You Don’t Have to Be ‘Good’ At Writing (Right Away) to Be Successful

It’s true. All of it.

I know, I know, you had to reread that headline a few times to make sure you weren’t just seeing things. Yes, I am suggesting that you don’t have to be a good writer to succeed in writing. AT. FIRST.

Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. I promise.

If you’re new to this blog and don’t yet trust a single word I’ve written so far, take a deep breath. Give my advice a chance. You won’t be quite so skeptical by the time this post reaches its end.

These days, it’s nearly impossible to visit a writing Facebook group, follow a stream of writers on Twitter, or browse books on Amazon without realizing there are people releasing new books EVERY WEEK. Some of them are even REALLY GOOD BOOKS!

Why aren’t you doing that?!

Why aren’t you publishing good books? Why hasn’t it happened for you yet?

All this makes it really difficult to remember that not all good writers started out as good writers. Even I sometimes feel discouraged when I read a really good book. As happy as I am for the author, there’s always a part of me that really, really wants to also write a good book. (I will, eventually. I just haven’t yet.)

The key to writing success, it turns out, is remembering that you don’t have to be a good writer when you’re first starting out. You just have to WRITE STUFF.

In case no one has ever offered you this friendly reminder: There isn’t a single writer who does not start out writing terribly. Every single one of us starts out telling simple stories full of cliches and predictable plot twists. Every single one of us spells things wrong, uses bad grammar, and has no idea how to vary sentence structure in a way that makes a paragraph flow pleasantly from beginning to end.

These are all things we learn ONLY through experience. People can feel they were born “to” write, but NO ONE is born knowing how to write, especially not well.

There is a reason my philosophy is that you cannot call yourself a writer unless you write, and you may remain a writer as long as you keep writing. The only way to learn to write is to write.

If anyone who wants to be a writer starts out writing terribly, then how do some people become exceptional writers and others never do? Because some people stop writing. They lose interest, they find other hobbies, choose different career paths. OR, as I’m sure has happened to at least one person reading this post right now, they get discouraged because they don’t feel they are making any significant progress toward their writing goals. So they quit.

They QUIT! They STOP WRITING. And therefore, they stop improving. And their dreams only die because they never gave their ambitions a chance to fully form.

You can’t just wake up one morning, decide to write a novel, and write a good novel in a day. It’s not possible. You probably already know that. But while your impatience is in some ways irrational, in many others it’s completely justified. We want good things to happen to us and we want them to happen to us NOW! We want to write a book and publish it NOW! We want all our hard work to pay off RIGHT NOW NOW NOW.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing this whole writing thing. You’re not immune to instant gratification’s temptations. You don’t want to wait for success, even when you know you have to. Some of us just go off and write other things for the sole purpose of distracting ourselves from the fact that the good things we’re waiting on haven’t happend yet and it’s torture!

Whatever keeps you sane in this creative mess of a life, I suppose.

Learning how to “write good” takes time. If you’re going to learn anything when you first step out into the world as a writer, make sure it’s that. Good writing doesn’t just “happen.” It is a skill, and therefore it grows, slowly, over many years.

If you keep writing during all that time, though, you are fully capable of gradually learning to improve your writing. There are people who think they can’t wait that long. They think that because they aren’t skilled writers now, they never will be. I wish that weren’t the case. I wish everyone knew that if they spent enough time and energy on their writing, they could become the “good writer” they’ve always wanted to be.

Some writers start out writing terribly. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. The cool part about this is that many of these writers go on to become successful and fulfilled creatives throughout their lives. And that’s because they don’t quit. They acknowledge that they aren’t writing as well as they would like to be, and then they sit their butts down in their chairs and they keep writing until they start getting better. And then they KEEP GOING.

Some might argue it’s actually a good thing to suck at writing. At least this means you have a lot of progress to make and it might be easier to tell when you start sucking less, right?

All joking aside, success is every writer’s end goal. How they get there — and how long it takes them to get there –is completely dependent upon their style, choices, and capabilities. There is no set timeline that will guarantee success. There is no list of set rules you “must” follow in order to 100% ensure you will get where you want to be.

All we can do, in this unpredictable career path, is our best. As long as we’re always striving to be better than we were yesterday — and doing everything in our power to accomplish that goal — it will be worth the effort. It always is, in one way or another.

