These Two Things That Bella Andre Said Will Make You Rethink Your Life as an Author

Bella Andre
Bella Andre

So I had a chance to speak with Bella Andre recently, and she pretty much shocked me with two things she said. To me, each of these three things contain important lessons that any writer – or really any creative professional – can find value in.

  1. Even smart ideas fail. And fail hard.
    The first time I saw Bella speak in person was nearly three years ago. At the time, she explained the process she developed to have her books translated into 8 languages and introduced to new international markets. Beyond being insightful and positive, you had a wonderful sense of her business acumen, and what it took for a writer to brand out to find new opportunities. 



    When I spoke to her recently and mentioned this, she immediately told me that this initiative failed. She said: “I did what should have been the right work. Unfortunately… almost across the board it turned out the translations were not good. I had to pull every book I paid for.” And the entire failure cost her tens of thousands of dollars, and clearly a lot of her time. Evidently, it is very difficult to get decent translations. And she said now – three years later – she is finally able to implement a system that she feels addresses these challenges.

    

If she finds incredible success in this initiative, likely her three years of effort will be washed away and hidden by quick tips for other authors to follow in terms of translations and expanding to international markets. But for her, she had to not just have the initiative to explore, but the gumption to learn, to try again.

    

And for me as an observer, even though I was so unbelievably impressed at her idea three years ago, I have to be aware of the hard realities of what it takes for someone to actually try to execute on a great idea. There are hidden failures that we never see, and it is up to the creator – in this case Bella – to make something of it and not let it stop her. 


  2. It’s astounding what one person can do. You don’t know your limits until you break them.

    So I tried to read as many Bella Andre interviews as I could before I had the chance to speak to her. From my research, I knew that she had a habit of sending individual emails to hundreds (thousands?!) of her fans around book launches. I learned a lot about the scope of her work, that she has an economics degree from Stanford, and that she was a singer-songwriter. But I didn’t know that she ale writes under another pen name. That, even with her already impressive output as a writer, that was only PART of her total output. 



    Our chat took place in front of a live audience online, and there was this moment where people went from being “Wow, I am super impressed with Bella,” to “This woman is not human, she is a superhuman.” That moment is when, after talking about so much of what she works on day after day, she made a casual mention of dropping her kids off at achool. 

You could just sense people’s jaw dropping. And one person in the audience even left a comment such as: “Well, that’s it…much excuse was kids, but now I don’t have it anymore.”

In the end, the audience left comments like this:

  • “Stunning. So beyond where I’m at. It’s like she’s from another planet. “
  • “She’s just so smart – it boggles my mind. “
  • “I feel like a TOTAL slacker!”
  • “Does she sleep?”
  • “Can we please bottle her energy?”

Oftentimes a writer’s biggest barrier is themselves. The false limits they construct for reasons that only exist deep in their psyche. What talking to Bella showed me was how much of the hard work is often hidden from plain site.

I know that is why the community here at Writer Unboxed is so amazing – where writers are showing up everyday to help out other writers.

If you read this and think “well, this is all well and good for Bella, but I can’t do this because _________,” then please tell me, what is your big excuse?

-Dan

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About Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He has helped hundreds of authors via online courses, events, consulting, and workshops, and worked with amazing publishing houses and organizations who support writers such as Random House, Workman Publishing, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others.

Comments

  1. says

    Great post!
    …”Her three years of effort will be washed away and hidden by quick tips for other authors to follow in terms of translations and expanding to international markets”
    will not be lost for me. Thanks to you, Dan, I’m printing this out and bookmarking it. I prefer the full strength medicine. I’ve often wondered why Universities Language professors don’t do a few in classes -it would definitely be a great learning experience for their upper level classes and training for future translators!

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    • says

      Thanks! Yes, Bella talked a bit more deeply about the complexity of translations, and how she is developing her new system, and the incredible cost of it. Have a great day!
      -Dan

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  2. says

    Thank you for these insights. I don’t know that I so much have go-to excuses. What I have to watch out for is a negative inertia that can slip into my efforts if I’m not careful – delaying a start on a new initiative, sluggish efforts on an approach I’ve already begun.

