Don’t Have This Mindset If You Want to Be a Writer
You’re setting yourself up for failure.
Writing is easily one of the most versatile skills you can use to go into all different kinds of careers. From blogging, to freelance, to authors, to ghost writing or copywriting, there is truly more jobs than meets the eye to most people. But what’s more important than the kind of writing career you may want to pursue, is having a plan of how you’re going to get there.
I go to a liberal arts college, and I have classmates and friends who are studying creative writing or journalism in hopes of making writing their full time income when they graduate. Since college is such a trivial time in life where many people are finding themselves, I have come across all different kinds of people. I have a friend in the English program at my school, and he studies with a girl in the same program who is hoping to become a famous author. Of course, as writers that’s the best and ultimate outcome that could happen to any of us. That’s not the issue in regards to her mindset, her problem is the plan she has in place for it.
Her path to becoming a successful and well known writer was simply this:
“I’m in the middle of writing an e-book I’m going to publish online. After that, I’m just hoping it goes viral and turns into a Netflix Original Movie.”
I heard this quote from her through the mutual friend we have. Although I heard it indirectly, I immediately wanted to shake her by the shoulders and tell her to make a new plan. Or at the least, make some changes.
Having a long term goal without any real steps to get there is just a set up for failure when it comes to writing. That’s not to say that this goal is bad, because it’s every writer’s dream for millions of people to read their work. But it’s not as simple as just writing a one and done book and then getting to sit back and watch the fans come in.
That being said, I wanted to dissect this quote and talk about all of the issues in between lines, and discuss why it’s a one way street to absolutely nothing.
There’s No Consistency and Consistency is Everything
If you can take one thing away from this piece, it’s this: If you are writing with the intention or goal to go viral or have a “one hit wonder”, you need to reconsider writing.
In order to make your mark in the writing field, you need to be consistent and always produce a stream of writing for your audience. If you plan on writing one article, short story, book, blog post, or whatever else, and then releasing it into the wild in hopes of it being noticed, you’re more likely than not going to end up disappointed.
For all of his adolescence, Stephen King had a nail tacked into his wall where he would keep all of his rejection letters for his stories. This was his constant physical reminder to keep writing regardless of failure. By the time he was 16, the weight of the letters was too much for the nail to support them, so King replaced it with a spike. Use the same attitude King had in his early years of writing and avoid inconsistency at all times.
In order to be noticed and build an audience, you cannot release one piece of writing and expecting everyone to drop what they’re doing and read your work. It’s the harsh truth, but no one cares (at first). The only way to build an audience and a following is to consistently release new work. The more you stick around, the more people will notice you and eventually read something of yours.
Do I think it is utterly impossible to go viral from your first piece(s)? No, I think it could happen. But it’s no where near being realistic.
Going “Viral” is Almost Not Tangible
You can ask any writer who has written an article or blog post that has gone viral and ask them how they did it, and I can guarantee you they don’t have a solid answer. I’ve seen many writers admit that some of their most popular pieces isn’t even their best writing. While on the other hand, some of the pieces they have put much more time and care into don’t get nearly as many views. The fate of your writing and how far it will go depends on being in the right place at the right time in regards to the algorithm (especially on Medium).
It is worth mentioning it is by all means possible to write a viral article and take certain steps to increase your chances. But at the end of the day, it’s truly up to the algorithm and luck. My most viewed story on Medium is a piece I wrote in under an hour that I wasn’t even expecting to be curated, and now a couple thousand people have read it (which is a lot for me). Meanwhile, I spend days working on a specific piece and sometimes it ends up being a flop or being rejected my multiple publications.
You should always put your best foot forward in your writing and make every single one of your works the best that it can be. However, the amount of effort or work you put into a piece isn’t going to automatically lead to millions of people reading. People read what appeals to them and what is convenient for them; and a big part of the writing industry is playing that game with them. That is, in the earlier days when you’re still trying to create a following.
You Can’t Reach Long Term Goal Without Short Term Steps
One of the biggest flaws with this writer’s plan of becoming successful is that they have a long term goal, but no legitimate steps on how to get there. What steps is this writer going to take to go viral? What steps are they going to take to make their e-book transition into a Netflix adaptation?
While these goals aren’t bad, they don’t have any steps in place to get there. If you want to make it as a writer, you need to have some kind of plan in place with smaller segments of accomplishments in order to achieve your overarching goal.
For example, there’s a chance when I graduate college I want to work full time doing freelance content creating. My steps for doing so now is I am currently building an audience on Medium, I created my own blogging website where I post regularly, and I am planning on creating more YouTube videos for my personal channel to get more editing experience. I plan on using the skills from each of these pillars for my future career endeavors, but it seems as if this person doesn’t have any of those “smaller pillars” put in place.
In order to be successful in an industry like this, you need to take it one day at a time and ride it out no matter what. You can’t finish a race without completing the first few laps.
The Outcome Shouldn’t Be More Important to You Than the Process
As much as I am critiquing this writer’s plan, by no means do I invalidate the goal. As writers, if we didn’t have the goals we set for ourselves we wouldn’t have a disciplined environment to hone in on our craft. But at the same time, your ultimate goal should not outweigh why you write.
Personally, I’m a firm believer the journey is more if not just as important as the destination. Many successful writers are successfully because they didn’t have a drive for money or fame or having a New York Times Bestseller. They simply kept going because they love writing and consistently want to keep growing as a writer. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have the bonuses of having a large audience, but if it’s your primary focus while writing, it might be worth taking a break and considering if you’re doing this for the right reasons.
There is truly no artistic medium like writing, words can be used in such unique ways as documentation. As a writer, you should always want to explore that with your individual voice. If you’re writing with the sole intentions of money and fame, you probably won’t make it that far.
Let’s recap, you have to be in a certain headspace in order to succeed as a writer. Some highlights to follow include:
- Consistency is Everything.
- Going “Viral” Isn’t a Tangible Goal.
- You Cant Reach a Long Term Goal Without Short Term Steps.
- The Outcome Should Not Be More Important to You Than the Process.
The most successful writers in the world are in that position because they are constantly focusing on and loving their craft. And while your mindset might seem like a small detail in grand scheme of your writing career, it has a huge influence on your outcome as well as your personal fulfillment from it.
That being said, if your goals and values in writing are superficial and shallow, you’re not putting yourself on the right path for success or gratification. Take some time away from your laptop to clear your mind of your current thoughts, and reset your values as to why you want to write and why you get out of bed in the morning to do it. Altering your mindset, goals, and plan on a deeper level is an easy yet extremely important method to become successful eventually.