Fear. It’s always fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being ourselves.”

  4. says

    Within the past four weeks I have found two incredibly inspiring, life-changing blogs, bought books by both authors and now today I come across both of them together in this interview. I love how God gives us exactly what we need when we need it. Thanks to Jeff, I have been showing up to write on my blog consistently and thanks to Joshua I have been trying to figure out how to get rid of all this clutter that surrounds me. (I even admitted how bad my clutter is in a blog post this morning…fessing up is the first step to getting rid of it, right?)
    Thank you both for the ways you are speaking into my life. Thank you for stepping up and being who God has called you to be…and sharing your journey with the rest of us, inspiring us to do the same.

  5. says

    I agree. Focus is a key component to develop. Since I’ve been involved in your 15 day challenge I have more focus. I’ve always written lists to try and stay on task, but somehow I’d resist. I’d stall. I’d give in to fear. I’d wait. I’d wish. And every so often I’d complete something. Or I’d go the other extreme adn paint a large canvas while I handpainted 53 ATC’s in 7 days. Then nothing for awhile. I’m good at zig-zagging because I have many interests. Now I’m focusing on one thing at a time (pretty much) and crossing items off my list. Your challenge works because you state a challenge for the day and I have to react right then. Boom. Do it. Then do it again and again. There is also a good base of encouraging artists out there “watching” and cheering us on. Oh yes, I love your audio series.

  6. says

    Thanks for the interview! I read a huge chunk of this book a couple weekends ago and have been processing it ever since. Part of that “processing” came out on my blog today: http://tanyadennisbooks.com/2012/06/18/strapping-myself-in/

    I love the idea of harmony vs. balance. I preached the same philosophy over the past couple years. Life changes and the way we manage it must change, too. As you (Jeff) enter the parenting stage, I’m leaving it in many ways. My kids are now in school full-time which grants me the freedom to focus more on my writing. It’s exciting! Now if I can just get this ADD under control … *grin*

  7. says

    Excellent interview, Jeff, and very inspiring, especially what you say about the importance of making friends rather than getting caught up in “the deceit of chasing numbers”. I’m a keen followers of your blog, and you often say things which give me fresh hope in my writing life. Thank you.

  8. Mary says

    At the time ten years ago July when my twenty year old son suicided,I had written journals,alot of snailmail which I love,practiced poetry,and could bring a pen point scribble through to the cardboard backing on a tablet of paper.I want to write about my son,Joe.He was not just that dyslexic,depressed guy.He accomplished alot in those short twenty years.I keep some great company with the likes of yourself and other writers and Journalers online and Inky Trail.Thank you for being here and helping to inspire me.It’ll be an emotionally painful,memoir,laughter and tears writing.I can do it,Jeff says I’m a writer.Thank you,Mary<3

  9. says

    Late to the party, but this was a fantastic insight. I’ve seen some of what Jeff has to say around the traps, but you can now consider me a true fan. Simple, honest, to the point advice which has cut straight to the heart of me.

    Fear holds me back and stops me calling myself a writer – even though it is something I do every single day, something I wake up excited to do, something I (literally) dream of. Right now it brings me joy, an outlet and a way to connect with like-minded souls and those that I can help. Down the track it will bring a larger community, a program to help even more people and a book.

    Because, well, I am a writer.

    Thanks, Jeff and Joshua!

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