This is a post for the beginner writers, or the writers struggling to turn their writing into a career. I will be talking about the trials of being a writer and the challenges we all face. Some of this information you will already know, but I believe I will clarify various points that might be troubling.
Let’s talk about the life of a writer!
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A Test of Willpower
The challenge that a writer faces on a day-to-day basis is simply writing.
In the beginning, writing comes easy. This is because one starts writing with that initial burst of inspiration and curiosity. When writing a story for the first time, the writer feels this exciting feeling where every step is new and wonderful. Even the challenges with elements of the story don’t seem so difficult to overcome.
The more experienced writer knows that the initial burst that started them off is not something that happens all the time. There are times when inspiration hits you, fills you with energy and you are ready to tackle the next segment of your story. Between those times is the test of willpower.
People often mix up using one’s willpower to write with forcing oneself to write.
When you are forcing yourself to write, it is difficult every step of the way. That is why most writers drop the hobby, as they believe if they force themselves to write the story will turn out poorly or perhaps writing isn’t for them.
Don’t get me wrong, if you are forcing yourself to write this way you might not be as into writing as you initially thought.
However, when it comes to using one's willpower to start writing, it is not harmful to oneself or their writing. Willpower helps give the writer the momentum to start; it is not something that is used to push oneself every step of the way. The struggle is starting to write, which you may not understand now if you are a beginner, but you will come to understand after several months of writing.
It’s alright if one can’t start writing, but it's not alright when one won’t start writing. That means they are the obstacle that holds them back. With enough willpower, they can master the obstacle and continue their writing.
This is a test a writer faces most days.
A Test of Strength
The next challenge one faces as a writer is developing their style.
When I started writing, I believed that writing style was all about looking for a format to adhere to. As if there was a system where I chose what words I used and how I use them, not to mention how I tell a story. I quickly learned that I couldn’t just look at a writer and try to emulate their style.
The writing style is just the way you write.
You develop this style as you write more and read more, but it comes down to your natural way of writing. It’s how you would tell the story, in your own words and format. The best way one can develop their writing style is to acknowledge what the strengths and weaknesses are.
Perhaps there are some aspects of writing that you struggle with; particular scenes that you would like to avoid. Then there are scenes that you enjoy writing, that you can write with ease and feel somewhat proud of. Finding out your strengths and weaknesses can help you better plan your novel and add to your writing skills.
You will have a better time improving as the months and years go by when you understand what areas need improvement.
It’s important to stick to your strengths, to showcase them in your story. If your strengths don’t suit a certain genre, then it would be better to avoid the genre and create a story perfect for your skillset.
I learned early on that I struggle to write any romantic scenes, so if I wanted to establish a relationship between characters I would be simple and subtle. Of course, the reader doesn’t get to see how the relationship came about and flourished but considering my skill set, this was a good thing.
The test of strength is understanding the kind of writer you are instead of struggling to be every kind of writer. Don’t worry, you will get better at writing everything you might struggle with now, but your interests and strengths will always showcase your best writing.
A Test of Self Actualization
Somedays the hits keep coming. You could receive a batch of rejection letters, you could be struggling with a scene, or there are a lot of mistakes you find when editing.
I understand that most writers are introverts and that most introverts are self-conscious about their work. If there is anything I have encountered most during my time teaching writing, it’s that writers who want help are often too scared to share their work as they might not be able to handle any possible criticism.
That’s why for most beginner writers a rejection letter can spell the end of their confidence in writing, especially the rejection letters that detail the publisher's problems with the novel.
It all comes down to maintaining one’s ego. When I say ego I am referring to one’s confidence, self-esteem, and not the typical overconfident ignorance that is often associated with ego.
A writer must learn that they are not perfect and they will never be perfect, but they must strive for perfection all the same. When one understands there is room for improvement, one needs only someone to show them where they might be lacking. With a sizable collection of different opinions, a writer can go about improving their style and their story.
The least knowledgeable person has the most potential to learn. True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. These are phrases thrown around in every field and writing is no exception.
Self-actualization is realising your potential and working towards reaching it.
When you have these detailed rejection letters in hand, when you have heard enough criticism, and when you have examined your writing fairly, you are ready to become a better writer.
That sounds a lot like the monologue from a cliche kung-fu master to their student, but it holds water, so I’m going to stick with it.
A Test of Patience
Writing anything takes a fair amount of time.
