Entitlement and the Aspiring Writer

But do you deserve it? You do … but only if you earn it.

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You do not deserve to be a successful author. Not exactly.

Now hold on. I’m not here to tell you that you can’t be successful or that you aren’t good enough. Quite the opposite, actually. The more I interact with writers around the world, the more I realize how deeply entitlement can hurt an aspiring writer.

When you hear the word entitlement you probably think of millennials. I hate that, because I happen to be one, but we won’t get into that now. You probably think of the recent college grad frustrated during her job search because she earned a degree and thinks she deserves to be handed a job for getting good grades and walking across a stage.

It happens in the writing community, too. Someone writes their first book or self publishes some poetry or takes one writing class, or knows another writer more successful than they are, and for some reason can’t help but believe that because of these things, they deserve more recognition. Read this, look at that, please why is no one paying attention, don’t I deserve better?

But do you deserve it? You do … but only if you earn it.

I’ve come across writers who are just starting out and already want to know how to earn for their underdeveloped craft.

I’ve come across those who have ideas, have never finished a writing project, and beg for feedback anyway.

I understand; I’ve been there. When I was 14, I’d send a piece of unfinished writing over to whomever would read and critique it. I didn’t know any better, and I don’t mean to judge those who don’t know any better, believe me. That is why I’m writing this now. To say what needs to be said. Again.

Writing is a lot of work. It requires a lot of discipline and patience. If you do not have either of these things, you will not make it very far. You can work to develop them, but again, it’s work, it’s exhausting and it takes time.

Those of us who work hard for what we earn still have discouraging moments and still want to feel valued. We just understand that, in order to get what we want, we have to do the work. Nothing is ever going to be handed to us.

I won’t speak for the general group here: I’m getting tired of it. I’m not a very well-known writer, and this is totally fine with me. I don’t write for recognition, at least not any more than any of us do. I share my work because I’m proud of it, not because I plan on begging people to pay attention to it. I know that this very well may be as far as I ever get in my writing career, and I’m 100 percent content with that. I’m doing what I like to do and that’s enough for me.

To those who just can’t seem to understand how this whole writing thing works … be self-aware. Please. Realize that there is nothing wrong with asking for advice, ESPECIALLY in the beginning, but you have to do your part. You have to finish and edit the book. You have to search for and query agents. You have to play the waiting game, by yourself, regardless of how isolating it may feel. And if you fail, you have to be the one to try again. No one – NO ONE – can or will do it for you.

I have never once believed that I deserved to have any of my work published. As part of my creative writing class my junior year of high school, we were required to submit an essay to Teen Ink Magazine. Mine got published: I had no notice or warning that it was happening, I just got a copy of the magazine in the mail one day. My creative writing teacher congratulated me, but I had a really hard time accepting that praise, and he noticed. He didn’t say outright that I deserved it – but in a nutshell, that’s what he needed me to understand. I worked hard writing something and my work was rewarded. It wasn’t published under my real name, BUT IT WAS SOMETHING.

Deserving to be recognized because you have accomplished something, as a result of months of hard work, is one thing. Believing you deserve to be recognized for something you have yet to do, or something you just threw together for the sake of having it done, is completely different. I don’t care if your writing is awful – if you have poured your heart and soul into it, and really tried, and enjoyed it, in my eyes, you are deserving of all the praise I can give you. I appreciate those who are willing to acknowledge that they are working on something, and struggling, but promise to keep working. That is what the writing community needs: more people who value hard work and celebrating small milestones more than they value clicks and views and their name on the cover of a book.

Thank you to everyone who has been commenting on posts this week. You are all wonderful and honest and positive, and that is exactly what I love to see in this community. The larger it grows, the harder it will be to maintain that aura of optimism and drive to encourage others – but right now, it makes me happy to see all of you working so hard. Be that kind of writer, wherever you go outside of here. It is not always a pleasant place out there. But you know who you are and what you stand for. I am proud of you.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

5 thoughts on “Entitlement and the Aspiring Writer

  1. Thanks for writing this. I’m sure, and I can type this with confidence, that my writing will get me nowhere. I’ve tried to work hard writing, promoting, and interacting with readers, etc, but it’s all a waste of time. Now, I feel like I need to decide if I should quit for good. It’s not an easy decision.

    1. Hi Akaluv! Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m sad to see that what I’ve written here has led to you wanting to decide once and for all that you may want to stop writing. This was definitely not the message this post intended to send, but I do understand where you are coming from as I too have at times wondered what would happen if I stopped writing. I want you to know that, yes, writing as a career is rough and not everyone will “make it” as they say. Even I won’t, and I’ve come to accept that. However, just because we are not confident in the probability of success does not mean we have to give up completely. I want to encourage you, if I can, to keep writing. Why? Because just by telling me you’re trying to make a tough decision regarding your writing, you have shown that you truly care about your writing. If you care about writing as a hobby – why stop? Perhaps it is not something you love, and in that case, you shouldn’t force yourself to do something you do not enjoy. But if you are a writer, writing is an important part of your life! I would hate to see you turn away from it simply because, especially now, it is hard to break through the noise and be noticed. I hope that is not the only thing that makes you want to stop. If so, know this – that there could very well be someone out there who might benefit from something you write. You may never know it, but why take that risk? Rambling aside, I don’t think writing is a waste of time at all, because if you do enjoy it, really, that is all that matters. Obviously I do not know you or your “history” as a writer, but you found your way here and that at least tells me writing means something to you. Hold onto that. Remember that we all start writing because it satisfies a need within us, even if we don’t ever fully understand what that need may be.

      I’ve followed your blog and am now reading through some of your recent posts. If nothing else, you have one new reader who cares about and appreciates what you are doing. I, personally, think your writing is clear and casual and simple in a beautiful way. I hope to read more from you soon. -M

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