Keep going. Write, even when you don’t think it’s good. Write, even when you’re not sure where it’s going. Moving forward, in the beginning, is all that matters.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

When the Coffee Turns Cold

Well, that’s how you know.

When it’s been a long day and it’s getting late, but I still have more writing to do, I sometimes let myself make a cup of coffee before sitting down at my desk to continue my work.

Caffeine is a stimulant. It keeps you awake. It doesn’t give you energy — it simply tricks you into thinking you have more stamina to spare even when you don’t.

But the reason I take the time to make coffee when it’s late isn’t always because I plan on drinking the whole cup of not-real-energy juice. Which is weird, I know. Especially for someone who depends on coffee to fuel her sunrise productivity streams like I do.

Really, the reason I like having that cup of coffee next to me is more for comfort than anything else. Plus, it’s how I measure whether or not I’ve had a good writing session by the time it’s over.

That probably sounds even weirder, right? You must be new to this blog. Welcome to Weird Town. I’m your fearless, shameless leader. How may I serve you?

Coffee isn’t magic. Except it can act like it, sometimes.

I know I’ve had a good writing session if the coffee is still there by the end, cold, yet having served its purpose all the same. Because that means the “reward” didn’t distract me. I didn’t keep reaching for it out of stress or frustration or boredom. In reality, I got so lost in what I was writing — in a good way, I suppose — that I didn’t even stop to think about the fact that my coffee was getting cold.

The best part about coffee? You can always heat it up again. Or save it for later.

I never consciously use coffee as a motivator. It’s more of just the habitual thing I do when I know I’m about to sit down for an extended period of time to sink into my creative zone. I don’t always need it, and I KNOW I don’t always need it. But in many cases, especially later in the day, it does help. It reminds me that it’s OK to push myself a little, because I have a crutch. As long as I don’t depend on that crutch so much that I can’t survive without it, it’s not hurting me. At least, I hope it isn’t.

In writing — not the writing itself, necessarily, but the process — you need to have something that keeps you going, something that helps you measure your level of focus. Something you can keep close by — within reach, just in case — to make you feel comfortable. Secure, even.

Many times, this manifests in the form of a routine — like a bedtime ritual, but for writing. Before bed, I always brush my teeth, take my medication, and play a game on my tablet (I know, I know) in that order. Before writing, at least at night, I always grab either coffee or a glass of water before I sit down, just in case.

Maybe for you it’s making sure you’ve taken the dog out one last time before you sit down at your computer. Maybe writing is the first thing you do after putting your kid to bed or watching the news or doing the dishes. I don’t know what your life looks like, these are just examples.

What matters is that this — whatever this “thing” may be — puts your mind at ease. It ensures you’re less likely to stop in the middle of a writing session because you remembered something important or your to-do list wasn’t quite finished.

And your “close by” object — maybe it’s coffee, or a glass of water. Maybe it’s your phone turned upside-down at the corner of your desk, there in case someone happens to need you. Maybe it’s your planner, a timer, a Funko figure watching your every keystroke.

These things, too, put us in a place where we are free to enter “the zone.” We’re not worried about interruptions, about anything of importance that isn’t right here on the screens in front of us.

And when the coffee turns cold — when the timer goes off, when you look over at the window and notice how dark it has become, that’s how you know you’ve made it through another long day.

That’s how you know you’re one step closer to reaching your goals — and that maybe, if you could do it today, you could do it again tomorrow, too.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Writers: You’re Going to Mess Up

Mistakes happen. They are supposed to happen. It’s the way things work.

I was raised to fear mistakes.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it sort of just happened.

This, as you can imagine, made many parts of writing very difficult as I was growing up. Finishing a story was hard because if I didn’t like where it was going, I simply gave up. I developed a habit of rushing through everything I wrote and not checking it over because I didn’t want to spend time with my errors.

While there is nothing wrong with making mistakes, it’s definitely not okay to ignore the fact that you’re probably making mistakes. You’re patiently awaiting a real-life example, aren’t you? Let me set the scene.

It was my sophomore year. I wasn’t officially a part of our student newspaper staff yet, but I had somehow convinced the editor-in-chief to let me write a guest article anyway. I had zero news writing experience, but for some reason — I wish I’d saved that “proposal” — she decided to give me a shot.

Long story short, I wrote the article, submitted it, and was not happy when I received initial feedback. I’d made a bunch of mistakes, and I was embarrassed that I hadn’t taken the time to write an article that would impress a potential future employer.

