If you’re a new writer reading this post, you’re probably wondering if the writing life is right for you. Not to worry, all the great writers of our time have been in your position. The average writers of our time have been in your position as well, and some have went on to make a decent living following their passion. So, if you’re wondering whether you’re cut out to be a writer, the answer is, Yes! Now isn’t this the shortest blog post of all time? However, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to know if you can turn writing into a career. So answer me this:
- Are you willing to write often?
Writing is a craft, and like all crafts it requires rigorous hours of practice. You can be the most creative mind out there, but if you don’t write consistently and frequently, your lack of skill will show on page. Believe me, nothing frustrates a writer more than seeing his magnificent idea dimmed by poor sentence structure.
Time is not an excuse. A job, school, family, responsibilities, and other time consuming factors may prevent you from writing as much as you want but if you’re determined enough, you will find some time during the day (or the week) to squeeze in some writing. Countless successful writers out there have full-time jobs or run businesses while balancing a writing career. Many, including yours truly, have a family to take care of as well. Even famous authors had a lot on their plate before turning their writing into a full-time career. Here’s a list of the Early Jobs of 24 Famous Authors .
If you think you have no time to write at all, ask yourself, how many hours did you spend today surfing social media, or playing video games, or watching Game of Thrones? If you can’t spare an hour or two of the time you waste daily to work on your dreams, then maybe you’re not cut out to be a writer.
2) Are you willing to keep writing no matter the odds?
Throughout your writing journey, you will notice that some writing days are better than others. Some days, inspiration strikes and words flow like a river filling pages at a time. Other days, it take hours to pen a paragraph, and not a very good one. The key to becoming a successful writer is to write on both days with just as much determination and, if you can feign it, enthusiasm. In fact, you need to put more pressure on yourself to write on days you don’t feel like it, when you’re uninspired, and lack motivation because those are the days that will make the difference. Letting excuses get in the way will only hinder your success. The willingness to persevere in spite of the odds and fluctuations in mood is what sets professional writers apart from amateur ones.
3) Can you invest your time in reading and research?
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” -Stephen King
I don’t dare to dispute that, do you? It is very simple, if you want to be a musician, you need to listen to a lot of music; if you want to be in the film industry, you need to watch a lot of movies; if you want to be an athlete, you need to watch other athletes perform; if you want to be a businessman, you need to study other businessmen’s journeys and strategies; and if you want to be a writer, you need to read a lot.
Here’s a link to Stephen King’s book On Writing. Click on my affiliate link, it’s no extra charge to you but Amazon throws a few cents my way if you decide to buy:
Read the old and the new, the short and the long, fiction and non-fiction, what pertains to your genre and what doesn’t, what interests you and what doesn’t, for research and for fun, the good books and the bad ones— because those teach you how not to write. Read and learn from the style, structure, flow, vocabulary… Study the topics covered and how the author brings them to light, how they introduce their characters, how they describe the settings in their story. Read to learn about what works in writing and what doesn’t.
Research the topics that you’re writing about so your story can have more authority and produce higher value for the reader. Read so you can understand yourself better as a reader and consequently as a writer.
Check out this article in the Huffington Post to find out more ways reading can make you a better writer and person.
4) Can you brutally edit and proofread your work?
Finishing a piece of writing is a feat on its own. You don’t know how many amazing stories there are out there sitting, half-written, in a writer’s notebook or computer folder. However, a written piece is not really finished until it is properly edited and proofread, and this is your next challenge as a writer.
Of course, practice makes perfect, and if you are well-read, you will be able to spot structural mistakes in your story effortlessly. Naturally your story won’t be perfect, but it will get better with every edit. However, for that to happen, you have to be willing to look at your story with critical eyes and let go of whatever isn’t working with the flow even if it’s well-written, or funny, or you used the most original metaphor. If it’s not helping advance the story, you have to be willing to let it go.
A keen eye for typos is a must as well. That too comes with practice. But there’s no harm in letting a friend look at your work to give you some feedback and spot the errors that looking at your work for far too long can cause you to miss. Ask a friend who reads a lot and has good command of their English to help you in your final editing and proofreading stages. Many writers offer their editing services quid pro quo. Be willing to take their opinion into consideration when they tell you that something isn’t working. Which brings us to the next question.
Here’s a handy book for editing and proofreading. Click on my Amazon affiliate link, it’s no extra charge to you but Amazon throwns a few cents my way when you decide to buy:
5) Can you accept constructive criticism?
