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Book Review: The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey
Joanna Penn
The Creative Penn, Ltd., 2016
Available in ebook, paperback, and audio formats

For Christmas, I received a nice little stack of books from family members. Among them was Joanna Penn’s The Successful Author Mindset, which my ten-year-old daughter had given me. My kids have seen me giving this whole career-author thing a go, with me getting up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. nearly every day for the last several months so that I can get my writing done and still have time for my day job and all the rest.

One of my inspirations on this journey has been Joanna Penn and her author–entrepreneur podcast, The Creative Penn. Penn used to work a corporate job. Years ago, she began writing both fiction (thrillers under the name J. F. Penn) and nonfiction (under Joanna Penn) while still doing her day job. While you might not put her on the same level with Dan Brown or Stephen King yet, she has built her author business up enough that both she and her husband have been able to quit their day jobs to continue to work and expand this business. You can tell from listening her talk about it on the podcast that it is a vocation that brings her joy.

In The Successful Author Mindset, Penn approaches one of the biggest obstacles we authors have on the journey to success: our own minds. Just how does the state of our mind affect our success as writers? In three sections, Penn discusses mindset aspects of creativity and writing, mindset aspects that become relevant after publishing, and tips for managing our long-term journey as authors. In bite-sized pieces, she approaches each problem, for example, imposter syndrome, that icky feeling you get that you’re really a fraud and that you couldn’t possibly know what you’re doing. Penn not only covers about each aspect and how it can affect us as writers but also provides antidotes: ways we can get around the self-doubt, the judgment of others, and our own creative dissatisfaction.

Penn’s style is casual and personal. She includes snippets of her own diary entries along the way, confirming in a book-wide theme that as much as writers often work the craft in isolation, we are not alone in our experiences.

All of us who are writing are bobbing around in this ocean of creativity, going through the same issues.”
—p. 1, The Successful Author Mindset

The Bottom Line

Other writers have gone through what you are going through, and the successful authors are the ones who have changed their mindset and kept writing anyway. Some of Penn’s advice strikes me as simple common sense, but still other bits really hit home on my own journey. I’ve dog-eared the section on fear of judgment to revisit when I find that I’m holding back, reluctant to “let my [genuine] author voice run free.” Reading this book has also reinforced my decision to remain in control of my own career as a writer. For me, that means self-publishing. For another, it might mean renegotiating her contract with her agent or publisher.

I recommend this book for writers at any stage of the journey and on any publishing (or nonpublishing) path. It will be especially helpful for those with long-term author career goals in mind.

Pick up this book, and you may find yourself using it practically or as a repeated source of affirmation as you work toward your writing dreams.

Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn
I heard this quote from Joanna Penn one day on her podcast, The Creative Penn. I typed it up and have had it on my office wall as inspiration ever since.
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