Why You Still Struggle To Be A Writer (And Why You’ll Eventually Succeed)
Why You Still Struggle To Be A Writer (And Why You’ll Eventually Succeed)
By Neal Martin/ September 13, 2014
Last Updated April 27, 2023
If you struggle being a writer, if you still struggle to make a living from your writing, the chances are you’ve been struggling on and off for a while now, probably for years.
You may feel like you are not getting anywhere. It might seem to you like you will never make it as a writer.
If this is you, don’t despair. I’m here to tell you that you will make it.
First though, you have to understand something about the process of becoming a writer.
Once you understand this thing I’m about to tell you, thoughts of never making it as a writer shouldn’t seem as scary or despairing anymore.
You may not like what I’m about to say, but trust me, you’ll be glad I did by the time you finish reading this post.
Here it is: If you haven’t yet made it as a writer, then you aren’t ready to be a writer yet.
Why would I say such a thing, I hear you ask? It’s not exactly the most motivational statement to come out with is it?
It sounds like something some martial arts master would say to a student who comes along seeking training. “Come back when you are ready.”
Despite the somewhat clichéd nature of what I’m telling you, there is still truth in it, as painful as that truth may be.
How do I know this?
It’s a truth that I realized myself, soon after I broke through to making a living as a writer. Hindsight, as they say, is a great thing.
I’m willing to bet that every successful writer on the planet would say the same—that they didn’t find success as a writer until they were ready.
But what the hell does that mean? When exactly are you ready to find success, not just in writing, but in anything?
Well that’s the thing. No one knows until it happens. Then they can say in hindsight that they were ready for success.
Before that however, before success comes a knocking in whatever form, no one bloody knows if they are ready or not.
The only way to insure that you will be ready for success at some point is to keep trying to make yourself ready for it.
Until then, you won’t know how long that will take.
Two Examples From My Own Life
At age seven I took up martial arts, which I still teach and train in today. About ten years ago I decided I wanted to be a self defense instructor. More than that, I wanted to be an authority in the field.
I went about this by training a lot obviously, and also getting experience as a teacher. I also wrote magazine articles that got rejected since no one knew who the hell I was and what I was saying in those articles wasn’t really worth printing.
My lack of progress used to piss me off. I would look around at other well known martial arts instructors and think that I was better than them, but yet they were more successful than I was. Needless to say, such an attitude never got me very far.
I kept at it though. Eventually I started a blog on self defense that did quite well. I made instructional videos and put them up on YouTube. I did a lot of training courses under other instructors and eventually my name began to get known.
Before I knew it, I had my own martial arts studio, a good online presence and a reputation as a credible instructor.
I made it. I found success as a martial artist after ten years of trying.
As far as wanting to be a writer went, that took a lot longer. I’ve been writing since my early teens. To cut a long story short, I spent twenty years wanting to be a writer while doing very little writing.
It was only a few years ago that I was able to knuckle down and write for long enough to make any headway.
Now I’ve published books and have become a successful writer, or at least one who earns a living from what they do.
Make Yourself Worthy Of Success
The point of those examples is to show you that success doesn’t come to you until you are ready, no matter how much you want it.
No matter how badly I wanted to be a writer, it took twenty years for the stars to align and for that to happen.
It didn’t happen until I had practiced enough and gained enough experience in writing first. It also didn’t happen until I became the type of person who was deserving of that success.
Success will not happen if you don’t deserve it, or if you don’t do anything to make it happen.
You’d think that much would be obvious, but it isn’t for a lot of people. It wasn’t for me. I wanted success without having to put in any of the hard work that would make me worthy of it.
You have to worthy of success.
In terms of writing, what does that mean? How does a writer become worthy of success?
First and foremost a writer must write. That’s easier said than done of course. If it was that easy to sit down and write every day I would have found success a long time ago, but I didn’t, simply because I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write enough.
If you cannot motivate yourself enough to sit down and write just yet, if things keep getting in the way, then that’s a sign that you aren’t ready to be a writer yet.
If all you can do is think about writing, if all you can do is want to write, but yet you don’t do much of any writing, then it isn’t your time yet.