My attitude was terrible. I’m pretty sure the article was terrible. But guess what I learned? When you mess up, you have to take responsibility for your errors … and not be a toddler about it.

For the record, I never responded to feedback again the way I did then. Here’s a secret: Editors don’t just hire good writers. They hire people who are not difficult to work with. Remember that.

I would go on to work for that paper under several different editors for the next two and a half years. As both a news writer and copy editor, I encountered many mistakes others were making, and learned the importance of teachable moments.

Mistakes happen. It’s not the end of the world, and you have to learn to move past them.

All you really need to know, before you start writing, is that you’re going to mess up. You’re going to do things wrong. You can read all the books and blogs and articles you want to, but none of the advice you find there is going to prevent the inevitable.

The only way to learn how to be a better writer is to do it, and in the process of doing it you are most definitely going to do it incorrectly.

Mistakes are how we learn. Mistakes mean that you are actively trying to make something happen. I tend to look at mistakes as “non-sucesses” instead of “failures.” Because not succeeding doesn’t necessarily mean outright failure. It sometimes means you were on the right track but didn’t quite hit the mark this time. Or an obstacle appeared that you weren’t expecting and couldn’t control, and it prevented you from achieving your goal.

It could be as simple and harmless as forgetting to proofread a personal blog post before publishing it. It could be as big as neglecting to read submission guidelines and submitting something to an agent or editor that wasn’t quite ready for professional review.

What matters isn’t the mistake itself, but what you learn from it, and how you apply that lesson to your future work.

There is one error I know of in publishing that you can’t come back from, and that’s plagiarism. I don’t call this a mistake because it is very much purposeful — those who do it know they are doing it and only hope they won’t get caught and there are no exceptions. It’s the one instance in which you must use common sense and avoid the offense unless you want to ruin your career forever.

I’m talking about mistakes that can be classified as teachable moments. You didn’t know any better, so you didn’t do it right the first time. Discouraging and probably a little embarrassing? Absolutely. But it happens, you realize what you did wrong, you move on. You do everything you know to do in order to avoid making the same mistake in the future, and the process repeats itself as you grow personally and professionally.

You will never stop messing up. It’s simply a part of the game. No one is perfect, and trying to be perfect is overrated, exhausting, and totally not worth your time.

I am a better writer because of my past mistakes. I’ve learned to slow down and proofread. I’ve learned that just because my work didn’t make the cut doesn’t mean it wasn’t good work. I’ve also learned that when someone sends back corrections for you to make on something you’ve written, it’s not because you’ve done a bad job or meant to tear you down. It’s because a draft can always be better. That’s why it’s called a draft.

You should always try to do your absolute best no matter what. Don’t turn things in that are sloppy. Don’t come to a pitch meeting unprepared, don’t treat an editor like their only job is to clean up your messes. Try to do things the right way. But when you do mess up, it’s okay. Admit to it. Own it. And move on.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made as a writer? How did you handle it? What do you do differently now because of it?

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How to Succeed In Writing: Have Something to Write ‘About’

Wanting to be a writer isn’t quite enough.

It would take a dozen blog posts just to address all the major common reasons writers don’t succeed. Lack of time management skills. Lack of focus. Not knowing how to prioritize tasks. Really, really bad luck.

Something I wish I had known when I started looking for work as a writer was the importance of narrowing down exactly what your writing is going to focus on.

A lot of people approach writing as this wondrous magical realm of endless possibilities — which I suppose it can be, if you’re looking at it from the outside in. But in reality, the writers who find the most success in their careers are the ones who at least start with one narrow path and get really, really good at navigating it.

Early on in my journey — because of what I was studying at the time as well as my interests — I decided to put my creative writing goals mostly on hold in order to pursue science writing.

At first, I was worried this was going to take away from my “true dream” and completely derail my progress. But what it actually did was allow me to develop skills I may not have developed otherwise. Plus, you know, it helped me pay off my student loans and get a “real” job.

Selecting a specific topic to write about changed everything for me — in the best way possible.

Many people say they want to write for a living but don’t have any goals beyond “getting something published someday.” There’s nothing wrong with that goal — it’s what the vast majority of us want, if we’re being honest with ourselves.

But if you really want your writing to go somewhere, you need to start heading in a specific direction. “I’ll write about anything” used to be my go-to selling point, too, but I learned pretty quick that’s not as intriguing of a declaration as it sounds.

