You Can Make It As a Writer

If someone knew the all-powerful success formula for writing, there wouldn’t be so many starving artists and famished freelancers in the world.  Sure, there’s good writing information out there, but writing advice is hindered by the same issues that plague “weight loss” advice.  Everyone knows you have to eat right and exercise to lose weight, and everyone knows you have to write to be a writer.  No one wants to do it because it takes too long and it’s too hard.

Change your mind, and you can make it as a writer.

Some say that writing is easy.  All you need is a piece of paper, a pen, and an idea so charged with electricity it’ll blow your hand off.  It’s easy like freezing in the sun or getting struck by thunder.  As Ernest Hemingway famously noted:

There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

There are four qualities you must possess to make it as a writer.  You don’t actually have to bleed, but you certainly must try.

Tenacity (Grit).

If you have grit, you can make it as a writer.  You will be rejected, you will be criticized, and you will fail many times before you succeed.  No other job comes with such uncertainty, but nonetheless, the writer must keep on keeping on.  When your fifty-third manuscript is rejected, you must take a nap, eat a sandwich, and get to work on draft fifty-four.  Dr. Angela Duckworth, a leading psychology researcher says:

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out.

It’s not enough to crave success on days when you’re hungry for it; you must also crave it on a full stomach.  Write every day, edit every day, submit every day, fail every day.  It’s the only way you’ll ever succeed.

Teachability.

If you are teachable, you can make it as a writer.  We all expect a new doctor to be as knowledgeable as anyone with a medical license, but when we go in for brain surgery, we don’t look for the scrawny kid with a smooth face and a full head of hair; we look for the wrinkled bald man with wisdom and experience sprouting from his nose hairs.  As with new doctors, freshly minted “writers” have much to learn.  John Maxwell notes:

Teachability is not so much about competence and mental capacity as it is about attitude. It is the desire to listen, learn, and apply. It is the hunger to discover and grow. It is the willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

When writers feel they’ve learned everything there is to know, they’ve learned nothing.  To make it as a writer, you must remind yourself that tomorrow’s success depends on today’s growth and learning.

Time.

If you have time, you can make it as a writer.  In my school days, I had plenty time to write.  I wrote during math class, science class, and recess; the world was an open notebook, so I carved my own page.  Nowadays the world is a messy piece of scratch paper, riddled with billing addresses, grocery lists, and phone numbers.  Where is the time for passion?  Dr. Seuss wrote:

How did it get so late so soon?  It’s night before it’s afternoon.  December is here before it’s June.  My goodness how the time has flewn.  How did it get so late so soon?

Writers can’t just find time for writing, they must make time for writing.  There is only so much time in the world, and some of that time must be spent writing (It’s where the term writer comes from).

Talent.

If you have talent, you can make it as a writer.  This doesn’t mean your writing must evoke images of Shakespeare and Dickinson’s love-child, but it does mean you should demonstrate potential.  This potential can be a simple self-acknowledgement, but it must come from somewhere.  Anton Chekhov wrote:

There is nothing new in art except talent.

In other words, the art itself is timeless, but new talent makes the art shiny again.  Talent is the most subjective and difficult quality in this list, for it can be developed but seldom learned.  It’s not impossible to acquire talent, but unlike a cold, it’s not very contagious.

Will I Make It As a Writer?

Only you can determine whether you’ll make it as a writer.  It’s your greatest hurdle, and it’s your greatest motivation–the fear of failure, the dream of success.  With tenacity, teachability, time, and talent, you can make it as a writer.  It’s always been your decision to make.

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