    When I first devoted myself to the writing, I often commented blithely that I knew I’d “do some things right and some thing wrong, but that I was going to do it anyhow.” For the most part I’ve followed that principal, which has served me well. But the fear of failing or taking the wrong step can still trip me up. Caution can at times become paralysis for anyone, even the boldest amongst us.

    Your post – and Bella’s experience – reminds us that one has to keep moving, keep stretching. It’s the only way to know what we can achieve and just how far we can go, in writing and in life, which are so tightly intertwined.

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    • says

      Thank you John for sharing this. There is also a phrase I’ve heard a LOT in the past couple years: “Fail fast.Fail often.” The intent is that you learn when you fail, and the quicker you do it, the more lessons you get, and the frequency by which you do it means that you are learning more and recovering.

      But what sometimes bugs me about the phrase is that things can get lost in failure. Not just money, not just time. Sometimes it is opportunity, or so many other things. So when I hear stories such as Bella’s it gives such a great context of the risk she takes, and that this can be a lonely risky day-to-day existence for her with so many decisions that only she can fully own.

      Thanks for the comment.
      -Dan

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  3. says

    Dan,

    This makes me want to meet Bella!

    Some of my friends seem superhuman, like her, and always have me questioning myself. “What more could I be doing?” I’m exhausted as it is. But I read, learn, and adjust my priorities…see what needs more focus.

    Oh yeah, and there’s that dang time management issue. :) Once I get a handle on that, personal limits be damned!

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    • says

      Yes! Prioritization is key. You can’t create a 25th hour to the day, but you can better manage your energy about what you do, and when. Thanks.
      -Dan

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    • says

      First step: Get rid of your TV. Seriously. I’ve had a television in the house very rarely through my childhood and adulthood. Those otherwise lost hours of zoning out in front of a lighted box go instead to the PRIORITIES. One of which is WRITING.

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  4. says

    I was one of the lucky ones to hear Bella’s webinar with Dan. I was impressed by both her amazing energy, smarts, and resilience but also by Dan’s ability to notice what was important in the lessons here experience offers. Here, Dan, you go even further into what I would call the psychology of entrepreneurship. Thanks for noticing the important things.

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  5. says

    Thanks for this interview, Dan. Bella really is a force of nature…

    She said something this summer that really stuck with me: “balance is overrated.” It gave the whole room permission to write and work as much as they could.

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    • says

      Thanks Barbara! I agree – “balance” is not really possible because it is so easy to get tipped one way or another, creating imbalance. I tend to think obsessions are the way to go. Highly prioritize what matters most, and then focus intently on that.
      :)

      Have a great day!
      -Dan

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  6. says

    “Oftentimes a writer’s biggest barrier is themselves.” This is very handy – because it means we can remove our biggest barrier all by ourselves.

    9 out of 10 startups fail. Venture capitalists know this. But we all see the winners, and don’t realize it is much more likely that, on any particular venture, we will fail.

    It doesn’t matter – we try again. Persistence is more powerful than genius in the long run. If we don’t have the failures, we can’t get on to the wins.

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  7. says

    Barbara, I agree. I’ve always believed that we are at our best and growing the most when we are out of what might be considered “balance”…intensely focused on something we are genuinely passionate about or devoted to. We just have to remember to come up for air from time to time. And Dan, thanks so much for this post. “Even smart ideas fail” is something I needed to hear…very powerful food for thought.

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  8. says

    I’m with Shirley: feeling lucky to have witnessed Bella in the webinar, and was wowed. Great job interviewing her, Dan.

    Can I just come in from an angle here, and say I don’t want to find ways to do more, or to fit more in a day? Been there, done that. From the time I became a business owner in my late 20s to the time I bagged out in my mid forties, my life was a blur. I wasn’t living in the moment, it was go-go/next goal, then go-go again. It not only went by in a series of flashes, I feel like I missed out on so much. I lost touch with old friends, rarely saw family, and my wife and I had more face-time over each other’s desks and a conference table than anywhere else.

    Have any of you seen that insurance commercial where they ask what you would do if you could just slow down and not worry about the rat-race? In one of them, the very first lady says: “I’d be a writer.” Well, that was my answer. And I’m lucky enough to be there. I want to enjoy it, not rush through it.

