Henry Hyde: Designer, Writer, Podcaster

What Sort of Writer Do You Really Want to Be? Insights from Joanna Penn

What Sort of Writer Do You Really Want to Be? Insights from Joanna Penn

Henry HydeIf you are, or want to become, a professional writer, then I can give no better advice than to take yourself to The Creative Penn, home of author/entrepreneur and best-selling fiction and non-fiction writer Joanna Penn.

Joanna has gained a reputation as being, if you’ll pardon the military metaphor, a one-woman reconnaissance force on the self-publishing battlefield. Over the years, she has amassed a huge amount of information about writing, publishing, blogging, marketing and dealing with social media as necessary parts of being a modern author. Regardless of whether you have been, or intend to be published via the traditional route or self-publish, you will find what Joanna has to say invaluable.

Joanna does not just write: she is also an acclaimed public speaker (quite an achievement for a self-confessed introvert), acts as a consultant for both authors and publishers and is also an entertaining podcaster, both in her own right and as an interview guest on other sites.

One such site – Rocking Self Publishing – is run by interviewer Simon Whistler, where he has just published his latest broadcast: an interview with Joanna. I urge you to set aside an hour or so and have a listen. Not only is Simon a charming and accomplished interviewer who manages to draw out his interviewees, but Joanna is one of the most enthusiastic guests you’re ever likely to hear on any podcast, anywhere.

I’m sure that Joanna herself would be happy to be described as “bubbly”, but what she has to say is no mere froth. This highly intelligent woman’s description of the journey she has taken in her life and career, and the radical decisions she has willingly taken to pursue the thing she loves the most – writing – is absolutely riveting. And what makes it all the more gripping for anyone following the creative path themselves is that what she says is not mere theory: she has tried, and even sometimes failed at, everything she describes, and has learned what really works the hard way. Moreover, she has gained the respect of, and learned from, some of the foremost names in the business, allowing us vicarious access to the expertise and knowledge of market leaders and best-selling authors.

I’ve never met Joanna (though I hope that I shall one day), her life has been quite unlike mine and she writes very different fiction to the kind of stuff I’m scribbling behind the scenes. But the differences are not important. Instead, the access she gives to her own writing and publishing journey establishes a broad and common ground on which a wide cross-section of authors and publishers can come together, learn, and take comfort from the fact that we all face similar challenges.

What prompted me to write this post was one of the things Joanna mentions in her interview. Joanna initially began in the sphere of non-fiction (she planned to become the Queen of Self-Help, a female Anthony Robbins) and has even written a number of books, such as Career Change: Stop hating your job, discover what you really want to do with your life, and start doing it! But what she really wanted to do was tell stories, and it took her some time to figure out what was holding her back. Making the change was a radical decision, and she has subsequently had to ask the important question “What do you do when you have become known for one kind of writing, but really want to be better known for something else?”

Well, this question hit me square between the ears. This is completely applicable to myself, as someone who has been following a career path heavily embedded in non-fiction (military history and wargaming, to be precise) but who wishes to break that mould and move into fiction (specifically, fantasy and science fiction, and perhaps some historical fiction). This is something that I have held off doing for some time, partly because of the pressure of ‘the day job’, and partly because I know that managing the transition is going to require careful planning and, potentially, separate ‘branding’ for each of my publishing ‘personas’.

But thanks to Joanna, the solution to the psychological impasse I was suffering has become self-evident to me, and I just need to get on with it. And prompting me to write the first post here for ages is no mean achievement in itself!

Go and listen to her, read her blog, follow her on Facebook and heck, go on, spend a couple of quid on one of her thrillers available on Kindle, featuring kick-ass female lead characters. Great fun!

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