Four Ways to Fail as a Writer



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ImageDuring the time in my attempt at being a freelance writer, I have come across lots of good and bad advice. The bad advice boils down to four ways you can fail as a writer. The good advice I’ll let you discover on your own.

1.      Listen to everyone else but never listen to yourself. Anyone can tell you what they think you should be writing. You are the only one who knows what you like to write or are good at writing. Listen to other people, but also align it with what you hear from yourself. Always take your own counsel along with others. Thinking that anyone else who offers opinion and advice has been there and is a success is a certain path to a dead end. While there are writers who have succeeded and are worth listening to, there are a great number more people who have only an “idea”, or a “system”, or a “method” of what it takes to be a writer without ever succeeding as a writer at all. Along the same line are those who have specialized in something such as books and magazines and think there is no other way to write.

2.      Thinking that writing isn’t an art requiring practice. All creative work requires practice to maintain the creative ability. Carpenters must build, painters must paint, and writers must write – constantly and consistently or they get rusty. The hands hurt, the mind forgets, and the excuses around doing it increase each day. One day becomes two, then four, then two weeks and suddenly you haven’t written for months. Now when you go to write the inspiration and will to write is hard to locate. Similar to the old saying “a body at rest tends to stay at rest”, a mind allowed to rest tends to get lazy too.

3.      Never bother knowing what’s out there outside your own space. No one knows everything. There is always something new you can learn about something from someone or somewhere else. Reading is one of the best methods to learn style, grammar (both good and bad), citation methods and what is hot or not at the moment. Talking to people about their lives provides insight on thoughts and ideas of others. You also get a glimpse of problems and potential solutions – problem solving always sells if you find enough people with similar problems. New and fresh perspectives are always found daily if you bother to look for them. New perspectives allow a fresh approach to writing, which in turn keeps it from becoming, stale and boring.

4.      Thinking that all you need to do is write to be successful. Freelance writing is as much about marketing yourself as it is about creating the product. Unfortunately many writers fail to see their work as a product that must be sold. Thinking that all you need do is write and it will sell itself is folly, a fantasy. No one is going to come along and tell you your work is so great they’ll pour hours into marketing it for you with no help from you. Another part of this is that if you aren’t excited about writing enough to tell people about your latest work – why are you writing? Even copywriters tell people about their latest client or project.

This list honestly comes from a few years of being given “advice” by those around me who thought they knew the subject they were speaking of. That includes fellow writers unfortunately – so no one is immune.

“Take what you will, and leave the rest” – it’s a saying from another aspect of my life. It holds true in any part of any persons life, writer or not. Take what you find useful, but understand how to determine garbage and be willing to leave that behind.