Have you ever had one of those days when you just want to throw your keyboard/laptop across the room and quit writing for good? Or you’re exhausted because of how hard you’ve been working lately and don’t even know if it’s worth it anymore?
Yeah. We all have. And it’s not a fun thought spiral to slide down. But if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be able to decide the right way to proceed without (as much) stress. I hope.
Here are a few questions that might help you decide if writing is a career worth pursuing for you.
Do you dream of being a writer but rarely actually write?
Do you have a bunch of ideas for stories? Do you tell your close friends about them whenever you get the chance? But do you also have a hard time actually sitting down to write? Do you do a lot of dreaming, but not a lot of work?
If this sounds like you, the writing life might not suit you as well as you think. There’s a big difference between saying you’re going to write things and actually writing things. From where I stand, only people who actually write are considered “writers.” People who talk about writing without actually writing … you’re not quite there yet. But you could be. If you actually start writing.
BUT — if this isn’t a problem for you, and you write fairly regularly (despite the usual challenges and hiatuses), it’s pretty safe to say you’re on the right track. Keep going!
Are you trying to be the next J.K. Rowling?
Because it’s not going to happen.
I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t dream big. I’m not saying you’re incapable of doing great things with your word-arranging superpowers. But writing should not be about trying to be “famous.”
Yes, we all want our stories read. We would all love to have huge, loyal audiences. But the worst thing you can do when you’re getting into this profession is think it’s easy or even possible to succeed as much as some authors have. Not because you’re bad at writing or anything, but because setting your expectations too high can and will lead to disappointment. That drives a lot of people to quit before they’ve ever accomplished anything.
If all you want out of this whole writing thing is fame … in all honesty, you’re probably not going to make it very far. As soon as the game gets tough, you’re not going to have something tangible to hang onto.
You need a goal that’s still challenging, but more easily attainable. Maybe start with trying to get a book published before striving to sell a million copies of a bestseller.
Would you keep writing even if you never made a cent off of it?
This is possibly the most important question you’ll have to answer when determining — or reminding yourself of — whether or not writing is really “your thing.”
Because the reality is, for many years, you may never see a single paycheck. It does, of course, depend on the type of writing you’re doing or hope to do in the future. Until I started writing for newspapers and magazines, I never made even a dollar. I wanted to publish books, and you don’t make any money doing that until you publish something.
The biggest test of dedication is honestly admitting whether or not you’d keep doing it if it couldn’t support you financially. If I had to get a “real” job and could only write for free for the rest of my life, I’d be okay with that. Why? Because writing isn’t something I can “stop” doing.
If you’d keep writing even if money weren’t on the table, you’re much more likely to put in the amount of work necessary to make a living. It might take years — that’s not unheard of. You might hit a dozen roadblocks along the way. Making money is nice — preferred, even. But it’s not going to happen right away — if at all.
It’s those who write for the love of it first, and everything else second, that end up earning the most in the long-term.
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.