    Don’t get me wrong – I get impatient. I want my books published. I want to connect with readers. But all in its proper time and perspective. First things first. Get the books right. One day at a time. And live life outside of that progression. I have to remember the lessons of my missing decade (I can hardly recall anything outside of business events from my thirties). I continue to remind myself of the promise that I would live in the moment through my writing journey.

    So I can look at Bella and all of the other super-humans you introduced us to at GetRead in awe. I can still learn from them, and do things smarter. But mostly I’m just glad I’m not them. Not anymore. Mostly they remind me that I can relish focusing on my stories each day and then step away from the keyboard. Afterward I can enjoy walking on the beach, reading by the fire, and having dinner each night with my wife. Thanks, Dan!

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    • Cal Rogers says

      I, too, have been there, done that. The last 15 years of my career in aerospace probably took 10 years off my life expectancy. The constant stress of trying to salvage engineering development projects where there might not be a technical solution to what they were pushing us to do. Where there was never enough schedule or budget or personnel to do the job right. Working 12-hour days. Canceling doctor’s appointments or not being able to vote in a presidential election because someone scheduled a last-minute meeting you couldn’t miss. Never having time to take a vacation. Being so consumed by work that you forget to remember your mother on the 1-year anniversary of her death.
      Totally forgetting my Mom was my “man in the mirror” moment when I knew I needed to change my life. I took the first chance I got to retire and have never looked back. If writing fiction means going back to that kind of life? Thanks, but I think I’ll just move to Kenya and dig wells for the rest of my life.
      But you what I’m doing instead? I’m putting the protagonist in my next novel (the one I’m writing now) in the same high-pressure, high-stakes situation I was in, and seeing how he deals with it. Writing about your struggles is better than seeing 10 shrinks a day. And it makes for a hell of a story.

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    • says

      Vaughn,
      Wow – well put! What I tend to find is that there is not really a “one or the other” choice here though. Rather, a million little choices. Love your viewpoint, thank you so much!
      -Dan

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    • says

      Dan, I think there is a vital message from Bella on that sense of getting back in the ring after one of life’s fighters has knocked you cross-eyed. And much, much to admire about her industry and inspiration. But I’m more with Vaughn here on the measured sentence-by-sentence focus driving your writing life, including the down time to breathe and laugh at the cat, which gives you (me) the footing to renew that considered sentence quest.

      As others have said more pointedly here (Mr. Maass’ pointer has reach), for some of us, our temperaments are less suited for the spectrum of para-publishing pursuits, even if we had Bella’s indefatigable vim. So, speaking from my usual mind-divided, I salute her gusto to go capture the flag, but grimace at the guilt considered at my own paltry efforts.

      It is so true that our very selves are the things that get most in our way, and ever so good to remind that lolling self to hit the gas pedal now and then. (But please don’t write any follow-ups that she also plays the piano beautifully, or I’ll die.)

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  9. says

    My biggest “excuse” lies with a lack of confidence. I’ve been a writer in some way for most of my life (for over 25 years now), and I feel like I lost so much time not pursuing it passionately like I am today. At mid-life, I wonder if I just don’t have enough time to do all I feel led to do. BUT, I just keep moving forward and doing what I feel I need to do next, trying desperately to ignore that voice that tells me it won’t happen.

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  10. says

    Awesome post Dan. She is amazing and her output is super-human, I agree. I think it is important for us to not compare ourselves to her. We can see the possibilities. But our brains all work differently. And our creativity. There are other amazing top-tier authors who are only capable of putting out one book per year. And that’s okay. Coincidentally, I just finished Bella’s novel, IF YOU WERE MINE last week and she is a very talented writer (Man, she’s got some steamy bedroom scenes).

    There is a new wonderful romance author, Terri Osburn, who is publishing three books during a twelve-month period. She works full-time during the day as a Project Analyst. Her only writing time is at night, after her kids go to sleep, or on the weekend. If she can do it, with a full-time job and kids to take care of, anyone can.

