Today’s post is by author, editor and coach Jessica Conoley (@jaconoley).
Asking someone to beta read for you is one of the first steps you will take toward becoming a well-paid, published, consistent writer. Because, for many of us, the beta reader process is the first time we must own the identity of: WRITER.
Owning your writer identity is the biggest mindset hurdle we face. This is especially true if you’re uninitiated and haven’t yet been published and/or paid for your work. Once you overcome this hurdle, you build up courage to reach for bigger opportunities (and pay checks) in your career.
Building up courage starts long before we are paid, published, or well-known. Building up courage happens in tiny decisions and actions, day after day, year after year. Building up courage starts the moment you realize your manuscript is polished to the best of your ability and you need to ask someone for an objective opinion on your work.
This is when most of us freak out. We no longer have the luxury of hiding in the security of secrecy. We cannot hoard our writing dreams and aspirations in silence any longer. To level up this project you must have objectivity, and the only path to objectivity is letting someone else read your words. To progress you must ask someone to read for you.
While you may think asking someone to read is just about feedback and learning if your characters resonate, you’re simultaneously stepping into the identity of WRITER. In the act of asking, you are forced to try on a new persona. A persona you may not feel you’ve earned. This is why you are scared to ask.
But, over time, after telling enough people and letting them read your words, you feel like a writer. Feeling like a writer changes your internal beliefs because you’ve entirely stepped into the identity of WRITER. And because writers write consistently, your actions change to align with this new identity.
Asking someone to beta read shows you: You can be brave. You can level up.
Writer level-ups often look like this:
- I am a writer.
- I am a consistent writer.
- I am a published, consistent writer.
- I am a paid, published, consistent writer.
- I am a well-paid, published, consistent writer.
Now that you know where this one tiny act of courage can take you, let me show you how to make this jump, and I’ll even show you where to find a few beta readers along the way.
How to level up and own your writer identity
- Reframe your feels-so-scary-it’s-time-for-a-beta-reader realization to a phenomenal opportunity. This is the opportunity to baby-step deeper into your writing career by admitting, out loud, to another human that “I am a writer.”
- Acknowledge you don’t really believe you are writer—yet. Even though your actions confirm you write, and you have the proof of a finished written thing, and think about writing constantly, you still don’t believe you are a writer. It’s totally okay, none of us do at this point.
- Accept that saying “I am a writer. Would you like to read my book and offer your opinions on it?” is going to feel uncomfortable. Which is totally fine because feelings try to keep you safe by keeping you in your comfort zone, and you are actively expanding your comfort zone, which is uncomfortable.
- Practice the first half of the ask. Say “I am a writer” out loud while looking at yourself in the mirror. Say it in the car at red lights. Write it over and over, Simpsons-on-the-chalkboard style. Rehearsing ad nauseam gives you a better chance the words will pop out of your mouth before you have a chance to feel or think.
- Tell a stranger. Someone you’re never going to see again. Type it in the comments of a post on the internet somewhere. Tell your Uber driver. Mention it to a server at a restaurant you never plan to eat at again.
- Tell your acquaintances. The people who know you tangentially but aren’t involved in every detail of your life. People you haven’t spent one-on-one time with. The people at your gym. The knitting forum. The barista at your favorite coffee shop.
The acquaintance step is where you’re going to find your beta readers. When people learn you are a writer, they get excited. They think our job is super cool—because it is. When these acquaintances see you living your dream, it makes them think maybe they can live their dreams too. This is why they will ask you about your writing every time you see them. If the acquaintance turns out to be an avid reader, or even better yet, a reader of your genre, they are the ideal person to ask “Would you like to read my book and offer your opinion on it?”
Acquaintances offer the most objective opinion because they don’t know your intimate life story. They won’t assume you’re writing about your third-grade boyfriend or craptastic day job, because they don’t know about either of them. They are also super flattered to be in on the early-stages-behind-the-scenes of a book, which means they eagerly read and get you feedback promptly. These early readers turn into fans and are the foundation of your platform. They have excitement about your success, because they contributed to it by beta reading, which seals in your new writer identity.
You may have noticed friends and family are not on the baby-step list. This is because family and friends love us and want to keep us safe. The people who know us best are often those overly cautious, well meaning, here’s-all-the-reasons-this-is-not-going-to-work types. Telling them before you own your writer identity is a common way we subconsciously self-sabotage and stall our writing evolution.
Most of us don’t have the emotional muscle to carry around the fears and concerns of family/friends until we’re at the I am a published, consistent writer stage of things. If someone close to you is a permanent Eeyore, I implore you DO NOT TELL THEM. You do not have room for dream assassins whispering in your ear. Find the dream enablers, share with them, and the well-intentioned-dream-assassins can be spectacularly surprised when you have something in print to show them.
Owning your identity as a writer is a key step toward becoming a well-paid, published, consistent writer. Writing something was the first step, now take the next one and tell someone, “I am a writer.”
Jessica Conoley is a writer, coach, speaker, & founder of The Creative’s Apprentice. She spends her mornings writing—fantasy novels, business how-to articles, & creative non-fiction. Afternoons are dedicated to helping creatives’ own their worth. She simplifies their business practices, coaches them through limiting misbeliefs, & connects them with a support community. Her specialty is helping writers become happier & more creative as they increase productivity & live their dreams.