What does it take, to be a writer?
Or, the more pressing question: how much work is required?
How many hours do you have to put in every day to make it happen?
What happens if you don’t work hard enough?
On the surface, these questions comes off extremely lazy. So, you mean, I have to actually put in effort if I want to build a career? It’s … a challenge?
It’s not that simple, though. Some people work very hard and don’t ever “make it.” Some people seem to be able to make money writing not working very hard at all, at least from the outside looking in.
That’s why writing, as a profession, is so complicated. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition of “doing everything right.” You could spend five hours a day writing for 10 years and nothing could come of it. You could write one blog post a week and grow to millions of monthly page views in a matter of years.
So is luck part of the equation? Maybe.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any work at all. So how do you know you’re doing enough? How do you stop yourself from working too much?
My best advice for you is this: pick one thing.
Decide to start a blog or start writing a book or choose English or journalism as your major. Pick one thing you are going to focus on for a set amount of time — a year, maybe more. Put all the time and energy you can into that one thing. Learn to balance that one thing with all your other responsibilities — friends; family; work; health. See where that one thing takes you.
And while you’re working on that one thing, learn. Learn how you work. Figure out your ideal writing schedule. Discover what inspires and motivates you. Understand your greatest barriers and master how to overcome them.
It’s during this time you will figure out how hard you personally need to work in order to get things done. Some people can crank out worthwhile blog posts in 30 minutes. For others, it takes hours. You don’t know that until you spend many, many hours figuring all that out.
Only then can you take on another kind of writing project. And another. And another.
When you know how to balance it all, when you know your working style backwards and forwards, that is when you become eligible, as they say, to begin your journey toward succeeding as a writer. Whatever the heck that means for you.
What does it take, to be a writer? How hard do you have to work to make all your dreams come true?
I don’t have the answer to that question, because I am not you. I don’t know how your brain processes information. I don’t know what times of day you’re most productive, what your greatest writing struggles are, where you want to end up or how long you’re going to give yourself to get there. But you do. Or you can, if you take the time to figure it all out for yourself.
There is no magic formula that will tell you how many articles you need to write, how late you need to stay up, who is going to be the most responsive to your posts. It’s trial and error for every single one of us. As long as you’re aware of that, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to learn how this is all going to play out for you, trust me: you’re going to be just fine. How hard you have to work won’t be a chore or a disappointment. It will just make sense.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.