Here’s the other issue to consider: If you write about “everything,” you’re never really spending a significant amount of time focusing on familiarizing yourself with one specific topic. And that will probably hurt you more than it helps you.

Clients didn’t hire me in the beginning because I could do anything. They hired me for a very specific purpose because I had built up experience and expertise in that particular area more than any other.

I wouldn’t stretch it and say I’ve “succeeded” as a writer. But I am definitely on my way to something many steps above where I started. Progress matters. I wouldn’t be where I am if I had wasted the first year of my professional writing life figuring out my “niche.” Or, multiple niches, as it turns out.

Writing aimlessly is fine — essential, even — in the beginning. You need time to figure out the topics that interest you enough to write about them often and discover the things you don’t want to research in-depth on an almost daily basis. You need to figure out what you’re good at writing about and what you aren’t, your strengths, your weaknesses, your place in all this.

At some point, though, you have to make a choice. What am I going to write about? What is going to be my “thing”? If and when I have business cards, what kind of writing are they going to say I do?

These are things you need to think about. Your answers are going to define your early days as a writer at the very least. That’s a good thing.

Even if you have to choose only one thing to focus on in the beginning, there is no rule that says you cannot branch out into multiple “niches” once you’ve gained a foothold in the first. It’s not wise to try doing too many things at once, especially in the beginning. I am someone who struggles with “never feeling like I’m doing enough things syndrome.” I get it. You want to do more. But you’ll get there. Have patience. Take it one interest at a time.

What’s most important right now is that you have a focus and you’re figuring out how to go after that one thing. I can guarantee it’s going to help you not only set goals, but also take important steps toward achieving them. I can’t guarantee your success — that part is up to you. I’m just here to tell you how to accomplish what you want to accomplish in the least painful manner possible.

Wherever you go from here, I hope you find your way. I hope you find where you fit in this intense creative world and I hope you end up in a place that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

Being a writer is not easy. It never has been and it never will be. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just means you’re going to have to work through the tough parts, appreciate the easier parts, and remember that every writer struggles. Even if they claim they don’t, they do. All of us do. The struggle is always worth it, though. Every single minute of it.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

12 Tips for Writers Feeling Stuck and Unproductive

Don’t beat yourself up. You can do better, and you will.

1. Don’t beat yourself up for everything you haven’t been doing. Build yourself up by thinking about all the things you’re about to get done.

2. “I’m going to write today.” Say it. Out loud. Then do it.

3. Make a list of all the things you need to accomplish.

4. Now narrow that list down only to the things you need to accomplish today.

5. Decide when you’re going to do your writing for the day. First? Last? Between tasks?

6. Take that list one thing at a time, and your writing one word at a time.

7. Write about what YOU want to write about today. Sometimes it helps to tap into your own creative desires.

8. Start writing about your frustrations. Your worries. Your fears.

9. If you have to, open a blank document and just start writing whatever comes to mind.

10. And if that doesn’t work, it might be time to give yourself full freedom to Take A Break!

11. Promise yourself a small reward for getting something written today, like a few hours of guilt-free Netflix!

12. Be honest with yourself. If you’re having trouble writing, there is always an underlying cause. Find it. And do what you can to overcome it.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

You Don’t Have to Write Every Day — But You SHOULD Do This

It’s not great advice. But it’s often misinterpreted.

“If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day.”

This is quite possibly the most controversial piece of writing advice out there. The reason it’s so widely debated is because many people fall into the “because it worked for me, it will work for everyone” trap.

Those highly inexperienced in the realm of giving advice assume that their methods are universal, and those with little experience in the activity or topic related to that advice don’t know any better than to take it to heart.

I personally write probably about 28 days out of every month, sometimes more depending on travel plans. I have found that I am at my best creatively and dare I say spiritually when I write. Writing, for me, is like exercise. It relieves anxiety and stress, improves my mood, and motivates me to accomplish more tasks. It also makes me feel like I’m making constant progress toward my writing goals, which steadies my confidence and just overall makes me a better person.

Because of my almost daily writing schedule, I have learned how to write despite surrounding chaos, push through the pain (yes, sometimes writing is painful), and have accomplished many things I am proud of in the past year alone.

