The best advice comes from the strangest of places. By random chance I came across an interview with Benjamin Dennehy, the self-titled UK’s Most Hated Sales Trainer. Now, I’m not in sales, nor have I every been in sales. My retail days were spent in inventory management (I’ve been blessed by never working sales nor working in the food industry. I did my share of janitorial work, though). An interview with a sales trainer is light-years away from my usual fare.
What the hell, I thought. It had a provocative teaser; Benjamin himself strikes a peculiar figure with a MAGA-red “Make Salesmen Great Again” hat. I’ll give this five minutes.
Over the course of the next couple days I listened to ten or twelve interviews with Benjamin. Applicable advice outside of sales. Quick introductions into the ideas of Transactional Analysis. Getting salespeople to stop focusing on outcome and focus on process. So much good stuff in these interviews, and I would have missed it all if I’d said “Nah, I’m not in sales, I can’t learn anything from this.”
Now I promised the secret to success up top. Benjamin mentions this in three or four different places, including his Substack, but I’m rephrasing it here specifically for writers.
Most writers love reading books on how to write. They show off their library of craft books, talk about the courses they’ve taken, debate forms with other writers online. What they don’t do is any of the exercises in the books or apply anything. They’re too busy reading how to do it.
Just pick one already. Pick one craft book. Study it. Follow all the steps, do the exercises. Learn it backwards and forwards and sideways until you don’t have to think about it anymore, it just flows from your fingers.
You can do this with anything, really. Don’t try to master five thousand methods for making a table. Pick one, build the damn table, then do it again. And again. Conquer the form, and then see what can be added to it. You’ll find once you’ve masted the basics all those big differences are just detail work.
You want to paint miniatures? Master one technique and apply apply apply. Learn the steps, do the work, stop constantly starting over because some new, shinier idea is suddenly popular.
Pick one way. Don’t spend time over-researching it. Just avoid the obvious scams (any craft book on Kindle Unlimited is garbage; any craft book by an author with less than ten novels is garbage; any craft book by a non-writer—like an editor or agent—is garbage). Pick up Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing In The Dark, or some James Scott Bell, or Save The Cat or the Snowflake Method. Pick one and go.
Here’s a link to Benjamin Dennehy’s Substack, and his viral interview with Mike Winnet.