Maybe You’re a Struggling Writer Because People Keep Telling You to Struggle

Does being a writer really suck THAT much?

There’s a difference between being realistic about your goals and sabotaging your own potential.

I’ve told readers of this blog a hundred times over that making a living as a writer, succeeding in this creativity-based business, is hard. I don’t sugar-coat it. I have shared my own triumphs and struggles as I have moved through various stages of building up a career in writing over the years. Never once have I told you, hopeful aspiring writer that you are, that you cannot do this.

However, I have also never held back the truth – that it takes a unique kind of willpower to get through the most difficult parts of this writing career building process. A combination of characteristics many of us have to learn to craft into personal habits over a span of years.

It occurred to me this morning that your goal of “becoming a writer” has likely met with one of three general responses as you’ve grown up – either those around you were overly encouraging (a sort of “you can do anything you put your mind to” philosophy), extremely discouraging (“not many writers actually end up writing full-time, and if they do, they never make much financially”), or responses have always been relatively neutral (“we won’t actually mention how unlikely this is for you, but go chase your dreams anyway”).

I have encountered writers both in the wakes of success and failure who have approached the topic of aspiring writers (I prefer to call them “creatives in the active pursuit of reasonable writing projects”) with a surprisingly negative attitude. Those who have succeeded really seem to want up-and-coming writers to know how much they had to struggle to get to where they are, and often point to luck as their catalyst for a best-seller or a shiny new award. Those who have failed seem to feel the need to warn fellow writers that pursuing a career in writing will always lead to disappointment … always.

(While that’s true – some disappointment is inevitable – it’s not all dark and twisty.)

I must confess that maybe I have made the mistake of taking on a grossly negative persona in the past, at least mildly. Because being realistic, while it might seem the appropriate thing to do, is often taken too far. So much so that we highlight only the dark side of realism, and ignore the bright spots. Without even realizing that’s what we’re doing, maybe.

It has always been my goal to do two things: approach writing with an honest, tough-lovey lens, and give you the starting tools to help you navigate your way through your path toward success. It’s not that this whole writing thing is impossible – it’s that many people will never follow through with their goals, at least they won’t if they’re not willing to actively pursue them. (How to do this is a big topic – if I’ve written about it before, here’s a link, and if I haven’t, I will very soon.)

But many people are wired to pay attention only to the negative viewpoints on things. That’s just how it is. It might be very hard for you to hear anything else besides, “Writing is hard and if you’re too lazy you’re never going to make it.” That may be true (honesty, remember?), but that doesn’t mean you are not capable of success. It just means you are going to have to work really hard. And many don’t want to hear that. Or maybe they just can’t.

Here’s what happens when you keep hearing how much of a struggle writing is. You start to approach every writing project already in the mindset that this is going to be a struggle – and that you have to struggle if you want to succeed.

I have good news: it’s not true. At least, not completely.

Because, yes – writing is a struggle in the sense that you have to put up with a lot of resistance before good things start happening. That’s what I, and maybe many other writing bloggers, mean when mentioning “the struggle.” But that does not mean every single minute of writing has to be painful. And it also doesn’t mean that if you’re writing something, and it feels good, you’re automatically doing something wrong.

As I’ve said before, your mind has a major influence on your perception of a task. So if you walk into your office before you even start writing, thinking about how unpleasant it’s going to be, guess what? It’s going to be unpleasant.

But if you walk into your office and think, “I’m going to write today, and no matter what, it’s going to work out in my favor,” then maybe today won’t be so bad.

Rejection doesn’t have to mean failure.

An unresponsive audience doesn’t have to mean you’re doing something wrong.

Poor sales doesn’t have to mean you didn’t do your best.

We’re just trained to think that way. Because we keep paying attention to the successes and failures of the writing world that keep telling us how much it sucks to be a writer.

It really doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe if we all stopped approaching this so negatively all the time – myself included – we’d stop struggling, and start accomplishing more things.

I’m going to try really hard to pay more attention to my “being a writer sucks” mentality this week, and I hope you’ll do the same. I’ll return with an update on my experience for you next week. (There will still be posts in-between, just about other, more positive things.)

Now stop whining, and get back to writing. ;)

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.

3 Ways You’re Making Writing Harder for Yourself

Could you be trying TOO hard?


Let’s be honest: writing is hard. But sometimes we take things a little too far, and make it 100 times harder.

If you’re struggling, it might be because you’re making this whole writing thing harder for yourself than it needs to be, and you might not even realize it.

You’re too worried about small details

Something that’s really difficult about writing in general is learning how to look at your piece as a whole and focus on small details at the same time. You know you want to write a feature article, for example. But you’re so focused on describing your subject’s outfit that you become overwhelmed with trimming and organizing your quotes and secondary source material. Or, you’re trying to write a novel, but you get too caught up in an extended metaphor, and your dialogue suffers.

Let the small things go, for now. There’s a time and a place for refining details, but sometimes you need to lay out the big picture before tying everything together. This goes along with the general rule that self-editing while you write is more like self-sabotage. You don’t have to get everything right the first time. You’re going to spell things wrong, and forget a character’s name, you might even get a fact wrong. Fix it later. Build up your foundation first.

You’re trying too hard to write a “good” story

For some reason, writing has the power to turn type Bs into obsessive perfectionists. You might start obsessing over doing things exactly right, or rewriting passages to make them “better.” The problem is, you can become so focused on writing something good that you never end up writing what you sat down to write in the first place.