However, I have never, and will never, tell people that they “must” write every day simply because it has worked for me. That wouldn’t just be irresponsible: It would be unfair. Whether they want to admit it or not, many aspiring writers are desperate, and they’re going to cling to any advice that “promises” them success. If someone tells them they can’t be a “real” writer unless they write every day, then gosh darn it, they’re going to commit to writing every day.

This would be fine if writing every day was feasible for the general population. But it isn’t. It can actually be dangerous and destructive for people who are not used to the mental, emotional, and physical toll writing takes on you. Burnout is a hot topic right now. Do you want to know why? Because people are told they have to do something daily to form a habit, they take it literally, they go all in for a week and they completely wear themselves out.

Some take a deep breath, center themselves, and keep going. But many don’t. Many are scarred by that experience and they don’t go back to it again.

It’s like someone who hasn’t done a workout in two years trying to run five miles every day for a month. You’re not going to make it. You might actually hurt yourself trying.

So no. Writing every day is not an effective strategy for everyone. If you do it and it works for you, great. If you don’t think you can handle it, then don’t force yourself. It’s not the frequency of writing that matters, but the consistency.

However, just because you don’t write every day doesn’t mean you should spend your off days with your book or blog or portfolio completely on the back burner. Here’s a fun fact: You can work on a story without actually “working” on it. Yes! I mean it!

After all, all stories begin with a thought. That’s also how they grow and develop, even when you aren’t actively sitting in front of your computer typing out the words.

I’m going to use last night as an example. I had just finished the minimum amount of writing I needed to do for the day. I could have written more, but I was tired — mostly tired of sitting at my desk hunched over my keyboard. I knew I would be much more productive in the morning if I called it quits for the night.

But after I’d gotten comfortable and entered full relaxation mode, my mind began to wander back to a story I’ve been chipping away at for the past month or so. I didn’t force it, but I also didn’t try to suppress it. I sort of just sat back and let the story consume my thoughts for a little while.

I did not technically “work” on that story yesterday. I did not contribute new words to it. But I did think about it. And because of that, I have a few ideas I can work with as soon as I sit down to work on it later today.

Even if you don’t write, you should allow yourself some time every day to “meditate” with your ideas.

Think about your story. Focus on it. Spend time with it. Get to know it.

This is the kind of thought and creativity that energizes instead of exhausts. There is a big difference between sitting alone with an idea and actively pursuing it. One technically isn’t “work” and the other is. But both are healthy and productive means of channeling your creativity into something purposeful.

Every day, make the time to at least think about your stories. When people suggest that writing every day is essential, I think what they mean is that you should have your head in your craft as much as possible — every single day, if possible, even if you don’t actually write.

Is actively writing an extremely important part of the process? Yes. If you do not write, you are not a writer.

But sometimes it’s okay to just sit back and fall into your stories for a while. Chances are, you’ll emerge more excited and motivated to work on them than you were before.

Excitement and motivation often lead to writing. And that’s not a bad thing at all, is it?

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Yes — Your Writing Dream Can Change

Things change. It’s the way life works.

I don’t remember exactly when I decided I wanted to be a novelist. But I do remember the joy I felt the very first time I finished writing the first draft of a “real” book.

That accomplishment filled me with hope for the future, as well as a kind of confidence I had not felt in a very long time. In that moment, I was sure I really could do anything I set my mind to. I was certain this was something I could do over and over and over again. And so I did.

That sense of fulfillment became something I began chasing. For years after that, I kept writing books — well, first drafts of books, which is still pretty awesome — both because I really couldn’t help it and because I wanted to feel purposeful. I wanted that surge of adrenaline. I wanted to continue believing that becoming a novelist was something I was realistically capable of.

But then the “high” wore off. The thrill dimmed. I kept writing books (or trying to) but I wasn’t feeling the same level of fulfillment as I had been before. In fact, I noticed I wasn’t even really enjoying my writing that much anymore. I started to doubt whether or not I should even keep going — if I even WANTED to keep going.

So for a while, I stopped taking my creative writing seriously. I’d write a little here and there, but mostly only a few months out of the year (because, you know, NaNoWriMo). I didn’t quit. I just … needed time to figure out if publishing a novel was something I still really wanted to do.

That was when I started exploring new creative outlets. Introducing myself to new possibilities. Accepting that just because I’d had a dream before didn’t mean I had to continue pursuing it the rest of my life.

