Why Your Writing Is Falling Flat

Have you been writing but keep getting a weird twinge in your gut that something is “off?” Or a deflated feeling that what you wrote doesn’t communicate the image in your head and heart? Or maybe you like what you write but you’re not getting the kind of response that you expected?

Turns out, there might be one big reason for all these writing hurdles. Let me tell you a quick story about how I discovered this massive obstacle in my own writing.

In 2004, I had graduated college with a degree in English and applied to eight writing programs, including two “safety” schools that I thought were no-brainer admissions. During my wait for responses, I got a job at the ABC-TV station in Dallas. I produced my first TV spot. I learned to write copy for station promos and news teases.

And the school rejections started rolling in.

One after another, thin, sad envelopes appeared in my mailbox. My hope became thinner and more desperate with each one. Finally,...

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The Instinct to Succeed [Interview with T.D. Jakes]

The pastor and author shares how to harness the power within you.

Every night before he falls asleep, Bishop T.D. Jakes watches a comedy. “I don’t know that I’ve ever told anybody that,” he says, laughing a little self-consciously. No matter what happened during his day, a comedy keeps worry or negativity from affecting his sleep. “I learned to do that so I could detox my mind. And I like going to sleep laughing.”

Jakes has a lot to be joyful about. He’s the bishop of The Potter’s House, a Dallas-based church that’s home to 30,000 members, with services broadcast across the U.S. and Canada. He’s a husband, a father to five children and a grandfather to three. In 2013 he began hosting the BET show Mind, Body and Soul . He’s the founder of TDJ Enterprises, a media and entertainment company where Jakes turns his talents for writing and making music and films into a sizable profit. His gospel albums have scored multiple...

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The Business of Self-Esteem

How to find your true value in a world of material success

About 10 years ago, I fell into the dumps. After I aired my grievances and bemoaned my crippled confidence to a friend, she said, “Amy, you were born with all the value you’re ever going to get.” She told me that no job, no relationship, no status, wealth or accolade could make me worth more. She said I was valuable just for being me.

She was a good friend, and something deep inside me recognized the truth in what she said. But no matter how much sense it made, I wasn’t acting as if I believed it. My brain kept telling me things such as: Everyone else your age already has children. If you had just finished college when you were supposed to, you’d have a decent career by now. And those people aren’t just more attractive than you—they’re better than you.

The legendary personal achievement philosopher Jim Rohn said, “Income seldom exceeds your personal development.” As...

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Go Straight for the Joy and Follow Your Purpose

Life Coach Martha Beck on trusting yourself, finding what makes you happy and going for it.

In 2004 I was enjoying the highest-paying, most respectable job I had ever worked. Everything from the title on my business card to the location of the building fed my notion of success.

Then a Cadillac Escalade sideswiped me on my way home one evening. After an ambulance ride and an MRI, I was told there was a problem with my spine. Over the course of the next few months, I waited to find out if I needed surgery. And everything changed.

“If you had asked me a week before that accident if I was happy, I would’ve said yes,” I told life coach Martha Beck over the phone. “I had this dream job, a nice car, and everybody thought I was hot stuff. But a week after the accident, I found myself saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m scared to death. I don’t belong at that job. I don’t think I like myself anymore. I’m not following my purpose, and I feel like...

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‘Embrace the People Who Tell You You’re Full of Crap’ [Interview with Gary V]

Gary Vaynerchuk on authenticity, self-awareness and the future of business

Gary Vaynerchuk is almost always on the move. If you doubt that, watch him. His new YouTube show "DailyVee" is a chronicle of his daily life. He seems to personify the word hustle. The man hustles 14 to 16 hours a day, every day. He has for a long time.

Gary Vee, as he’s known in the social sphere, is an early adopter and a vocal proponent of the power of social media. But at heart, he’s a business-builder. He started by building his father’s liquor store business from $3 million a year to $60 million. Now he’s the CEO of VaynerMedia, an angel investor and a venture capitalist with the skills and instincts to get in on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Uber. In 2014 he co-founded a $25 million investment fund. In his spare time, he’s an in-demand speaker and a New York Times best-selling author.

