7 Things You Must Give Up to Become a Successful Writer
Can you hear that?
It’s the sound of me bursting your bubble.
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. Are you ready? Brace yourself.
You’re Full of Crap
I get emails from aspiring writers from time to time. I’m more than happy to give out tips and see how I can help, but there are 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 and I can tell they haven’t given writing a sincere shot before trying to “pick my brain.”
This is the way of the world. Most people are full of crap. They’re all talk.
They say they want to lose weight, but they won’t give up the cookies and chips.
They say they want to start a business, but pile up excuses one after another.
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?
Do you have to lock yourself in a room for hours a day and hustle til your eyes bleed to succeed? No. But you do have to be willing to give something up.
Here’s a list of things you need to give up to become a successful writer.
Your Sense of Entitlement
Question: 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.
You don’t buy an iPhone because you like Steve Jobs. You buy it because it’s a great product.
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. It all starts with a personal responsibility.
Nobody owes you their attention. I put this point first because it’s the most pervasive problem aspiring writers have. I’ve seen it countless times — an aspiring writer putting in a relatively low amount of work then whining about their lack of success.
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 peoplemakes you a good writer. Entertaining, educating, and inspiring people makes you a good writer.
The problem with the overly literary type is they often don’t pay attention to the person on the other end of the page. They love the idea of being a writer but aren’t practical when it comes to the writing itself.
Your life might not be interesting enough to make a great memoir, especially if nobody knows who you are.
Maybe other people aren’t as interested in the war of 1812 as you are. Maybe you should write about something else.
Writing to meet a market need doesn’t make you a hack, it makes you a person who actually earns from their writing.
In 2017, 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 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
Another pervasive mindset among aspiring writers is the “build it and they will come” mentality.
Let’s say right now your writing isn’t getting much attention. I have a question for you: How in the hell are people supposed to find it? 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. This means finding websites who already have a built-in audience and publishing your work there. This means connecting with influential people online who can help promote your work.
Fear of marketing can also conflate with a sense of entitlement.
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.
One of my favorite writers, James Altucher, says you need five years of experience before you make wealth in your field.
If you’ve been at it for less than 24 months, relax. You’re not supposed to be mega successful yet. You have to put in the work.
You have to wrap your head around the idea that it’s not going to happen right now, but it will happen eventually. Writing isn’t a linear practice. It’s exponential.
Let me explain.
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’ll use numbers to illustrate the example:
Take the number .00002. If you double it becomes .00004. If you double it again it becomes .00008. These jumps don’t seem like much. Double it 36 times, however, and all the sudden the number is 1.3 million.
A party balloon requires a lot of air to fill it initially, but once it reaches a threshold the rest of the balloon fills up easily.
Your writing skills are like the small decimal number and the party balloon.
I promise you. If you put in the work consistently, you’ll get better.
Be honest with yourself — are you putting in the work or are you complaining too early?
Your Need for Approval
If you have supportive friends and family, that’s great. Often, however, the people around you might not be receptive to the idea of you becoming a full-time writer.
They’ll tell you it’s impractical or “risky.” They’ll tell you not to get your hopes up.
It’s not because they don’t want you to succeed. They care about you and don’t want you to be disappointed.
It took a while for my fiancee 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 okay 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.
It doesn’t matter what your friends and family think. It doesn’t matter what society thinks.
When it comes to 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. To do that, you’ll need thick skin, because not only will your friends and family fail to see what you see. Sometimes you’ll get backlash for the things you publish in your comments from trolls or people who genuinely think your work is bad.
Don’t put your identity in someone else’s hands. Trust yourself and trust the process will work.
Certain aspiring writers are like patients who go to the doctor because they’re feeling fatigued or “off” in some way. Nine times out of ten, their “health issues” have a simple remedy — eat better, exercise, and sleep more. The doctor checks the patient out, and instead of feeding into his hypochondria, he suggests he take better care of himself.
Are you the patient wondering why he feels off?
Don’t look for elaborate answers to why your writing career isn’t taking off.
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.
If you want to learn how to build a writing habit that sticks, I have a guide for that.
If you want to write a book, I have a 5,000-word guide for that.
I just listed out resources with step by step information to get you where you want to go.
Unfortunately, most of you will “x” out of this page and continue to get nothing done.
That’s okay. I wrote this post for the small handful of you who are sick of being stuck and want to get to work.
I just laid down the gauntlet.
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, 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.
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