I found new dreams, and started constructing new goals for myself. I never completely abandoned my hopes of someday becoming a novelist — it’s still a far-off goal of mine. But it took stepping back from the biggest dream I’d ever had to realize it wasn’t actually the ONLY dream I had. I had other interests, other ambitions. Some of them were practical. Many of them weren’t.

But it really put me at ease, knowing that I was allowed to shift my focus and change my mind. Sometimes we lock ourselves into plans we’ve since outgrown. We think, “I made a commitment so I can’t change it now.” In many cases this is true. But not when the only commitment you’ve made is the one you’ve made to yourself.

I’m not saying you should just abandon project after project, always searching for “The One.” But if you’re struggling to continue pursuing something you used to be excited about, here’s the cool thing: You don’t HAVE to keep doing it. And that doesn’t even mean you have to abandon it completely. You’re allowed to shift your priorities around, work on your creative writing every now and then and do something else with the rest of your time.

Do be careful about making a big decision like this, though. You should never “give up” on a dream because you’re frustrated or hurt or burned out. It’s possible to step away from things like writing temporarily in order to give yourself some room, and in doing this you very well may discover that you would be much happier if your main focus wasn’t on telling the same types of stories via the same medium as you always have. And that’s very much okay

We’re afraid to change our minds because it feels a lot like failing. You start with a goal and you start working toward that goal, but if you stop pursuing it then technically you’ll never reach it — isn’t that what failure is?

But we forget that not succeeding and failing aren’t really the same thing when it comes to writing. I’m of the belief that the only way to fail as a writer is to not try, and that if you set a goal and don’t achieve it, well, you really just haven’t succeeded yet. Failing implies that you never tried, and that just isn’t true if you spend months or even years working on a story before deciding it’s time to move on.

You tried. You just didn’t achieve the outcome you originally hoped for.

You had a dream. You just decided that dream was no longer the most important part of your life — at least for now.

I know what it feels like to worry you’re running out of time. It is an essential ingredient to the cocktail that is my anxiety. I get it. You don’t want to spend all that time chasing something only to suddenly decide you’d rather not pursue it any longer.

I think you’ll be better off in the long run if you acknowledge that your time in the present will be better spent doing something you are fully invested in.

It’s like the common troupe about the college kid who’s only studying to become a doctor because his parents said he had to. Usually, by the end of the story, he has gone rogue and decided being a drummer in a rock band is his true calling (or whatever).

Your dreams don’t always have to stay the same.

As long as you do commit to something and go after it with all you have, you’re going to be just fine.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Be Proud to Be a Writer

Be proud of all you’ve yet to accomplish and all you’ve already done.

Are you proud to call yourself a writer? Proud of what you’ve done? Proud of what you’re hopefully someday going to do?

It’s OK if you aren’t. This is a very tough road filled with detours and forks and bad decisions (and good ones too!). I’m definitely not proud of some of the things I’ve written in the past. And when I hear about all the sensationalizing and exaggerating and whatever the heck else going on in many branches of media journalism, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I work in entertainment publishing.

But that doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed to admit I spend a significant portion of my time sitting in front of a computer screen making up stories, or that I don’t like talking about my work.

There are days I’m excited about something I’ve published and that excitement deflates a little when no one responds to or even reads it. I’m also in a position where many of my higher-traffic articles result in tweet storms of the troll variety (write just about anything related to Star Wars these days and the trolls will assemble).

I’ve had people tell me writing is a waste of time. I’ve had people tell me that my writing advice is stupid and gives people false hope.

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, having different opinions and beliefs than me, or engaging in conversation with me. It’s my job as a writer to start conversations through the things I publish.

But there are people out there who will do everything they can to make you feel like you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. And long before that happens, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting alone in front of your laptop staring at your work wondering if anything you ever create will matter to someone other than you.

I’m not going to spend an entire post talking about trolls. They don’t deserve the space. Moving on.

There are many reasons you might feel like you don’t deserve the title of “writer.” For some people, it’s the silence — feeling like they’re screaming (typing in all caps?) into a void and no one is listening. For others, it’s the voices — both internally and externally — telling them they are somehow less than because they play with words for a living and/or in their spare time.

It’s not true, of course. Being a writer doesn’t make you any of the things people might assume — that you can’t or don’t want to get a “real job” (that’s a fun one), that you aren’t doing work that matters, that you’re never going to be “as successful as so-and-so” because “all you do is make stuff up” (also, wow).