A short story of about 2000 words can take an efficient writer about an hour to write. If this same writer can keep that pace going without pause, they can finish a 50,000 words novel in 20 hours. If it were an epic novel of 100,000 words, that’s 40 hours. One workweek at a 9-5 job.
Of course, nobody is working at 100% efficiency all the time and when it comes to creative tasks where the construction of a piece is made from the building blocks the writer thinks up, even more time is spent not writing.
You already know this to be true, otherwise, an author could write 52 massive books a year. After 20 years, that author would have their own section in a bookstore with over a thousand unique, brick-thick books.
Writing a book is not a sprint, it is a marathon. With enough time, any writer will feel drained or suffer from severe burnout if they push themselves too hard.
If you think it ends there, it doesn’t.
Writing is one of the most difficult skills to make a career out of. Of course, one could become a writer for a paper or magazine, but they would be simply writing what someone told them to write. I’m talking about the average novelist.
I will say it again, writing is one of the most difficult skills to make a career out of. You are asking a person to read your book, to spend several hours of their time, which most would like to spend watching tv or hanging out with their friends. The only thing you can promise them is that they might enjoy the story.
This is one of the reasons publishing companies are so picky about the writers they publish. A writer waits a look time to find out if the publisher accepts their book and most of the time they won’t. It’s not easy selling books as most don’t fit the general market, or have a market big enough to consider publishing for.
For this test, a writer needs to show endurance when writing their novel and they need to be patient when it comes to making their first sale, then their first ten sales, then their first hundred. This also comes down to the final test…
A Test of Passion
The toughest truth a writer must face is that the percentage of writers that succeed is pitiful. Most writers will never send their work to a publisher or even consider self-publishing. As for those that self-publish, most will not put in the work to market their book, either due to lack of funds, following or marketing experience.
In short, most writers that earn any money from writing are making a few dollars a month. The one’s making a decent income either worked hard to build a following of dedicated readers through their own marketing efforts or they got lucky when it came to appearing in searches. And those that have made a fortune from their work were the few that publishers accepted and had a great impact on readers, as being published alone is no guarantee of great success.
The question most writers have is how do they go from making no money to a few dollars to making a decent income.
It comes down to 50% hard work and 50% luck. A lot of writers who made it big were lucky enough to have the book accepted when publishers were looking for a book like theirs, or they knew someone in high places. However, the writers who made a career out of their passion did the hard work, they wore different hats during their careers.
Few use their ambition to achieve this much, which is why the numbers of successful vs unsuccessful writers are so daunting. I can tell you that if you are willing to accept rejections, if you are willing to submit books for self-publishing, to submit your books to other publishers, if you are willing to improve upon your work and submit your book to the same publishers a year later, you will become a part of that small percentage.
You will slowly gain momentum. With enough time and effort, you will reap your rewards, as time and dedication will be what puts you ahead of your competition.
The test of passion is simply to use your ambition to improve as a writer, rather than a bitter reminder that you haven’t reached those heights just yet. If you approach writing with the knowledge that success might be many years away and you still work at it just as hard as if success was a week away, you will see more success than if you just send your book to a single publisher or if you self-publish and do no marketing.
When I started writing, I was led to believe that success was easily achieved. When I looked up how to improve my writing, almost every platform had those articles about writers who made six figures, or those indie authors that were selling a thousand books a month based on their own marketing.
I didn’t have to dig too deep to find out most of these writers were lying and the ones that had some success were being helped by bigger writers than them.
I didn’t have the connections or money to “make it” as they did. I still don’t. I struggled for a couple of years and I had plenty of falls. At some point, something clicked and I honed in on what clicked. It was hard work, consistency and the willingness to be more than a writer. I needed to approach my writing like a businessman, to consider the market, consider growing a following, improve my writing and write more than a single book.
The phrase “a shot in the dark” comes to mind. With every small improvement, be it with my writing skills or my business skills, I get a few more bullets and I see the target a little clearer.
If you are a beginner writer and feel that success is unattainable, I am telling you not to give up. It can take a lot of time, there is a learning curve, but if I can do it, anyone can. I hope to share enough of what I learn to help as many writers as I can.
I hope you found this harsh truth about trials a writer informative. More than anything, I hope this doesn’t put a downer on any thoughts about becoming a writer. Instead, I hope this inspires you, because if you maintain your passion for writing, you love the process and the rewards that come with it are just bonuses.
Let me know what you believe your biggest challenges with writing are in the comments below.
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!