Right now, on the internet, anyone can publish anything they want, whenever they want.
I am writing this blog post using a service that takes seconds to sign up for and is completely free to use. I asked no one for permission to launch this blog. I did not have to submit an application to begin. I did not have to query an agent, email a publisher, or have a pre-existing audience to do so.
Over the past few decades, publishing — in the most general sense of the word — has gotten easier. Barriers to entry have all but dissolved. If you want to publish something, you can publish it. Self-publishing, in whichever form you choose, is most likely accessible to you within just a few clicks of the site you are on right now.
But just because the act of publishing something has gotten easier does not mean succeeding in the writing world has.
In fact, it has only gotten harder.
Every time you publish something, you are competing with everyone else in the world trying to accomplish the same things you are. You want to make a difference. Say things that matter. Change people’s minds. Do something good through words. So does everyone else writing and publishing at will.
And that’s if you can even finish. Sometimes writers face so much pressure to write the perfect book they can never bring themselves to finish anything they start. Because … what if it’s not “good enough”?
The fact that getting published is, technically, no longer a challenge makes every other part of the process more challenging. Everyone is trying to market their stuff. Prove they’re the expert. Show their work is unique. So much so that it can feel like promoting your accomplishments on social media doesn’t even matter anymore.
How do we deal with this? We stop focusing so much on what will happen “when we make it.” We stop worrying about everything always being perfect or better than everyone else’s things.
We worry less about the things we can’t control, and more about the things we can.
Such as, whether or not we’re actually writing. How we’re improving, gradually, over time. Whether or not we’re slowly building an audience of loyal followers who will stick with us whether we write something great or something that may have needed to remain a draft for a little longer — or forever.
It’s not about how good you are compared to other people. It might seem that way. But in the end, it’s really about the long game. How many years you can stick with it feeling like you aren’t making progress. How many hours you’re willing to spend creating day after day after day until something you produce finally gains traction.
How willing you are to do all that — and then start all over and do it again.
It’s those who spend years building empires from nothing — learning and changing as they go — that make marks in history.
If this were easy, everyone could do it well.
Keep breathing. Because sometimes, the best way to get ahead is to take things slow and take one small step forward at a time.
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.