We’re always looking for the secret to successful writing. Sara Connell has the answer for us: it’s 80% mental! Her class Mastering the Mental Game, running on June 6, will help aspiring and established writers move past mental blocks, clarify goals, and find new joy in their work. While nothing can substitute for consistent, diligent practice and mastery of craft, visualizing success can give you the extra push you need to meet your goals.
We wanted to get to know Sara a little bit before her class puts that brain power to work. See how she started her own writing career and don’t be afraid to test out her advice in beating the mental block. There are still spots left!
Did you always want to be a writer? How did you figure it out?
I began writing poetry in journals when I was young – maybe 5. In high school I had an English teacher who was also a published author. I waited for him to tell me I was special – that my destiny was to become a writer. When he did not single me out, I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough to be a writer. But every few years, the urge would surface again until, in my mid twenties, I took my first writing course and committed myself fully to the practice.
What kind of challenges did you experience in your road to success?
I worked my way up from writing short pieces and articles until I had a manuscript of my first book. I didn’t have any connections in publishing but I asked everyone I knew if they knew any agents and eventually I was introduced to an agent in New York. She took a look at my work and gave me a huge list of revisions and said if I did them, she’d consider representing me. You would think I would have run to my laptop and written feverishly until I finished but instead, I froze. I didn’t write for a day, then a week, then three weeks. I was terrified of being told I wasn’t good enough – of trying at this thing I wanted so much – then failing. I was in a state of paralysis. Then I heard from a friend about a writing coach in California. I didn’t want to hire anyone, spend money etc but I called her and hired her and she guided me through every one of those revisions until I flew to New York and my agent signed me. That experience convinced me that writing was not something I would likely succeed at on my own. It also made me want to become a coach and be a guide for others who want to fulfill their writing ambitions.
“I was terrified of being told I wasn’t good enough – of trying at this thing I wanted so much – then failing.”
Can you explain a bit about your work as a writing coach?
I feel so honored to work with writers on their goals and writing visions. I coach on all parts of the writing process – for some people it’s that they have an idea and don’t know how to get started. Others have so many ideas they can’t focus on one. In coaching we go all the way through from idea to publication (if that’s the goal), pitching agents, submitting queries- even building an audience and “platform.” I love seeing writers develop into professionals and having that glorious moment of finished, published book/article/story. My team and I developed a system that so far has helped every writer whose used it to publish their work. It’s exciting to see people move from fear and self-doubt to accomplished author! I never get tired of that.
Do you have advice for those who are just starting to get into their craft?
The best thing I did when I started was to take classes. I was living in London at that point so we didn’t have StoryStudio but as soon as I moved to Chicago, I plugged into the SS community and have loved connecting with the wonderful community ever since. Being around other writers. I’d also say study with the best teachers you can find. A good teacher/editor can take you quantum leaps forward. I watched a documentary a few years ago about a group of female visual artists. One said, “I do whatever I need to do to do the work.” I think that’s a great idea. Take classes, get up early, find a writing buddy, read books on craft, get a coach to re-set your mindset for confidence, perseverance, and courage. I believe that when someone feels a calling to write, someone in the world needs to hear what that writer has to say – someone needs the particular idea, story, technique, message that only that one writer can share.
Anything else for StoryStudio writers:
Do whatever we need to do to do the work. The world is counting on you!