You shouldn’t feel ashamed or worthless. You should feel proud.

You should BE proud.

Be proud of all you’ve yet to accomplish and all you’ve already done.

Just started writing a novel for the first time? You’re a writer.

Starting to query agents while touching up your manuscript? You’re a writer.

Have a brand-new blog you’ve just started creating content for? You’re a writer.

Just published your first book? You’re a writer.

Won an award for writing something cool? You’re a writer!

Just because someone didn’t like your work doesn’t mean you’re not a “real” writer. Just because you don’t write every day doesn’t mean you lack the qualifications to refer to yourself as a writer. If no one is reading your work and you feel hopeless, guess what? You. Are still. A writer.

And you deserve that title regardless of your level of success, how long you’ve been doing it, or what other people might feel they have to say about it.

Even more than that, you deserve to OWN it.

I’m very shy about my writing and don’t bring up the fact that I’m a writer unless someone asks. If they are interested, I’m happy to talk about my work with them. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I talk to imaginary people and sentences often begin writing themselves in my head without my consent. I’m proud of my stories. They’re an important part of who I am.

Do I still get discouraged when an article or blog post I’m proud of totally bombs? Of course I do — everyone does! Do I feel slightly frazzled when people aren’t nice? Yes, because I’m human and humans don’t like to be yelled at. The more you do this, the thicker your shell grows. You will never become immune to disapproval or feeling like you’re being ignored or looked over, but you do learn to stop letting it bother you — if you choose to.

How do you learn to be proud of what you do? You just keep on doing it. Sometimes I write things I’m not very confident about, but if they aren’t good things, someone will hopefully tell me that. I’m still proud of myself for writing it even though I was unsure. I still did the work. I took a chance.

Do the same. And be proud of that. Be proud to be YOU! Because no one else can.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Writers: Your Failures Do NOT Define Your Future

Just because you’ve failed doesn’t mean you’ll never succeed.

I have a friend who once made it a goal to receive 100 poetry submission rejections in a single year. This method of “motivation” fascinated me. Because in order to receive that many rejections, she had to write and send out MANY submissions. And in the process — she did end up getting 100 rejections — some of her submissions even got accepted.

She faced a lot of failure as a writer that year. But she’s much stronger, and much more motivated to continue pursuing her goals, because of it.

Through her I learned a very important lesson about failure. As writers, we always look at the possibility of “not succeeding” as a bad thing. But maybe things would be a lot different if, instead of treating it as something bad, we found a way to look forward it. Some kind of motivator to run headfirst straight into it.

No one is immune to failure — neither the fear of it nor its consequences. But you can’t let your worries about what’s already happened, or has yet to occur, stop you from moving forward.

I’ve failed more times as a writer than I can count. I’ve gotten things wrong. I’ve misread instructions. I’ve gotten rejected for reasons no one would ever disclose to me. I’ve jumped headfirst into projects and realized they weren’t sustainable. I’ve made promises and haven’t kept them.

Do these things make me a bad writer? A bad person? Of course not. They make me human. We’re so afraid of looking stupid or incompetent and of being judged for doing something wrong. Usually, it’s because someone from our past felt the need to shame us for making a mistake, and we don’t want to endure that kind of pain again.

I make it a point, as an editor, never to shame a writer for doing something poorly or incorrectly. It’s not my job to discourage or drag down someone who is doing the best they know how. I know how it feels to be treated like you’re stupid for not being perfect and I refuse to be responsible for making another writer go through that.

Some say writers are too fragile, that they take things too personally and don’t know how to handle rejection. I won’t say I disagree with this — I just wouldn’t word it quite like that. I believe some writers aren’t trained to handle rejection because they haven’t had enough experience facing that kind of rejection.

It’s not their fault. But it IS up to them to change their circumstances, usually by writing, writing a little more, and even still a little more until rejection and failure become part of the routine instead of something to dread.

To be clear, failure never stops hurting, and you never really stop being afraid of it. But it does get a little easier to move past it the more you expose yourself to it. It’s not a noticeable change. You don’t completely break down after one mistake or shortcoming and just shrug off the next one like it’s no big deal. Adapting to the aftermath of failure is something that takes effort, patience, and time.

Effort. Patience. Time. All valuable things a writer must take into account when they decide to create something, though many quit before they allow themselves the chance to succeed.

We’re so afraid of failing that we give up before success even becomes an option. That’s sad.

