Every once in awhile when you’re doing something you love, you stumble upon the truth. And it hurts. Such is the case with writing.
I want to believe that in order to succeed at this craft, that all you need to do is work real hard and write a whole lot. And then you will be okay. Then, you will “make it.”
But that’s just not true.
Writing, as a career and craft, involves politics. It has its own bureaucracies and unfair systems. It’s weird.
If you are going to survive as a writer — if you are going to thrive — you had better learn the truth. However painful it may be. So here are five hard truths about writing:
- It’s not just what you know, but who you know, that matters. You have to network and connect with influential people. You need to do favors and serve your way to the top. The good news: You can do this without turning into a sleaze.
- Being good isn’t good enough. Not for a publisher. Not to change the world. It takes years and hundreds of thousands of words to find your voice. Don’t think you’re going to stumble upon success overnight.
- Writing is easy to do, but hard to master. Any literate person can do it, but few do it exceptionally well. And that’s what you will need to do in order to stand out — you will have to be epic in order to gain an audience.
- You gotta pay your dues. You have to write for no-name publications before you can get an article published in the Wall Street Journal. You have to do piecework before you get a book published. You have to make no money before you make some money. And eventually, maybe you get to make good money. This isn’t always the case, but it’s the path many take.
- It can be very lonely. Writing is solitary. You do it alone. This can mean late nights and early mornings. It can mean weekends away from family and loved ones. It can take over your life and turn you into a cranky, old hermit. Don’t let it. To paraphrase Stephen King, art is supposed to be a support system for life (not the other way around).
In other words… You had better love this.
You need to love writing in order to weather the storms of it long enough to see any kind of pay-off. If you don’t, then get out now. There are far easier ways to make a buck.
But if you are writing for the love of it, for the pure thrill of creating, and somehow make money off your passion — well then, welcome to the club.
And if you need further encouragement, read my free eBook, The Writer’s Manifesto.
What’s one hard writing truth you’ve discovered? Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: Jain Basil Aliyas (Creative Commons)