Despite his impressive and hard-earned influence, he does have his critics. People object...

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Homemade Millionaire [Interview with Kendra Scott]

How the jewelry designer melded family, fashion and philanthropy into an empire of bling

Kendra Scott turned out the lights.

For the last time, she flipped over the sign in the window of her failed retail hat store that read, “Sorry, We’re Closed.” Then she shut the door and locked it.

It was 1998. She had lost her life’s savings—and those of her stepfather, whose battle with cancer had inspired her to start the Austin, Texas, business.

As if on cue, it started raining. “I just sat there and cried like a baby on the steps,” Scott says, “feeling like I was the biggest failure on the planet. I had let everybody down.”

Then something amazing happened. “I heard steps behind me,” and when she looked up, the sign was flipped over and read, “Yes, We’re Open.”

“It was a literal sign.” She laughs. “It was a sign! I looked and I just started laughing because I’m like, Is this some...

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12 Top Tools & Strategies for Productivity

Turn your activity into achievement.

What three projects, tasks or priorities will most contribute to the accomplishment of your biggest and most important goal? Write them on a notecard, and then spend 90 percent of your day on those tasks. Spend the other 10 percent delegating, Productivity is not an accident. It’s a decision.

Legendary coach John Wooden said, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” You may be busy from the moment your alarm goes off in the morning until the time your head hits the pillow at night, but are you accomplishing anything meaningful toward the fulfillment of your goals? Are you making forward progress, or are you just running in place?

Make a decision today to stop wasting time—or just spending time—and, instead, invest some time in learning how you can be more productive in the areas of your life that really matter.

Keep reading on SUCCESS.com...

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Crossover King [Interview with Joel Osteen]

Reaching people around the world through his television ministry, Joel Osteen embraces even more— including nonbelievers—with his powerful personal-development message.

I am sitting in the coveted front row of what used to be the Compaq Center, former home of the Houston Rockets. The stage is brilliant with multicolored lights. Guitarists, a bass player and other musicians in jeans are warming up. Three singers take the stage and the crowd of nearly 16,000 cheers as the group begins to sing along with a backup choir.

No, I’m not watching Lady Antebellum, the country-pop crossover band. I am, however, about to see one of the greatest crossover successes of our generation: Joel Osteen.

As the praise music concludes, Osteen’s wife and co-pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Victoria Osteen, takes the stage. She welcomes everyone and then tells the story of a trip to Italy she and Joel took when they were newly married. They wanted to get Joel’s father,...

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Defend Your Boundaries to Take Back Control

Learn how and when to draw the line after someone asks too much of you. 

One summer, I was struggling with feelings of resentment toward a family member. Let’s call her Carol. I loved Carol very much, but every time I saw her number on the caller ID, I  got a sick, overwhelmed feeling. I started avoiding her calls. I realized, thanks to a candid chat with a friend, that I was steering clear of Carol because she always wanted something from me. And I always said yes. I was so invested in having Carol think well of me, that no matter what she needed or wanted, I figured out a way to make it happen and ended up creating chaos in my life as a result.

A friend suggested I write NO in big letters on a notecard and set it on my coffee table. Then each time Carol called, I  was to sit down and stare at that notecard until I got the gumption to just say no.

Boundaries are tricky—we don’t always realize that we’re unhappy or unproductive because of a...

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The Hidden Payoff of a Failed Risk

In December 2006, I sat in a Borders bookstore, typed an article that would pay a penny per word, and despaired of ever getting a national magazine-writing gig. I had pitched editors with all my best ideas (I thought), and no one seemed to be open to new submissions from inexperienced writers (go figure).

I had landed a remote position as the associate editor for a regional magazine, a couple of copywriting jobs, and a steady gig writing these low-paying bulk articles. But the higher-paying and higher-profile work I coveted was in national newsstand magazines.

That cold day, the windows of Borders were fogged near the base. I stared at the droplets as they trailed down the glass and longed to stop working on the article about wedding gifts and just wander the bookstore for a few hours. I had taken a huge risk a couple years earlier by leaving my full-time job and going freelance. Days like this, I wondered if I had made a mistake.

The Approach

Two women sat nearby. As they laughed...

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