When you start writing books and novels, you will find that having an honest critic is a great way to get feedback on your work before sending it to agents and publishers. A good critic will highlight the strong and weak elements of your story and point out holes in your plot (for fiction) and research. They can also tell you if a paragraph sounds “weird” or a sentence is just not clear. Listen to them without getting offended; their opinion may reflect that of many readers.
But, also, it may not. Not all criticism is constructive. What may work for one reader may not be as appealing for another. Be sure to know the difference. A critic that points out mistakes or ambiguity is worth listening to, but don’t get caught up fixing everything they tell you is wrong, ultimately you know your story better than anyone else. Make sure that while trying to appeal to other’s taste you don’t take away from the essence of the story and your style.
6) Can you handle rejections?
Rejections are natural for any creative artist. There’s no one out there who can say that they have been accepted more times than they have been rejected. After all, your story can only be accepted once. That’s no reason to get discouraged, however, because one “yes” is all you need. Unless you’re a big time author, your work will face rejections left and right. The best thing to do is not take them personally and try to submit work that is high quality and that is similar to other work published by that publication. Do your research and read enough work from each venue you’re trying to get published in. Be professional. If you still get rejected, try again with another publication. It’s all part of the process.
7) Are you willing to learn and grow?
To be a successful writer, you need to learn your craft and grow your skills. But that’s not the only aspect of growth you need to focus on. You also need to grow as a person. It’s inevitable, as you mature, your writing will mature with you. So if you don’t evolve, neither will your craft and that will eventually bore your readers. No body wants to read about the same things by the same writer every year. A year spent learning about new things, acquiring new experiences, being open to new ideas, and improving yourself as an individual will make you a far better writer than sitting behind a desk for ten years doing nothing but writing ever will.
8) Do you plan to build a platform and market your work?
Great writing is the essence of a good writer. But it is not the only thing that a writer needs to make a career. This is where marketing your work comes in handy and in the new age media, promoting yourself is easier and more essential than ever. An outstanding writer without a platform such as a blog or website has very little advantage over a good writer with a huge following and a ton of readers. Why? Simple, publishers are above all businesses, they want to make money. Before they publish your work, even if it were as simple as a blog post, they ask themselves if they can profit from it. Sure, sometimes the work is so undeniably great that it cannot be refused. More often than not, however, a good piece of writing that can generate a bigger readership and profit for the publisher has the upper hand.
This doesn’t mean that you need a million followers on Instagram, a few hundred engaged followers mean much more to publishers. Quality over quantity. Invest your time in not only gaining new followers but retaining old ones. Don’t expect people to interact with your content if you’re not offering the same courtesy. You’re posts may be great, but your content will only speak for itself when you make people listen to it. If you’re willing to build an author’s platform but you don’t know how to start, read this post from The Writer Life on 7 Manageable Ways to Start from Scratch.
9) Do you have another source of income?
It’s a long known fact that it’s a challenge to make a living working as an artist. Whether you’re a musician, painter, dancer, actor, poet, or writer, becoming successful and catching that big break can take a very long time. So it’s important to have another source of income to depend on while you build your career. This source of money can be a job, but it can also be an online business or even writing!
There’s a ton of money to be made in freelance blogging and writing. Many individuals and companies hire independent writers, editors, copywriters, and bloggers. If you know another craft, selling your products or services can be another way to go. Auctions are a great source for buying cheap products which you can sell later for profit. Many people auction domain names and websites and make money off of that. Those are just a few examples, but the point is, there are endless possibilities for making money in this world. It’s important not count on one source of income, especially if that source is the first draft of a novel you’ve been working on for ten years and which is yet to be edited.
10) Are you passionate enough?
You can have all the knowledge and tools to succeed as a writer but if you’re not passionate enough about it you’re unlikely to make a lasting career of it. Passion is the thing that makes you get up in the morning and writer a couple of hours before you head to work and before your kids wake up for school, it’s what will make you power through the tough writing days when ideas don’t seem to flow and when you don’t feel your story is good enough, it’s what makes you write more and submit more of your work no matter how many times you get rejected, it’s the thing that keeps your faith when your career seems to be going nowhere, and it’s absence is something a reader will always pick up on.
So are you passionate enough to turn writing into a career? Which area of the 10 aspects mentioned above do you need help working on? Comment below! Stick around, subscribe to my newsletter, and watch out for more of my writing tips.