Ten years ago today I walked into a Mexican restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, to have dinner with a dozen women I’d never met before. I was there because I wanted to start a women’s writing group. During this dinner that I had arranged, 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.

See Jane Write has changed so much over the past decade, and so have I. And I’ve learned a lot every step of the way. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of See Jane Write.

If you can’t find what you need, create it.

In 2009, I left my job as a newspaper reporter in Louisville, Kentucky, and moved back to my hometown of Birmingham to teach. But I knew I wanted to continue to write. I also knew that juggling writing and teaching would be hard, so I wanted to find a group of women writers to cheer me on. I wanted a group that welcomed multi-passionate writers, writers who don’t want to stick to just one genre. For two years I searched for a group like that, but couldn’t find one. So, in March of 2011, I started my own.

You have the time to do whatever you want to do.

After starting See Jane Write I found myself not only juggling writing and teaching but now also juggling planning and hosting events. And once See Jane Write became a business, I was juggling entrepreneurship, too. “How do you do it all?” is a question I got asked a lot. And the answer was simple — I just did! I got up at 4 a.m. every weekday so I could write and work on my business before heading to the classroom. If you feel like you don’t have the time to go after your dreams, make the time.

When you help others, you help yourself.

When I started See Jane Write 10 years ago, I had no idea that See Jane Write could become a business with members all over the world. I had no idea that it would help me land the opportunity to write a monthly column for two magazines and curate a column for Reckon South. I didn’t know I’d land paid speaking engagements or have the chance to share the story of See Jane Write on the TEDxBirmingham stage. Never did I imagine that I’d win awards because of See Jane Write or meet some of my dearest friends through this group. I had no idea the women of See Jane Write would help me through the toughest fight of my life — cancer. And when I created See Jane Write I didn’t know that one day it would allow me to create the career of my dreams. But all of these things happened because the women of See Jane Write felt supported by the community that I built and so they’ve always been eager to support me in return.

If you take your work seriously, others will also.

Back in 2014, I hosted my first day-long blogging conference, the Bloganista Mini-Con. Nearly 100 people were in attendance. We had networking, food, vendors, informative panel discussions and compelling keynote speakers and a professional photographer capturing it all. During the conference, I kept whispering to my husband, “This actually feels like a real conference.” Eventually, he said to me, “Javacia, this is a real conference.”

At that moment, I realized that even though I’d filled out all that LLC paperwork the year before, I still didn’t view See Jane Write as a real business. After that day I shifted my mindset and got serious. Six months later I received an email from the Birmingham Business Journal informing me I had been chosen as one of their Top 40 Under 40 for 2015. I am convinced that learning to take myself seriously as a businesswoman made all the difference.

You don’t need a huge following; you just need a loyal one.

When I started launching e-courses, I did so against the advice of a business coach. At the time I had yet to reach 1,000 email subscribers and this coach said I wouldn’t make any money from my courses with such a small list. But the See Jane Write community wanted a course that gave them a deep dive into blogging and brand building and so I created it. And I made thousands of dollars — proving it’s quality, not quantity that counts most. Of course, having a huge following makes success easier. But having a small following doesn’t mean success is impossible.

Everything you want is on the other side of consistency.

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. But ten years is a long time to do anything! Consistency is hard. And I must confess that I’ve thought about shutting down See Jane Write more times than I can count. And perhaps one day I will rebrand, but I will always stay true to the mission of See Jane Write, which is to help women use their stories to make an impact and an income.

You are not the work you do; you’re the person you are. 

This quote from Toni Morrison is hard for me to accept. For years, I’ve declared that writing isn’t just what I do, but it’s who I am. But I’ve realized this mindset did more harm than good because it caused me to tie my worth to my work. And this caused me to neglect self-care. Finally, I’m at a point in my life where I’m taking my work seriously but also taking care of myself.

You must do the thing you think you cannot.

Eventually, juggling teaching, writing, and managing See Jane Write got to be too much. Something had to give. I knew that I wanted to grow See Jane Write, but I also knew I couldn’t do that while still teaching full-time. But making the leap into full-time freelance writing felt impossible. It was too risky and too scary. And I’d convinced myself that to be a successful full-time freelance writer I’d need to live in a bigger city. But in May of 2019, I decided to feel the fear and do it anyway. I quit my job. And in 2020 — my first full year as a self-employed writer, the year of the pandemic, the year I fought cancer — I had my most financially successful year ever.

Where focus goes, energy flows.

As a multi-passionate writer, sometimes I want to do all the things all at once. But I know that I am always most successful when I’m laser-focused on one major goal at a time. This year I am focused on taking See Jane Write to the next level. And I want the entire See Jane Write community to level up with me!

You can write your way to the life of your dreams.

In spite of everything that happened in 2020, I can say I am living the life of my dreams. I write for a living — on my own terms — and I’m helping other women write, too. I have freedom and flexibility and I do work that I love so much I have to force myself to take a vacation. And this is all possible because of See Jane Write. This is all possible because of you. Thank you.

Enrollment for the See Jane Write Collective is now open. Come join the crew! Enrollment closes on April 2.