Eight years ago I walked into Cantina Tortilla Grill in Birmingham, Alabama to have dinner with about a dozen women I’d never met before. We talked about writing, blogging, social media and more. We talked about our current writing projects and the projects we dreamed of pursuing. And with this meeting See Jane Write was born.

At the time I had no idea that See Jane Write could become a business with members all over the world. At the time I had no idea that because of See Jane Write I’d get the opportunity to write a monthly column for B-Metro and Birmingham magazines. I had no idea I’d have the chance to share the story of See Jane Write on the TEDxBirmingham stage. I had no idea I’d win awards because of See Jane Write or meet some of my dearest friends through this group. Eight years ago I had no idea that See Jane Write would completely change my life.

Over the past eight years I’ve learned a lot about writing, blogging, and entrepreneurship. And I’ve learned a lot about myself. Here are eight lessons I’ve learned from my eight years of managing See Jane Write.

Writing is a communal act.

Though we writers create most of our work in solitude we need community, nonetheless. That’s why I started See Jane Write in the first place. When I quit my job as a newspaper reporter in Louisville, Kentucky and moved back to my hometown of Birmingham to teach I knew I wanted to continue writing and blogging. But I also knew it would be a lot easier to do this if I had a group of other women writers and bloggers cheering me on.

A writing community can give you feedback on your work to help make your writing stronger. A writing community can commiserate with you when you receive rejection letters and celebrate with you when you have good news.

In addition to being a part of a writing community, I believe it’s also imperative for writers to read the work of other writers. I find that I am my most creative and I feel the most inspired when I’m reading great books and keeping up with my favorite blogs.

Progress > Perfection

So many of the women I’ve met through See Jane Write struggle with simply starting. They want everything to be perfect before they launch that blog. They think they need two writing degrees before they can start writing that book. But See Jane Write has taught me the beauty of taking the leap and building your wings on the way down.

See Jane Write got a lot of attention in its early years even though I had no idea what I was doing! But I was full of passion and so excited about what I was building that I would tell anyone who would listen. And soon enough it seemed as if everyone else was talking about See Jane Write, too. In the meantime, I learned from my mistakes and worked to make every event, every program, every post better than the one before.

Chase purpose, not profit.

See Jane Write did not begin as a business. At first, I just wanted a group of women writers and bloggers to hang out with. Later, I kept the group going because I saw it was really making a difference in the lives of its members. I only started selling e-courses and offering paid coaching and membership programs because people started asking for them and because I needed something other than my personal savings account to fund See Jane Write events. I focused on my purpose, I focused on my goal of helping women share their stories and the money found me. This is why one of Zig Ziglar’s most famous quotes is among my life mantras: “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Your story is your superpower.

A couple of weeks ago a Birmingham-based women’s organization asked me to speak at one of their upcoming meetings. Knowing I was going to accept the invitation I started to brainstorm topics. Should I discuss blogging and business? Should I discuss personal branding? Maybe I should discuss building a platform or a community around your passion.

But the woman who wanted me to speak to the group simply wanted me to share my story, a story she’d heard me share last summer at another event. This was a good reminder that our story is our superpower. This is a lesson I learned long ago but for some reason keep losing sight of. The speaking engagements, the blog posts, the columns, and even the e-mail newsletters that do best are always the ones rooted in my personal stories.

Comparison is the thief of joy — and the killer of progress.

You’ve heard the saying that comparison is the thief of joy and you know it’s true. But I’ve learned comparison can not only keep you from being happy but it can also keep you from making progress. When you get so caught up in the Pinterest-perfect lives and Instagram illusions that others curate on social media you start wondering why you should even bother. You tell yourself you’ll never be where this writer or blogger or entrepreneur is so you shouldn’t even try. But you should try because no matter how many content creators there are in the world, there’s someone out there who needs your story, your book, your blog, your business.

Furthermore, See Jane Write has taught me that collaboration starves the monster of comparison. Whenever I am tempted to envy another female writer or blogger, I seek ways to collaborate with her instead.

I have enough time to do anything I want to do.

Whenever I ask a See Jane Write reader what’s the biggest obstacle keeping her from achieving her writing, blogging, and business goals the answer is almost always the same — “I don’t have enough time.”

Look, I get it. One of the hardest things about managing See Jane Write is juggling it with my teaching career and my freelance writing. I’m also a wife, daughter, sister, and friend. But for the past eight years I’ve made the time to do it all simply because I’ve wanted to.

Ironically, I find I’m a more productive writerpreneur during the school year than I am during the summer because my day job forces me to be intentional with my time.

Now I’m not saying we should pressure ourselves to do all the things all the time. I’m a believer in the saying “You can do it all but not all at once.” But if you pick one writing, blogging or business goal and truly commit to achieving it you will make the time to make your dream come true.

Consistency is king.

I know EVERYBODY talks about how important consistency is but there’s a reason for that — it’s true! The See Jane Write brand does the best when I’m consistently hosting events. The See Jane Write blog gets the most traffic when I’m consistently producing and promoting good content. Just a couple of months ago a local author told me the thing that she admires most about me is my consistency. She said she’s always been impressed by how I consistently use the See Jane Write platform to serve women who write and blog.

Clarity keeps you going.

Throughout the past eight years, I’ve often struggled with knowing exactly who I want to be in the blogging space and who I want to serve. And whenever I am unsure I get discouraged. But when I get clarity about who I am, what I do, and who I serve I feel reenergized. Clarity keeps you focused on your goals so you’re too busy to envy someone else’s success. Clarity keeps you creative, too. I’ve found that when I get focused it doesn’t limit my ideas, it causes them to overflow!

What’s next for See Jane Write?

Speaking of clarity, I’ve recently made my ideal reader/client avatar even more specific. I’ve realized that I’m not targeting ALL women who write and blog. My goal is to help women who are having trouble getting started. Maybe you want to get paid to write for your favorite publications but you don’t know where to begin. Maybe you want to write a book but you don’t know how to find the time or the confidence to do so. Maybe you’ve written and even self-published a book but you don’t know how to market it. Maybe you want to start a blog but you don’t know how. Maybe you’ve been blogging for years and you want to build a business from your blog but you’re not sure if that’s even possible.

I believe it is my calling to help women writers and bloggers take the first step they need to take to get to the level they want to reach. That’s why April 8-28 I’ll be hosting a FREE 21-day challenge called The Write Start. The challenge is designed to help women build the confidence, commitment, and creativity they need to get serious about writing, blogging or building a platform. You can sign up at bit.ly/thewritestartchallenge.