Just because you fail today or tomorrow or two months from now does not mean you have less of a chance of succeeding in the future. In reality, the more you fail, the GREATER your chances of succeeding.

Why? Because every failure has something to teach you, as long as you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and shortcomings and improve next time.

Failure should always mean a brighter future for you. The way I see it, if something doesn’t happen — your poem doesn’t get chosen or an agent doesn’t sell your book to a publisher or your blog doesn’t get any traction — it’s simply because it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t meant to turn out the way you hoped.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. It means it’s time to start building something new — something that could lead to big, amazing things.

Look at failure as something good. Or try to, at least.

Everyone fails. It’s those who keep working hard anyway who eventually succeed.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

You’re Going to Make It

It might seem like you’re not going anywhere, but you are.

Writing is a lot harder than many people think. And I don’t mean the process of telling a story — most of us tell stories to our friends, co-workers, and Twitter followers every day. We know how to do that, even though we’re often convinced we don’t.

What most writers struggle with is the process of getting from “I want to be a successful writer” to “I have succeeded as a writer.” There are many action steps that bridge these two points in time, and issues arise when a writer figures out their dream isn’t as easy to achieve — isn’t as easy to begin pursuing, even — as they imagined it would be.

Many successful writers are honest about the fact that it’s a tough business to break into. Agents get dozens of queries, most websites and magazines that accept beginners’ work don’t pay. Everyone and their friend wants to publish a book, and half of them are actively trying at the exact same moment you are.

But not enough of them are talking about the internal struggles aspiring and working writers face. The doubt. The frustration. How mush of our self-worth we invest into our success, and how that affects our ability to bounce back from the dark depths of creative despair.

Here’s more honesty from the heart of someone who’s Been There: You’re going to face plenty of moments during which you are 95 percent convinced you no longer want to be a writer. It’s too hard. It takes too much time. What are your chances of even succeeding anyway? It’s not worth it. Every person who ever told you that you’d never “make it” as a writer was right.

Sometimes you recover from these thought spirals. You snap back into reality, take a deep breath, and keep writing even when it’s an obvious struggle to do so.

Sometimes you don’t, though. Sometimes you’re so sure you’ll never run a successful blog or publish a novel or work full-time as a writer — whatever your goals are, I’m just guessing — that you struggle more and more just to get into a mental state barely suitable for writing.

There are people who just stop trying. They’ll make other excuses, blaming their lack of time, their kids, their schoolwork, their demanding day job. But beneath the surface lies the truth they don’t want to speak aloud: That writing got hard and they gave up.

The good news is that you can always come back from giving up where writing is concerned. That’s because writing is a part of you. You can’t just throw it away or sell it or give it away. It’s not a guitar you finally dragged over to a resale shop after watching it sit in the back of your closet collecting dust for eight years. Creativity is quite literally in your bood, pumping through your veins. To get rid of it would mean, well, destroying a vital part of yourself.

Maybe today you need to hear that all your struggles and worries and fears are normal, and that they’re rites of passage that will allow you to progress through more trials and become the master writer you’ve always wanted to be.

I needed to hear it this morning, so I figured you might too. We’re all the same, you know. Just because I give free writing advice doesn’t mean I’m immune to creative hardship.

All the long nights, the rejections, the temptation to quit — it’s all part of your growth. You learn something new every single time you fail, even if it’s not obvious. You also learn something new every time you seriously consider giving up on your creative dreams: What it takes not to give up.

The reason writing is a challenge isn’t usually the writing itself. It’s getting to a place where you believe writing is possible, and staying there, and returning to it whenever you begin to wander.

The difference between wannabe writers and successful creatives is that writers who “make it” do so because they write through their doubt. They create through their fear. They recognize that worrying about their future success is a part of the journey, and they use that worry to fuel their productivity. They work harder, and smarter, because they don’t want to fail. They don’t give up because they’re afraid of failing.

You’re going to make it.

As long as you keep writing through all the bad feelings, you’re going to be just fine.

Believe it or not, you’re much stronger than you think you are. Your doubt and discouragement want you to believe you aren’t. But they’re wrong. And you can prove they’re wrong by writing.

That’s how powerful creativity is. When you turn it into something amazing and show it off to everyone who said you couldn’t do it — including your past self — it changes everything. It makes you believe in yourself again.

You’re going to make it. Even if no one else believes in you, I still do.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.