Don’t worry quite so much about writing something “good.” While there may be plenty of elements that go into crafting a really great story, what’s most important is that you write something. Something you enjoy writing; something you are proud of. Sit down, write it and finish it. You can always go back and improve something that’s already written, but you can’t spend all your time trying to write something better when you don’t have a finished story to improve upon.

You’re too concerned about what’s “trending”

So you really want to finish writing your zombie apocalypse novel. It’s the best thing, in your opinion, you’ve ever written. Getting to work on it is the highlight of your day. But when you tell someone about what you’re working on, they matter-of-factly inform you that zombie apocalypse novels aren’t “the thing” anymore. What’s the point of writing something a publisher is never going to buy, just because the prime time for zombie apocalypse literature has long since come and gone?

The point of writing that thing is that it’s something you want to write – and something you ENJOY writing. Yes, if and when you break into writing as a business, what’s “in” and what’s not will become more important. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop yourself from writing something you want to write, or that you should write something just because you think it will be popular. Sometimes, writing what comes naturally to you is how you produce some of your best writing. It doesn’t always matter if it never gets published. Writing can, and should, still be genuinely enjoyable sometimes.

Don’t make things harder for yourself when they don’t need to be. Relax. Of course there are times to take your writing seriously and to push yourself a little, but don’t trip yourself up just because you’re too focused on things out of your control, or things you don’t need to worry about right now.

Some days, it’s okay to just write what comes to you – good or “bad;” well-written or messy – let that story out. Make room for plenty more ideas and stories to come. Don’t hold yourself back. You can do this.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-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.

My Biggest Fears As an Aspiring Writer


Being a writer has its ups and downs. This has been a down week for me. I’ve written a lot, though not as much as usual, but honestly, some days I just wrote to get it done and move on to something else.

It’s been a tough week all over the world, non-writing related, and I get emotional about this stuff, I really do. I REALLY CARE ABOUT PEOPLE!! I just want to take a second to say that. I am thinking about what has happened and, even if I haven’t written about it (yet), I do care, I am heartbroken and if you are in any way affected personally by the events of the past few days, I am thinking of you constantly.

Being in this kind of emotional state brings up a lot of things I’ve gotten pretty good at suppressing, mainly so I can get my work done and write what I need to write. A lot of it has to do with fear. I used to be afraid to show people what I wrote. I’m way past that now, obviously, but my writing-related fears have over time sort of morphed into insecurities, and to keep myself from stopping, I have to ignore them and write anyway, which is hard! Some days are much harder than others.

I wanted to share my biggest writing-related fears with you all today. Starting off the week on a high note, I guess. But in all seriousness, I want this to be a good thing. Fear stops a lot of us from doing what we want to do, and in being open and honest about what we’re afraid of, I think we can learn to overcome these fears, or at least make peace with them.

So before I invite you to share yours, here are mine.

What if my words don’t actually mean anything?

I write a lot, for both exposure and to refine my own skills. A lot of times I sit back after finishing an article or post and wonder if what I just spent 45 minutes writing even means anything. Am I really helping anyone with this advice? Would it even make a difference if I never hit publish?

I put as much effort as I can into everything I write, I really do, because I write for other people, to help other people any way I can. Sometimes I just don’t know if I’m always accomplishing that goal.

Will writing always just be a volunteer effort?

As I said above, I write a lot, but I don’t get paid for it. That’s not me complaining, either. Most publications that let you publish once a week don’t compensate you for it. They’re doing a favor by helping you get your name out there: exposure is your payment. I get that and I actually really appreciate it. But it just can’t be this way forever.

Many times I’m afraid that one day I’ll have to settle for a career that allows me to support myself and either keep writing as a volunteer side gig or put writing to the side forever. I don’t want to do that. I’m fairly new to this whole adulting thing, you know. I worry too much about a future I can’t see, but it’s one of my biggest fears as a writer, and I know I’m not the only one.

Am I just like every other writer out there?

Nobody wants to be anonymous. That’s why so many people blog and try to write for every publication that will let them. I love to write, I love sharing my words with my readers (greetings to all my newbies!) and as you’ll read in a second, I wouldn’t mind if I never became “successful.”

But I don’t want to fall into the trap of writing about something because everyone else is doing it. I don’t want this blog or my articles or the magazine I manage to be the exact same as everything else that’s already out there. I’m still learning how to be unique. I’m afraid I’m not, or that I never will be. Some days that makes it really hard to get a post up for all of you, but I do it. Every day.

But here’s what I’m not afraid of …

I’m not afraid of promoting my work. It’s out there for those who are interested, but if they’re not, or they don’t like it, that’s out of my control and I’m okay with that.

I’m not afraid of never being successful. I don’t ever expect to be and that’s not why I write. Of course I want my words to matter and I would love to be able to turn writing into a career, but so does everyone else. I’m probably never going to be a “big deal” and that is completely fine with me. I’m just going to keep on writing anyway.

I’m not afraid of being rejected. I’ve been given a “no” enough times to finally have come to terms with it just being a part of life no matter what you’re trying to do. It’s nothing personal. I’m not going to be a good fit for every job or every publisher or even every audience. No one is. The more I learn to brush it off and keep trying, the better off I am in all areas of my life, not just in my writing.

None of these fears have anything to do with me personally. I love what I do regardless of whether anyone reads it or likes it or shares it, I’m not in any of this for any of that. I’m just a small-town writer living in a big word-filled world and it’s terrifying and amazing all at the same time.

What do you fear? How do you keep writing, even when these fears try and stand in the way of making progress on your latest project? Are we just imagining these fears? Do they exist to motivate us to keep writing anyway?

Keep writing. Make this week count.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.