The Bad News About Turning Pro as a Writer

People often ask me what it takes to turn pro as a writer, and I’m happy to tell them. Because that’s the easy part. But the truth is that isn’t what they need.

Bad News
Photo Credit: x1klima via Compfight cc

Last week, I hosted a webinar and was amazed at the feedback I received. Lots of people told me how, as a result of the live training, they committed to pursuing their calling as a writer. One attendee, Bruce, tweeted: “Guys, fantastic. I’ve been to a few writer webinars. This one? Seriously, the best.”

Wow! I love hearing that. As someone who seeks to add value to the lives of others, I get a huge boost of energy from comments like that. It shows people are enjoying my content, which is always great to hear. But honestly, that’s not enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the affirmation. But just because people know what to do doesn’t mean they’ll do it. You have to take what you learn and put it into action. Otherwise the information is worthless. Another webinar attendee, Jaina, said it best:

Thanks so much for all the encouragement — time to go write & make it real!

She’s right. What we need is not more information. We need to take what we know and make it real.

So here’s the bad news…

Pursuing your calling, especially as a writer, is not an easy process.

In fact, it can be one of the scariest, hardest, and most frustrating things you’ll ever do. When I first got started, I often felt lonely and depressed. Even now, I’m not immune to the discouragement of critics and the sting of failure.

This is hard. That’s the bad news. But in the midst of the difficulty, there’s something satisfying to hold on to. Though it can be difficult to chase a dream, the good news is: it’s worth it.

The process can be hard and even sometimes scary, but I don’t regret making the decision two years ago to quit my job and go full-time. Because I would rather do hard things that matter than easy things that don’t.

When you’re up an hour late and up again two hours early the next morning to meet a deadline, you remember this is the good stuff. The striving, the pushing, the journey. That’s what you signed up for. That’s what you should expect.

What it really takes to turn pro

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you had a crazy idea once of wanting to chase a dream and wondered if there was any way to actually make a living off it. And maybe like most people, you didn’t do anything with it.

Why is that? Because, like most people, you probably weren’t taught how. Your parents didn’t teach you, your friends aren’t doing it, and school didn’t prepare you.

What’s worse, the stories of those who are doing their dreams seem too unrealistic to follow. It can feel like you have to have some sort of superpower to do what you’re meant to do. But that’s not true. Finding your calling is really just about paying attention to your life and taking action.

Recently, I started a new coaching program called The Art of Work Course, which will teach a practical process for figuring out exactly what your dream is and how to go pro with it — the smart way.

This course includes video teaching, group discussions, and live coaching from me. And just for the next few days, I’m bundling it with some of my best resources for writers, artists, and entrepreneurs.

If you want to pursue your dream but don’t know the next steps, this is for you.

Here’s the thing…

Whether you join the program or not, here’s what I don’t want you to miss: Finding your calling is a difficult process, but one you don’t have the luxury of missing.

hard things

You can continue to wonder “what if?” You can keep saying “some day.” You can even hold out for your “big break.” But chances are slim that those strategies will lead to success. Or you can choose to grow.

You can invest in yourself, counting the cost and doing the work even when it’s hard. You can choose to make your own breaks, finding opportunities where none seemed to exist, and learn what you need along the way.

As Jaina said, it’s time to make it real. I submit that such a decision begins with you. It’s something you can do today, regardless of circumstance.

I once asked best-selling author Steven Pressfield, “When does a writer become a writer?” He said: “When you say you are.” The same is true for you. I’d love to help you take the steps that follow.

What’s holding you back from turning pro? Share in the comments.

19 thoughts on “The Bad News About Turning Pro as a Writer

  1. Hi Jeff,

    Great post indeed! I feel exactly the same way, I want to be a writer, but I procrastinate a lot! It’s so easy to say, but it’s the ‘doing’ that’s the hard part. I love your writing skills and you truly inspire me to write everyday.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. I have the same problem, but I learned a saying by the Amish about procrastination. I forget the exact quote, but the essence of it says if you just start something, before you know it you’re almost done. Tell yourself you’ll write for two minutes and get started; before you know it you’re into it and procrastination is gone!

    2. Vidyarth: I still procrastinate, or rather spin my wheels, when I feel I can’t get started unless I come up with the perfect lede. And I’ve been making a living as a writer for 31 years now….!
      Could be a character flaw, but it’s one I’m working to change. After all, a salaried job pays you for 40 hours. A freelance writer has to produce a certain amount of work, no matter how long it takes, in order to balance the books.
      Maybe we should be writing buddies and hold each other accountable. 😉 Seriously: That’s one of the tactics I suggest in my online writing course. Just as workout buddies keep each other on task because it would be rude not to show up if someone is expecting you, writing buddies HAVE to have something to show during the weekly call/e-mail/Skype.

      1. Wow. 31 years (eyes popping out of admiration).
        Sometimes it gets overwhelming and the fear of rejection makes me want to procrastinate more.
        I would love to have a writing buddy 🙂

        1. Just sent you a note at your blog.
          And yeah, 31 years…!?! Sometimes I can’t believe it myself. That includes 18 years in newspapers; the rest has all been freelance, first to magazines and for the past eight years mostly online.
          One thing I appreciate greatly about the Internet: the chance to “meet” and “talk” with other writers through sites like Jeff’s. Life as a freelancer can feel pretty isolated.

  2. I don’t think of the work being hard as bad news.

    Where would we be if we weren’t challenged, or didn’t challenge ourselves? I think that most people actually want to do hard things, because they are rewarding in the end.

    So the hard part, the doing, in my head, is not bad news. It’s good news. Because you’ll grow stronger, better through doing it–just like running an extra mile or attempting that complicated recipe.

  3. Every so often (even after 13 years of parenting), my daughters will look up at me with despair at the thought of some chore I’ve assigned to them, and I will hear those three little words: “But it’s hard.” My response to them (and to myself in those self-same moments of despair about my writing): “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.” By now, you’d think they’d have learned, the laundry ain’t gonna do itself. 😉

  4. It’s nice to see someone give an honest bit of feedback on that question. I tell people, “You have to be wiling to treat it like a full time job. And then take a part time job as your accountant. And then take a part time job as your PR department.”

    I think a lot of people like the idea of working for themselves because they think it will be easier, and provide more freedom. They’re setting themselves up to fail, because, especially for the first while, the freedoms you’re looking for are mostly the, “Freedom to buy groceries this week,” variety. The only way to enjoy those extra freedoms like flexible scheduling is to work your ass off to earn them.

  5. Thanks Jeff for your honest and encouraging post. For me, the tasks that are the most difficult, and hold the most resistance, are the ones that end up being the most fullfilling, rewarding and growth producing for myself and my work.

  6. The thing holding me back from going pro with my writing is the fact that there are already so many great writers out there. There are thousands of awesome blogs and thousands of people making money doing what I want to do. Is there room for me or is the market flooded?

  7. I’ve made it a bit easier by giving my best and lowering my expectations. Though we might try to engage ourselves in other activities like promotions, designing blog appearance, etc. still writing remains the toughest part.

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