I absolutely loved the Women’s World Cup. The teams striving against the odds, the host countries excelling, the superb quality of football, the gigantic world spectacle. I’m going to leave the Spanish federation outrage aside in this roundup, and focus on lessons we can learn as creatives from the world’s female footballers. Here are ten writing lessons for you to take away…
10. Don’t Step On People To Get Where You Want To Go.
It doesn’t pay. We’re looking at you, Lauren James. It’s been said a million times in country songs the world over, and generally on every T-shirt aimed at girls in Primark and Matalan, but if you can be anything in this world, be kind. Don’t be a dick. If you’re starting out, another author’s kindness can mean the world. It did to me when I started, and I hope I’ve helped authors along the way. Both individually, but also via my podcast Lesbians Who Write, and through blogs and in-person events I’ve done. Don’t pull the ladder up. Help the next one in line. Pay it forward.
9. You Will Fuck Up. You Will Learn From It.
Mistakes happen. You will do things that you regret along the way. If you do, own your mistake, apologise, get wiser. This can happen at a young age, as it did with Lauren James, or at a very advanced stage in your career, as it did with Lucy Bronze in the final. Did we lose the final because of Bronze’s mistake? No. We lost because Spain were the better team. Just like footballers, authors will make mistakes, too. This happens when you’re just starting out, and when you’ve been doing it for years. You might upload the wrong file (guilty, last year, after eight years in the business!). You might put the wrong price in (also, done it). You might say the wrong thing to another author or reader. You’re human. Mistakes happen. Don’t dwell. It’s not that big a deal. The world will still turn.
8. Don’t Listen To The Noise: Trust Your Instincts.
The England team and their manager Sarina Weigman in particular had so many doubters at the start of the tournament because they were so injury-hit, the spine of the Euros-winning team ripped out. But they regrouped, refocussed, and hunkered down in their bubble. They didn’t let outside influence break through, and they were laser-focused on the task at hand: winning the world cup. They made it to the final. You could say the same about the Spanish team, at odds with their federation and their manager – they just focused on the football and shut out the noise. They won. Even with all of that in the background. It’s a timely reminder that there are a myriad of things you could do to promote your books and your career: talks, social media, ads, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, author promos & newsletter swaps. Endless options. But you should only do the ones that you like and that matter to you. Nobody else’s process will work for you in the same way. Don’t get distracted like we all do. Focus on what matters.
7. Focus On The Process.
The England team have said it time and again. They work on the small things, they feed into the larger project on the pitch, and if it works, all good. For books, that means making sure you have a good cover, a great blurb, a solid story that’s well edited, the price is right, and that you’re doing your upmost to let readers know about it. Everything else, you can’t control, so don’t sweat it.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot.
England did this when their first two games weren’t that great, and Keira Walsh got injured. They changed formation for the China game, and won 6-1. If you’re doing something in your author business that isn’t working for you – despite it working for everyone else – stop and change. For instance, Bookbub ads never worked for me. AMS ads worked until they didn’t. I started doing TikTok, then realised it was too time-consuming and not what I wanted to do. Decide what your best formation is. It may take a while to work it out. But once you do, you’ll fly. Sticking with the same thing and expecting a different outcome is the definition of madness. Make the change. Try something else. It might be a game-changer.
5. Take A Shot!
If there was one thing I thought again and again in the world cup, it was, “shoot!” Sometimes, teams want to walk the ball into the goal. They should have shot earlier. By the time they do, the moment has passed. It’s a form of perfectionism. They don’t think it’s the right moment. They wait for the exact moment, but it never comes and they lose the opportunity. This translates to book publishing (and life) perfectly. There’s never a right time to publish your book. You’re never going to be totally happy with it. There will always be something you want to change. But at some point, you have to take a shot and hit the publish button. And then, it’s in the lap of the goddesses. Your book might go to number one, be read by a movie producer and make it to the big screen. It might sell seven copies. It might make you enough to go on holiday. It might change someone’s life. You don’t know until you try.
4. Don’t Be Complacent.
Just because you’ve had success before, doesn’t mean you’re going to have it forever. Times change. Processes change. Teams change. Titans of the women’s game like Brazil and Germany didn’t make it out of the group stage; the USA fell at the last 16. It was the so-called smaller nations that made a splash like Colombia, Nigeria, Jamaica, Morocco. In tournament football, you’re only as good as your last match. In your author journey, you’re only as good as your last book. Which means, if you have a breakout book, don’t rest on your laurels. Repeating success requires consistency, dedication, a slice of luck and timing. Both England and Spain had injuries and their federations against them, yet they still made it to the final. A huge achievement for both. With books, you can reach your version of the final, too. How? By never allowing yourself to assume, focusing on detail, repeating your processes and doing the best you can in the time you have. But never rest on your laurels and think the world owes you. It doesn’t.
3. It’s Not Life Or Death.
Winning the World Cup would have been immense, but the Lionesses fell at the last hurdle. Spain were worthy champions, but their winning goalscorer, Olga Carmona, lifted the trophy and was then told her dad died a few days earlier. Her family had kept it from her so she could live her dream unaffected. What a clash of emotions. Football is not life or death. Nobody dies if you lose. Writing and publishing is not life or death, either. There are bigger things in life that matter. Don’t get caught up and fixated to your detriment.
2. Downtime & Recovery Matter.
Even throughout the World Cup, teams had days off as part of their preparations for games. They used cryo chambers, saunas, massages and physios in their recovery. They worked with dieticians and psychologists to get their nutrition and mindset right. If you’re doing this as a business, you should adopt these habits, too. Writing and publishing is not all about the work. It’s also about stepping away from your desk and living life, so you can get ideas, experience life and refill the creative well. It’s about making sure you move so your body works well. It’s about eating healthily so you feel good, getting exercise so you’re strong, working on your mindset so you can survive the inevitable ups and downs. Sport, and life, are all about mindset. Working on yourself is the most important job you can do. It’s what I’ve focused on this summer, and I couldn’t be more pleased. You are the key cog in your business. Keep yourself well oiled.
When Bronze, Russo, Bonmati, Hermoso et al started kicking a ball, they never thought they’d one day be playing in a World Cup Final. But they dreamt it in their mind. You never think your dreams will come true, but they might. Even if they don’t, along the way, you might stumble upon a new dream you never knew you had that will delight and surprise you just as much. When I started out, I never dreamed I’d sell as many books as I have now. I never dreamed readers would email me saying how much they loved my stories. That people would pay to hear me speak. These are all realities now. I never dreamed I’d meet a whole set of readers and authors, many who are now my friends in real life. Taking action drives change. Change can be scary, but also good. Dream big.
If you want to read my sapphic soccer romance, pick up a copy of Hotshot in Kindle and Kindle Unlimited now! The book is also available in print & audio across multiple platforms worldwide.