10 Things You Must Give Up to Become a Successful Writer
You have everything you need — you just need to unblock it
Before I tell how you how to be a good writer, we gotta talk about this noise…
Can you hear that?
It’s the sound of me bursting your bubble.
You want to learn how to become a good writer, how to become a successful writer, even how to become a great writer.
I started a blog to help other writers because I know it’s possible to succeed.
Encouragement helps, but sometimes a cold splash of truth is what it takes to get people in motion.
I’m going to tell you the truth today. You really want to know how to become a good writer? Are you ready? Brace yourself.
You’re Full of Crap
I get emails from aspiring writers from time to time along the lines of, “I want to become a writer where do I start?”
Certain types of emails I get that automatically indicate the person on the other end is never going to succeed.
They read something like this:
I want to become a writer and publish my own books, but I have no fans. Also, I’m having trouble figuring out what I want to write about. Oh, and I also don’t have any time to write with my current situation.
Can you help me become a successful writer?
I can tell this person will never succeed. Their excuses are woven into the message.
This is the way of the world. Most people are full of crap. They’re all talk.
You say you want to become a great writer, publish books, and have your own fans, but you aren’t willing to make any sacrifices.
If you’re not willing to give anything up, how do you expect to be blessed with the opportunity to put words on a page for a living?
Want to learn how to be a good writer? OK.
Here’s a list of things you need to give up.
Your Sense of Entitlement
Why should anyone want to read your writing, visit your website, or buy your book?
Are you a diligent writer? Are you making an effort to connect with people who’d be interested in your writing?
Let me guess, you think people should read your writing because you wrote it. That’s a horrible answer.
If you’re trying to make a living with your writing, your words are — by definition — a product. You have to create your best work and get it in front of the right eyeballs.
Nobody owes you their attention.
Less whining. More writing.
Writing is artistic. You think of writing as a craft. You want to pen beautiful words and become the next Kafka.
Good luck with that.
The romantic writer is the type who uses a ton of flowery language, thinks their book is going to get picked up by Harper Collins, and laments the lack of literary quality in today’s writing.
There is such a thing as a technically gifted yet boring and unsuccessful writer. Writing pretty words doesn’t make you a good writer. Moving people makes you a good writer. Entertaining, educating, and inspiring people makes you a good writer.
Writing to meet a market need doesn’t make you a hack, it makes you a person who actually earns from their writing.
Today, art and business aren’t mutually exclusive. They’ve bled into one another and the line is blurred. A little pragmatism will give you an opportunity to succeed as a writer.
So, please, discard your rose-colored glasses.
Your Counterproductive Thought — “I Want to Become a Writer”
Austin Kleon famously said:
Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without the work.
People complain about competition in writing, but the truth? There’s no competition.
Sure, there are tons of people aspiring to write, but 99.99% of them want to be writers, they don’t want to write. These people aren’t my competition. They’re failed careers waiting to happen.
The air is thin up here, not for successful and wealthy authors (I’m not one—I’m OK at best), but for people who make it longer than six weeks to six months.
I’ve written hundreds of blog posts, two books (working on a third now), and have probably crossed the million-word mark. Still, I don’t think I’m that good. I doubt my skills all the time. But I use that doubt as fuel to work even harder.
The antidote to your lack of success is more work.
That’ll be $1997, please.
Your Fear of Marketing
If any of the sentences below describe you, you have no right to complain about your writing career:
- You don’t have your own blog
- You’ve never guest posted or put your work on another platform
- You haven’t connected with one other person in your space with an email
- You don’t promote the content you create regularly
Another pervasive mindset among aspiring writers is the “build it and they will come” mentality.
How in the hell are people supposed to find your writing? Dumb luck? Extrasensory perception?
The recipe for success as a writer is simple — find people who want to read your type of writing and get your writing in front of them.
I get it. You just want to write. You think good writing should be enough on its own. It’s not.
Marketing isn’t a dirty word. It’s a prerequisite for success.
What if you knew everything would work out? How much time would you devote to building your writing career if it was guaranteed?
A year, five, ten?
Building a writing career takes time. I read a post by blogging expert Jon Morrow that said you need to dedicate four to six years of your life to building a six-figure blog.
You have to wrap your head around the idea that it’s not going to happen right now, but it will happen eventually.
You don’t improve your writing skills at an equal rate. When you write consistently, your skills will grow exponentially. The key is to make it past the initial phase of sucking at it.
I promise you. If you put in the work consistently, you’ll get better.
Your Need for a Neon Green Sign That Says “Success Here!”
Successful authors, writers, bloggers, etc don’t wait for the perfect answer to fall in their lap.
The funny thing about it? Even if I give you the entire recipe, step-by-step, with an inordinate amount of detail, basically everything short of me ghostwriting for you, it still wouldn’t matter.
Derek Sivers once said, “If information was all we needed, we’d all be billionaires with six-pack abs.”
I’ve written in-depth articles on so many facets of writing — books worth of content for free — to no avail. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’ll only be able to help a small handful of people who read my work.
I want you to be one of those people, but it will never happen for you until you stop waiting for all the answers beforehand.
There’s more than enough information to get you started. So start.
You won’t learn how to make it as a writer until you stop comparing yourself with other writers. I get it. You want to be where they are right now, but you’re not. Go to your favorite author’s blog right now if they have one. Odds are, the archives will stretch back five to ten years.
Getting rid of jealousy is difficult, but there is something useful you can do with it. Use it as fuel. When I’m jealous of someone, I just steal all their techniques. I don’t plagiarize them, but I think about the thought process behind their headlines, watch where they publish their work, and pitch mine to the same place and pay more attention to what they do than what they say.
Don’t let envy keep you stuck in the same spot.
Your Need for Approval
It took a while for my wife to take my aspirations seriously. Once I started making some money and gaining momentum, my progress opened her eyes to the possibilities. She never discouraged me, but deep down I knew she wasn’t sold yet, and that was OK with me.
You have to realize when you deviate outside the normal path, people aren’t always going to get it.
I didn’t announce my aspirations of becoming a writer to anyone. I just started writing and kept writing.
When it comes to successful writing, the only thing that matters is the page in front of you.
Now is the best time in human history to become a writer. You don’t need anyone’s permission to create and publish.
You don’t need a publisher to tell you whether or not you’re a good writer. Let your audience be the judge.
Your mission is to build a small empire around your words.
Don’t put your identity in someone else’s hands.
You don’t write enough. Period.
This is maybe my 500th blog post. One of my favorite writers, Seth Godin, has written 6,000.
How many blog posts have you written?
How many words do you have under your belt?
Do you write every day or just “once and a while?” Do you focus when you write or do you check the web and social media?
You know the answers and you know how to move forward.
I know sometimes the words don’t come out on the page the way you envisioned them in your mind. I know you sometimes feel like you’re not cut out to be a writer.
Suck it up.
I just laid down the gauntlet. You have everything you need to know about how to become a good writer.
It’s all on you now.
I sincerely believe everything you want in your writing career is possible. I want you to succeed, badly.
But I can’t want it more than you do.
Do me a favor, for the next week, 30 days, or 90 days — just shut up and write. No more putting off starting that blog, writing that post, or outlining that book.
No more excuses.