How to be Certain Your Writing Career Isn’t a Waste of Time

I have good news and bad news.

Let’s start with the bad — your writing career might be a waste of time.

The good news — it’s probably not.

I’ve noticed a strange fear I — as well as many others — have. The fear of putting time and effort into something that just isn’t meant to be.

You want to publish your own books or find a way to make a living for your writing. You actually don’t lack motivation.

If you knew this whole writing thing would work out, you’d attack the keyboard full force every day.

But you don’t. Why? Because of uncertainty.

Let’s just get to the point. I do know of one career ending sign. If you don’t see this sign, you’re fine.

The Only Circumstance Where Your Writing is Destined to Fail

If you’ve never had an inkling, an itch, or a slight desire to write before stumbling across a “make a living writing,” blog post, you’ll fail.

Writing and publishing has become one of the get rich quick schemes de jour.

Everyone’s throwing their hat in the ring now because writing looks cool and can make you serious money when done right.

This is how we end up with 100,000 blogs about “writing content,” “content marketing,” “motivation,” and “success.”

I’m one of those bloggers myself, and I have to do a great job of encouraging people while tempering their expectations at the same time.

I’ve had people request to work with me. The ones who talk solely about making a living through their writing are the ones I know aren’t cut out for it.

I once had someone call and tell me he wanted to start making six figures publishing books by next year. He had zero readers, no email list, and one failed book.

This type of “gold rush,” thinking leads to failure in every hot new industry with people looking to cash in. The same line of thinking for making a living writing applies to drop shipping on Amazon, flipping houses, starting an Etsy store, or anything else in the realm of online business.

Most people are all talk and no heart. They have no desire. They just see dollar signs.

I definitely write for money, but I write for love, too. Without the love, you’re dead.

Most people are in it for the love. You want to build a career, yes, but it’s not your primary motivation.

Maybe you used to scribble poems in your notebook as a kid like I did. Maybe you got lost in your favorite books and want to give that feeling to other people.

Something in you is drawn to words.

You love writing, but your love for writing can also be your biggest downfall.

So YOU Think You’re Ernest Hemingway?

Let’s just kill this noise right here and now.

The chances of you becoming a legendary author are essentially zero. Your book will not sell 1 million copies.

It could very well, however, sell 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 50 or 100,000. I’ve seen good writers hit these numbers.

Notice I didn’t say great. Notice I didn’t say critically acclaimed.

I’m talking about writers who put in the time to learn both their craft and the marketing aspects of publishing. They pride themselves in their work, but in the end they realize they’re not their work.

The closer you tie your identity to your work, the harder it will be to sit down and write.

Yes, you are a writer. But you’re also a wife or husband, mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter, member of a community — a complex person with tons of different things going on.

Writing is just something you do. It’s not who you are.

You’re not writing enough because you think your success or failure in writing says something about who you are as a person.

It doesn’t.

If that were true, I would’ve quit after writing my first couple of blog posts that made no sense and were riddled with errors.

I shared an excerpt of one of my first posts here. Look at how awful it is.

Negative feedback can be used as a corrective system — like a heat seeking missile making dozens of subtle changes in direction until it hits the mark — or it can be used as a label, a brand, a message on your tombstone that signals the death of your writing career.

Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do. Self-indulgence is tying it to things that happen to you. Sanity means tying it to your own actions. — Marcus Aurelius

Great writers tie their well-being to their actions.

When you show up, you get to give yourself a gold star, because you’re doing something 99 percent of other “aspiring writers,” will never do.

How You Can be Certain Your Writing Career Isn’t a Waste of Time

 

If you do write and publish your work, you’ve inspired at least one person — yourself.

I don’t know about you, but each time I hit publish and put myself out there I feel great about overcoming my fear by doing it.

I’m afraid all the time. Afraid of an uncertain world with uncertain outcomes. But I know my work isn’t a waste of time because at minimum it relieves me from having to wonder “what if?”

After hundreds of blog posts and a book, I can look back at what I’ve done fondly.

Even if I never become an ultra wealthy author, I can look on my shelf and see something I’ve made.

You might not think that’s enough now, but trust me, when you do it you’ll understand.

I believe in you, but to be honest I can sum up your problem easily.

You’re not doing enough.

If you wrote every day for a year, you’d get better. If you come to me with frustrations about uncertainty I know you haven’t done any work — any real work.

Leaving your posts in draft form and your manuscripts in unseen word documents doesn’t count, because the most important element of your work is hitting the “ship it button.”

I’ll always be here, but my message is always a variation of this.

Do the work. Show up. Wait. Win. 

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About Ayodeji

  • You’re right, Ayodeji! It’s not just in the ‘gold rush’ get-rich-quick schemes. People want to be svelte and trim. They want to look like they go the gym but they don’t want to actually exercise. They want to be healthy, but they don’t want to stop eating junk. They want to be a sweet smelling non-smoker but they don’t want to quick the cigarettes. They want a new job with better pay but they don’t want to upgrade themselves, take classes or get a degree or learn a new trade or move to a town with more jobs. We want the end result, immediately, without the work. Sometimes it’s fear of getting out there; other times fear of getting off the couch! Currently, I am suffering from perfectionism which is a debilitating form of procrastination. I am doing the work (over and over) at a snail’s pace. My new year’s resolution is “production rather than perfection” which is a tough one for me. I think in the end the people that stick with it are the ones who truly want it!

    • Ayodeji Awosika

      Hi Patt,

      Life is indeed the never ending struggle between instant and delayed gratification. Throw fear and self-doubt on top of it all, and it makes for a large hill to climb. A snail’s pace is a-ok. Keep doing your thing. I love that resolution!

  • Marjory Harris

    Another great Ayo post! I agree with everything you said. Writers write, whether they make money, whether it’s a vocation or avocation. It’s like the call of the wild. We have to explore the inner frontier.

    • Ayodeji Awosika

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply Marjory, and for continuing to visit the blog. I hope all is well!

  • Ayo, this year I decided to work… really work on my writing. I’m trying my best to show up daily and write (my goal is 1,000 words a day). I’m also reading a lot of books about writing to learn what I can about the craft and implement it along the way.

    I know I’ll never be a Hemingway, Dan Brown, or RK Rowling. But I can be a much better Aaron Kelley and that’s my goal this year.

    Thanks for another great article and another nudge in the right direction.

    • Ayodeji Awosika

      Hi Aaron,

      I’m 100% positive things will work out well for you if you keep up that pace. A better Aaron Kelly is the perfect goal.

  • Sarojini Pattayat

    A great post indeed.
    Happy writing