on writing

Only If You Endure These 5 (Excruciating) Things, Can You Become a Successful Writer

In fact, nothing can stop you after that

Lipika Sahu
New Writers Welcome
6 min readJun 17, 2022

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Image: Pexels

Writing is an over-fantasized profession.

Creating surreal worlds and dreamy lands, minds as fertile as the banks of Amazon, the fat pay-checks and royalties, the fan-following, the talk shows & interviews, motion-picture contracts, the beach-side houses with huge verandas, perfect for spewing out the plot — all sound so promising.

Well, a profession of the intellectuals and something that (only) the brainy-ones do. There is pride tagged along with the badge.

All that’s okay.

Just that — it isn’t all that rosy out there.

Global publishing statistics say that almost 95–98% of manuscripts get rejected. And those fortunate few scripts that get to see better days need to be re-written and edited many times before it lands in the hands of a reader — crisp and clean.

Now that’s a tough number to chew.

But I am not here to kill your dreams of becoming a writer. Don’t get me wrong.

I am that disclaimer you read before sitting on a thrill ride — that you accept the risks and hazards of the same.

Let me rip off the band-aid for you.

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”

Roald Dahl

1. Things can be mind-numbingly slow.

At least it was for me.

I would spend days writing and writing. But I wouldn’t see any real change. My stories tanked, I would fail to connect with my readers, and engagement levels would be so low. I was directionless.

Writing demands extreme patience — to learn and to grow. There will come times when every ounce of your body will scream and ask — is it really for me?

You would keep writing the whole day, churning out story after story, and seeing nothing happening.

It’s like you are running with your full might, and after what feels like ages, when you look back, all you have traveled are a few steps.

It’s a super-slow-pot recipe that has to age till you can eat it.

But that is how it is. Things will happen slowly. Take it or leave it.

THE SILVER LINING

A wrestler never jumps into the ring on the first day. They work on their muscles and stamina first. Patiently.

Hold on to that rigor.

What looks like a wasted day was a day you strengthened your writing muscles a little more. It is like building the stamina to run that marathon.

2. Your effort is not always rewarded proportionately.

I had written a piece, keeping in mind a major publication.

It took me three days to finish that. Then, I edited it thoroughly and rechecked if it ticked all the boxes. And I submitted it.

Five days later, I got the response — a rejection.

That was an extremely bitter experience, but I learned my lesson:

Just because a lot of effort has gone into creating something, doesn’t mean that it will be an instant hit.

Doesn’t work that way.

It will be a long journey of falling and scraping your knees before you know how to put one foot ahead of another.

THE SILVER LINING

There will be hits and misses.

While some of my meticulous stories have performed average, some spur-of-the-moment ones have done exceedingly well.

With time, you will sense — is it something that sounds relatable?

So, don’t extrapolate the outcome of singular events unto your writing. It will be an uneven path — it comes with the package.

3. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection.

Make way for the darling — rejection, a writer’s unshakable shadow.

If you can drink this poison, you are an accomplished writer already.

I still remember those words — ‘We loved your story….but it does not seem to be a great fit for our publication right now…would love to hear from you soon.’

They have the sting of heartbreak. Rejection leaves the writer with an ample dose of self-doubt — enough to break its spirit. Writers must keep taking rejections in their stride and avoid falling into the bottomless pit of doubts.

Rejection can be painful if you take it as the final proclamation.

THE SILVER LINING

Rejections can be healthy if taken the right way.

It is an opportunity to improve. Why lose it? It is a much better response than plain ignorance. At least you know that there is room for improvement.

Work on that rather than sulking away.

Rejection is never the end of the road. Consider it a Stop sign that diverts you to a better way to reach your destination.

4. You cannot please everyone.

As a writer, you have to be real.

A repercussion of being honest and having opinions is that it opens the door to contradictory views. As a result, you will sometimes encounter diverse and extreme opinions from others.

While some might put it subtly, some can be blunt about it.

I have had a brush with a couple of them. And trust me, it took me aback. I wanted to sulk.

It will be no different for you too. Brace yourself. Grow a thick skin.

THE SILVER LINING

But you will also meet wonderful people.

Like-minded people. And thankfully, they usually outnumber the bitter ones.

And this is one of the best parts of the job. People from all over the globe will connect with you. Some would appreciate your work, some would add value to it, and some would take it to another level.

5. You will have to read the same story several times.

That’s editing for you.

That is sometimes the most painful part of writing. But unfortunately, an essential part of it.

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.

Octavia E Butler

You cannot say that once I have penned down my thoughts, my job as a writer is over. It has just started. The real work is making something meaningful out of that blob of thoughts.

That is the job of editing. Read and re-read until everything seems in place. And then read it one more time before you finally read and submit it.

THE SILVER LINING

Editing is the whetstone of your writing skill.

I have learned that the more you edit, the more the words talk to you. And the more you get into the grind; you discover newer and better ways to say the same thing.

Editing might appear to be the most distasteful part of writing, but it indeed ensures the sweet taste of success.

The final say

Writing isn’t for the weak-hearted.

It demands resilience and tests you to the limits. It will bring you to the brink of throwing away your pen, screaming at the top of your voice, and calling it quits.

As Robert Benchley said:

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent in writing, but I couldn’t give it up because, by that time, I was too famous.

Carry this thought with you — always.

  • Things can be slow but look at it as more time to absorb all that is there to take.
  • Things will not happen in sync with your expectations, but your journey will be full of actions and surprises.
  • You might hear the word ‘no’ a lot — let that be the code word to try a little harder.
  • Not everyone will agree with what you say, but who told you your job was to please everyone?
  • You might be tempted to unleash your ‘child’ at the first sign, but pick up that comb and give one last brush.

Write a little more. Hang on a little more. Beat it out of you —

one word at a time.

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