Being a new aspiring writer is terrifying.
It’s also extremely difficult.
Many writers don’t make it past their first year — not because there isn’t plenty of advice out there on how to succeed, but because they lack patience, discipline, and self-worth — things you don’t always realize are important as a writer until they’re the weights dragging you down.
These are some of the most important things new writers should learn in their first year. Not how to get more traffic or followers or money, but how to survive the most common hangups that prompt new writers to quit too soon.
Never expect instant gratification after doing anything
One of the reasons many writers quit not long after they start is their unrealistic need for instant gratification. They start a blog on June 1 and quit on June 30 because they don’t have millions of clicks or thousands of followers yet. They don’t understand that it can take years to grow a sustainable blog — I suppose months, if you’re lucky and really know what you’re doing.
No matter what you’re doing — working on building a blog, trying to finish a book, reaching out to strangers who may or may not want to publish your stuff — you’re going to be doing a lot of waiting. These things take time. Don’t give up just because you aren’t getting results as quickly as you think you should be.
You and your work are two separate things
I’ve seen many aspiring writers breeze through this blog and leave comments about how they want to quit because people aren’t responding to their work the way they want them to. It pains me to see so many people consider giving up something they love because they’ve convinced themselves they’ll somehow feel better once other people start complimenting their work. There is no guarantee this will ever happen, and that’s why many of those commenters have disappeared over the years. I can only assume they’ve stopped trying.
Just because someone rejects your work or shares a negative comment about something you’ve written does not necessarily mean you’re under a personal attack. Don’t assign your identity to the things you create, and don’t determine your self-wroth based on what people think about your writing. You are not your work, and forgetting that could ruin the entire experience for you.
Always work hard — but don’t misinterpret what that means
Writing requires long hours, hard work, and determination beyond what many non-creatives possess. But that does not mean you have to — or should — work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, until all your dreams come true. You cannot do this. You won’t last the year, you’ll burn yourself out, and no matter how much you might enjoy writing, you’ll start to hate it if you push too hard. Trust me.
Going all out all the time will not make you more successful in the long-term. It will make you miserable. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to take things slow. To figure out what you want to focus on, what your goals are, under which conditions you are the most productive.
Keep all these things in mind, and you’re much less likely to quit before things get good.
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Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.