In the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose, Cholla, the leader of a gang of outlaw bikers called The Black Widows, always barks the same order when his men make their entrance to a scene and dismount from their hogs:
This is pretty good tactical advice, if you’re expecting a fight and you don’t want to get bottled up in a corner. It allows you to cover the exits, prevents opponents from easily flanking you, and establishes control over a wider area.
The only problem with the tactic was that Cholla’s men were idiots.
The entire gang of inept would-be toughs inevitably got picked apart piecemeal by adversaries who had greatly inferior numbers and strength, ranging from two guys with an orangutan to a little old lady with a shotgun, and an octogenarian with a garden hose.
The Black Widows were terrible fighters. Cholla would stand by and watch his boys get thrashed in a variety of embarrassing ways – then he’d grind his teeth and retreat in disgust.
The Black Widows’ problem was not numbers – they always outnumbered their opponents.
It wasn’t their tactics – for the fights they chose, spreading out was a good plan.
Their problem was that they had no idea what to do with their superior numbers once they deployed. They didn’t work together, they didn’t concentrate on weak points, and their leader was content to watch them get beat up without rethinking his method or adjusting to changing conditions.
They made the mistake of thinking that wearing leather and riding a Harley makes you a bad man.
In their case, those things only made them ridiculous caricatures of a stereotype.
Instead of focusing on their gear, they should have focused on their methods, and actively figured out what they were doing wrong.
Strangely enough, there are three lessons modern writers can learn from The Black Widows.
1. SPREAD OUT!!
Diversifying your writing between fiction, a blog or author site, ebooks, courses, guest posts and other areas gives you a broad foundation for success. More than one iron in the fire means you don’t have to hit a home run with everything – just keep putting out quality content consistently, in a variety of places, and it will improve your chance of succeeding. Just don’t spread out haphazardly. If you do things without a clear plan of action, your mismatched lines of attack will get tangled, and some trucker will stuff you in a dumpster behind a diner.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Simply buying a bunch of fancy software or writing courses won’t make you a better writer. Writing more will. You have to practice your craft in order to improve. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that pretending to be a writer will get you a publishing contract. Do the work, learn, and constantly try to get better. Then when you spread out and get ready to show off your skill, you might just avoid getting beat up by a big orange monkey.
In a figurative sense.
3. HELP YOUR BUDDIES!!
Work hard at adding value to other people’s lives. Network with other authors and entrepreneurs, and be willing to help out if you can. Offer unsolicited support and praise, and advice when asked. Once you build a network of colleagues who are doing similar work, you’ll share each other’s success and help overcome each other’s struggles. Doing things alone is a guaranteed way to get humiliated – and you don’t want to be forced to retreat in disgust.
The moral of the story is that although writing professionally may sometimes seem like you’re in a street fight against a biker gang, you can even the odds – with practice, hard work and good support.
Besides, you never know. The biker gang you face might turn out to be really pathetic fighters.