Think you want to be a writer? Think again. For every good writer out there, there are ten thousand more who think they can write. In all reality, those people struggle mightily to string together a coherent sentence.
You’ve heard that becoming a writer is glamorous. You’re looking forward to spending the day in your pajamas. You think to yourself, “I’m going to be different. I’m going to be the writer who breaks the mold. The next Grisham. The next King.”
I hate to break it to you, but that’s probably just not true. You may be able to formulate a sentence or two. You may be able to write in the most academic sense. But you’re not likely to become the Next Great Thing.
Whether you write fiction or content, there are signs you should look out for. Signs that writing just ain’t your thing. If any of these apply to you, it may be best to rethink your career choice.
1. You need a steady paycheck.
Writers don’t get a paycheck. This is particularly true for fiction writers. You can spend an entire year penning what you think is the greatest gift to literature in all of history, only to find out that editors think it’s crap.
Self-publishing? Fine. Good luck with that. Here’s a fun fact for you. As recently as 2015, there were over 727,000 self-published ISBNs registered. That includes both physical and digital books. How many of those have you heard of?
If you think you’re going to quit your job and start an income-generating blog, you should think a little more carefully about that, too. Do you realize that there are four million mommy bloggers out there? And that’s just the moms – the women who think their kids are way too cool for school. That they have something special to share with the world because their little Janie and Jimmy are more special than your kids. How many of those mommy bloggers, do you think, are sitting at home sipping chardonnay? How many do you think actually have to go out and get a job?
If you’ve got financial responsibilities – in other words, virtually everyone on the planet – think twice about becoming a writer. Your paycheck is in your hands, and you’re literally one of millions competing for the cash.
2. You’re a bad writer.
There, I’ve said it. As both a full time freelance writer and an occasional hiring client, I’ve come to realize that there are people out there who are trying to pass themselves off as writers – but they just can’t write.
Broken English, thoughts that don’t flow, nonsensical phrasing and other catastrophes are more common than you’d think.
Before you decide you’re going to quit your job and become a writer, run your work by someone else. Ask your content-creating friend to give you a topic, then sit down and type out 1,000 words on the subject. Then, gather the opinion of a few dozen of your closest friends. They hate it? Maybe you shouldn’t be a writer. It’s time to consider another career path.
3. You don’t like writing.
There are days when writing is a chore to me. Ask my clients. They’ll tell you that there are some days when I’m a bear to be around. My mood flips to “I don’t want to” mode, and my writing is crap as a result.
There are other days when I simply sit at my Mac and bang out over 10,000 words. Those are the good days.
One thing remains a constant, though. Every evening, as I close up shop for the day, I’m looking forward to the next.
That’s not to say that I’m formulating outlines in my head, or even that I’m thinking too deeply about work the following day. What I mean is that I enjoy the fact that, in order to support my family, all I have to do is research and write about some of the most amazing subjects on the planet.
If you don’t like writing, or if writing is a chore to you, you shouldn’t be a writer. Plain and simple. Instead, choose a career path that better suits your interests. Become a personal trainer. A consultant for the healthcare industry. Hell, be a dog walker.
If you hate to write, clearly you shouldn’t be a writer.
4. You don’t handle rejection well.
You’re going to get rejected. Then, you’ll rejected again. Oh. Yeah. Then you’ll get rejected again.
Someone, somewhere out there will probably like your work. But there are no guarantees. And your style of writing isn’t for everyone.
Unless you’re really lucky, you’re going to be faced with a whole lot of rejection before you find that one person who loves what you’ve written. And even then, that person will likely ask you to change things.
There’s little more humbling in this world than being a writer. Everyone thinks they can do it, but very few understand what it actually takes to succeed. Those who do understand (i.e. editors) will likely think that they can do far better than you.
Maybe they can. You’d better be well-prepared to handle both rejection and constructive criticism. In fact, you’d better be equipped to handle criticism as a whole. If you’re thin-skinned, you shouldn’t be a writer.
5. You don’t like to read.
I can’t stress enough that it’s nearly impossible to better yourself as a writer without consuming, voraciously, books of all kinds. No matter whether you’re a would-be novelist or a crafter of cover letters, reading is the simplest ticket to success.
Good writers read everything. They read cereal boxes, instruction manuals and self-help books. They’ve read the Quran and they’ve read the most recently self-published romance novel. All good writers read.
If you can’t stomach the thought of dredging through a novel, you shouldn’t be a writer. Reading will allow you to learn from the masters, and to learn from the mistakes of the poor writers.
If any of these apply to you, it’s possible you shouldn’t be a writer. Talent aside, there’s more to writing than staying in your pajamas all day. It’s a full-time commitment. And despite what the snake oil salesmen on the internet would have you to believe, it’s a slow process to success. Be sure you’re cut out for it before you begin your career.