Find Your Writing North Star(s)

When I set out to write my first book book, I started researching everything from writing to publishing to marketing books.

The effort nearly derailed me altogether.

There are more writing and book marketing podcasts than you have time to listen to. You cannot read every book, nor follow every blog and watch every video. If you try to absorb it all, you’ll never get any writing done.

Worse, you’ll hear conflicting advice. Do you want to publish a book as a “fat business card?” Are you writing something creative, from the heart? Do you plan to get rich quickly from a book?

One book about author marketing left such a bad taste in my mouth that I almost abandoned the effort.

There’s only one way to cut through this noise and keep your sanity: find your own north star, then follow it.

Polaris, or the North Star, is very close to the north celestial pole. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s a handy nighttime compass, pointing the way north in a sky filled with constellations.

When facing writing conundrums and conflicting advice, find those authors who best embody the kind of writer you want to be. Turn them into your personal north stars.

What living author or authors do you admire today? It doesn’t matter how far they seem from your abilities; the fact that they speak to you is what matters.

If you wanted to model your writing career on one author, particularly a writer who works in your genre, who would you choose? Perhaps you’ll have a short list.

Having identified these authors, use them as your inner guides:

“Would Malcolm Gladwell use this cheesy marketing tactic?”

“Would Elizabeth Kolbert take this extra step in research?”

“Would Daniel Pink skip this editing cycle?”

For publishing and marketing decisions, choose authors who are living and publishing today. It’s difficult to know what William Shakespeare would think about publishing on a Kindle. (I imagine he’d be all over the audiobook trend.)

For living authors, you can visit often their websites, subscribe to their emails lists, and see how they publish and promote their books.

In practice, finding the north star among the nighttime sky may be tricky. That’s where constellations come in handy. In the northern hemisphere, the handle of the Big Dipper includes the North Star. In the southern hemisphere, navigators use the Southern Cross (Crux) to oriented themselves to the South Pole.

Build a constellation of people that you follow and refer to, to guide you on the path that makes the most sense for you.

You won’t become your stars, just as I won’t become Malcolm Gladwell, Elizabeth Kolbert or Daniel Pink. But their examples can shape your efforts and give you strength in making difficult decisions. Having a constellation guides you in deciding which advice to ignore and how to travel your own path.

(My apologies to Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, and Elizabeth Kolbert for hijacking them as inner muses.)

Image by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Originally published at on January 1, 2016.

Author, Writing Coach: Writing about Marketing, Technology, and Writing Itself (very meta).

Author, Writing Coach: Writing about Marketing, Technology, and Writing Itself (very meta).