    I published a non-fiction book earlier in the year and am now working on a romantic comedy. It’s taking me longer than than I thought it would take (I am almost finished with the first draft), but I’m okay that it’s taking longer than expected. We are all different. The main thing is that I am doing it. No excuses.

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    • says

      Well hello. Thanks for the mention and the huge compliment. Yes, I will have 3 books out in less than 12 months (only 1 was written when I signed the deal), and I have a full time job, a teenager, and more pets than is probably necessary. But to be clear, I am nowhere near Bella’s output. She amazes me.

      I love that the point of this article is to kick the excuses to the curb. I’m a big proponent of that. But I also get that every writer is different. If you’re turning off the television, writing every day, and still need six months to write a book, I don’t think you should beat yourself up about it. A book takes as long as it takes.

      That said, you still have to keep writing. You just do. That is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in this game. Publishing is a matter of magic, luck, talent, and perseverance, but it’s also a whole lot of discipline.

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  11. says

    I could blame my wonky brain with its black hole and the challenges of that — it’s a wonder I can pen out a novel at all with this strange brain; however, I think some of it is just “I don’t even know where to begin!” but that relates to the brain-thang, so . . . dang. And I suppose there’s some stubbornness in there, too, and fear, and discombobulation, and etc etc etc etc etc. I hate excuse-giving, so I really have none (other than the brain–and maybe that’s just one more excuse).

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  12. says

    Self doubt seems to be my only barrier. The thing I notice about great people like this is that they’re nothing more than average people who didn’t quit. The lady’s an inspiration.

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  13. says

    Dan-

    Bella is amazing and inspiring. She does indeed leave authors with no excuses. Her energy and inventiveness are not in dispute.

    Here’s what bothers me and why I think Bella Andre is not a perfect model for all authors: She’s good at what she does. Not just her stories but her publishing, which she has a taste for and which clearly excites her as much as writing.

    It’s good to ask, what’s your excuse? To that, though, I’d add this question: Do you have the soul of a publisher? Do you think, live and breathe marketing? If you do, great. Bella’s your heroine.

    If you don’t (and this will be many authors) then there are other models to follow…not that we can’t all be inspired by the energy of this supremely dedicated writer. (I love the lessons your drew from her too, BTW.)

    For most authors I’d like to see them first and foremost commit Bella’s kind of energy to their stories and writing process. It is, after all, their stories that ultimately make authors successful.

    Without that one is merely marketing empty air.

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    • says

      Yay, Yay, Yay! Hip, Hip, Hooray! This response wins my hearty cheering. Let’s be our OWN best selves. Use others to inspire us to do well at what WE love and what WE are good at. We can be role models of a different mold. Heck, BREAK the mold. Just get to it, with tenacity and a fly swatter to chase away the insecurities.

      SO well said.

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  14. says

    I was very impressed with the comments on your post Dan. I find that being out of the rat race has given me time to think, to consider, and happily to write. I ran off to the Middle East to do exactly that. I dreamed of a farm and pulling water from a well. Well, I got over that quickly enough, but the 8 years in Lebanon and Syria were just wonderful. I’m back in the states and continue to work for myself and husband. No more corporations and no more stress about getting someone else’s agenda. The energizer bunny works for a while, but life must have more meaning than that.

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  15. Tina says

    Dan Blank,
    Love this! What a power-house.
    Did you start off with three things for writers to learn and then switch it to two? In the opening you wrote that there are three things with important lessons so I am confused.

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  16. says

    “There are hidden failures that we never see.” That’s so true. My ratio of acceptance letters to rejection letters is probably 1/20. But that 1 is what people see, and it’s been through dozens of revisions. Not much comes easy. Nice post, Dan Blank :)

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    • says

      Thanks so much Elizabeth! I think that seeing ONLY the successes aligns to the narratives many people have in their heads: that success should be easy, and if they haven’t yet achieved their goals, it is because THEY have been burdened with some stumbling block unique to them. Which of course, is rarely the case.
      -Dan

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  17. says

    I love the saying, It takes ten years to become an overnight success… We only see the success, usually, and forget the late nights, the groggy mornings and the days it stinks to have to sit in the chair.

    And Bella is an amazing powerhouse. :)

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