I spent over twenty years trying to write. I spent all that time thinking about writing and not taking much action on those thoughts because I couldn’t bring myself to sit down for any sustained period of time and write, certainly not long enough to produce anything of worth.
Writing The Crap Out First
Most writers have to write a great deal of crap before they write anything good, which means that in order to expel the crap you have to actually sit down and write the crap out of you.
If you write in fits and starts, with long periods in between writing, that process of writing out the crap is going to take a long time.
It’s also hard when every time you sit down to write you write crap. That can make you want to give up writing. At the very least it makes people walk away from writing for long periods, sometimes years, before the urge to write becomes strong enough again to force them back into the chair.
That’s been my experience of writing over the years.
If you are still stuck in that process of writing out the crap, there are things you can do to quicken it, although whatever you do, it won’t be easy.
You shouldn’t expect it to be easy anyway. You are learning a complicated craft and discipline here. That takes time and a shitload of effort.
Here’s two things you can do to help you quicken the crap expelling process and move you closer towards success:
1. Recognize the nature of the process you are engaging in. This is massive. If, when you sit down to write, you tell yourself that it’s okay to write crap, that you most likely will write crap, you take the pressure of yourself to write anything worthwhile.
I reckon if I’d thought like that over the years when I was writing, I would have gotten past the crap expelling stage a lot quicker. As it was I always allowed myself to become dejected by the stuff I was writing because I expected it to be good, and when it wasn’t, that got to me and made me not want to write anymore.
Try to develop a tolerance for your own crap. Be like a pig in shit. If you can do that, if you can write badly and not care that you are writing badly and still keep going, eventually you will make it through the brown fields of shit to the green grass on the other side.
You must believe that you will make it to the green fields beyond, and you will if you just keep writing.
2. For those times when you simply can’t bring yourself to carry on, try to be okay with that. The fact that you want to write at all means that you have some sort of compulsion to do it. Eventually you will get back to writing.
In that sense, being a writer is like meditation. When you meditate your focus will often get broken by random distractions in the form of thoughts or even distractions from outside like noise and other people. Rather than chastise yourself for your lack of focus, in meditation you simply bring your focus back around, but gently.
Every time you loose focus, you gently bring it back again. With practice, the periods of focus get longer and longer until you are able to sustain that focus for lengthy periods of time.
It’s the same with writing. When you loose focus and quit writing, gently bring yourself back around again until you begin writing once more.
You must also learn to accept that you are not at the stage yet where you can take writing seriously. If you were, you’d be writing, simple as that.
But if you keep bringing yourself back to writing again after you loose focus, eventually you will be able to sustain your efforts for longer and longer periods.
The more you do this, the longer your periods of productivity will become.
Start A Blog And Cultivate Writing Discipline
Something else you can do is to start a blog. This is what I did. Blogging was my first inroad towards serious writing. It taught me the discipline of writing and helped me get more of the crap out of my system.
Your blog doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can just be a personal blog where you write about yourself, it doesn’t have to deal with any particular subject, although it would be better if it did. If you have a particular expertise in something, write articles around that, for that will insure you have a good pool of material to draw from, which will keep you writing.
Another thing you can do is to self-publish the work that you finish. If you manage to finish a book or even a short story, publish it to Kindle, even if the book or story isn’t that good, even if it’s total crap, publish it anyway.
Self-publishing will help your motivation, especially if you happen to make a few sales along the way. It will also help you gain experience that you can draw from when you do start to publish good stuff.
Don’t Despair If You Aren’t Ready
Success takes time. No writer on the planet managed to find success without putting in at least a few years (more like ten) of serious and sustained effort.
Until you can bring yourself to sustain your efforts, you won’t be ready for any kind of success.
The best you can do is to keep telling yourself that you will get there eventually, and back this up by trying to write as much as you can.
Remember, it took me twenty years of going like this before I finally turned the corner and found success.
I’m not going to tell you to not give up because I know you won’t. I just wanted to write this article to let you know that it may take a while and you have to be okay with that.
We all progress at different rates.
Things happen when we are ready for them.
Keep coming back to writing and I guarantee you will find success at some point.
It’s just a question of when…
Does any of this ring true for you? Let us know in the comments section.
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