“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

Four Ways To Fail as a Writer (And One Way to Succeed)

This is where I admit I am a fool and I tell you that I wrote my story at midnight the night before my column on The Write Practice was due.

Four Ways to Fail as a Writer (And One Way to Succeed)

I have been sitting at my desk for the past thirteen days trying to write something to help you with your writing.

I took time away from my desk to sleep, eat, go to the store to buy socks and underwear, clean seven litter boxes and feed four cats and two dogs. My husband fed the children.

If you want to set up your writing for failure, I know how.

Four Ways To Fail as a Writer

1. Buy books about writing and never read them. The purchase of the books will help you feel like you did something towards your goal of being a writer.

2. When you sit down at your computer leave all of your social media tabs open. When you start writing your first sentence, and you can’t decide if you should write in the first person or the third person, jump over to Facebook or twitter and check out what your friends are doing. You will feel productive but you won’t have written anything.

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3. Write your story the night before it is due. Don’t give yourself enough time to edit your story. If your story is not well received you can blame it on your lack of time to prepare. If you took several weeks to write and edit a story and it still wasn’t well received, you might feel like you are a bad writer. It is better to fail and blame it on your lack of preparation than to fail when you have worked hard on a story.

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4. And the most effective way to set up your writing for failure is to not write.  All the words in your head, the characters waiting to be created, the lessons to be shared, the battles won, all will be lost if you don’t write.

And may I please share the best way to win at writing? When winning means getting words down on a page, and not a trophy?

One Way To Succeed at Writing

1. To succeed at writing you have to write.

I know I could have written more than one way to succeed at writing. All I had to do was write the opposite of the four ways to set your writing up for failure: Read books on writing, close your social media tabs when you write, write your stories weeks before they are due, and write.

But out of all of the four ways to succeed at writing, only the last reason really matters.

Becoming Writer Develops a Writing Community

Becoming Writer is a great way to get better at writing.

Becoming Writer is a premium writing community created by The Write Practice. You have to write one, weekly writing piece. It can be anything from a short story to a blog post to a poem to the chapter in a book. You have a deadline. Share your writing, and read what others have written. You will develop as a writer and an editor.

Joe Bunting, the creator of Becoming Writer said, “This community will become what the Inklings were for J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, what the expats in Paris were for Hemingway, what the Bloomsbury group was for Woolf.”

Becoming Writer is currently closed to new members, but you can sign up for the waiting list here.

What other ways can you set up your writing for failure? And what do you think is the most important way to succeed at writing? Let us know in the comments section.

PRACTICE

Practice writing for fifteen minutes about when you didn’t wash clothes for two weeks because you were sitting at your desk avoiding writing by reading Facebook and twitter. No wait. That was my story. Let me try again.

Practice writing on your work in progress; a short story, a blog post, a poem or a chapter in a book. Please share what you have written in the comments and leave feedback on someone else’s writing.

All my best,
xo
Pamela

p.s. I will start writing my next article today, but first I have to do my laundry. ​

About Pamela Hodges

Pamela Hodges is a writer and an artist who lives in Pennsylvania with one husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, and seven litter boxes. If you would like to read more of Pamela's writing, check out her blog, where she writes about art, creativity, and reflections on life with cat barf. She would love to meet you at ipaintiwrite.com.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Aww..Pamela! #HUGSSS

    So what if you penned an article the night before it was due? It still bursts with a lot of love and laughter <3

    love ya
    Kitto

  • Gary G Little

    Ohmagosh, the joys of college and the magic of the all-nighter. I did the research for weeks before the paper was due; scirbbled it, corrected it, crumpled it, tossed it, re-wrote it. But … it seems I could NEVER do the final draft until the night before. Then it was take the typewriter down to the basement of the dorm, yes typewriter, one of those ancient behemoths that go BANG BANG BANG BANG every time a key strikes the platen, until your roommate tosses you and your typewriter out the window. You quickly learned to pay a bit more and buy vellum, for us poor typist, because you can erase the same word hundreds of times and not rub away the paper. And then, final draft in hand, you sit in the class the next morning, groggy, bleary eyed, and oh crap find one “is” reversed for “si” and then another, and then “it’s” not “its”, and then “their” not “there”. By the time you turn it in, it’s already bled to death, and you haven’t even begun to ponder the logic or your bibliography.

    • Hello Gary,
      Maybe it would have been easier to finish your assignment if you did yoga while writing the paper?
      I seem to never do the final draft until the night before either. Thankfully we don’t have to use a loud typewriter anymore. And it is easier to fix its to it’s.
      What project are you working on now? I am editing my cats autobiography.
      xo
      Pamela

      • Gary G Little

        Ah ha, another intelligent gluteus maximus! 🙂 At twenty, I had a better chance of folding into the Lotus.

        Currently, I’m in the think mode for the next installment of the Edinburgh. That is probably going to be a collection of short stories with some kind of gluten-free paste to hold everything together.

    • I can’t say I’ve had this experience as always finished papers early. (ducking) But this conjures great images and is a lovely piece of writing.

      • Cynthia, meeting deadlines early is a valuable skill. It gives you time to edit and correct there and their and its and it’s. And, you can have clean socks and underwear and a good nights sleep as well.
        I am happy you enjoyed the writing.
        xo
        Pamela

  • Randy Rebecca Krusee

    Nice job!

    • Thank you Randy Rebecca,
      I would love for you to share your writing Rebecca. We use to be neighbors and now we are writing friends.
      xo
      Pamela

      • Randy Rebecca Krusee

        Fun! Sure, I’d love to. Also, I love for you to guest blog! I’ll PM you on FB.

        • Hi Rebecca,
          I meant sharing your writing in the comments on The Write Practice.
          It is a nice community here. There are different writers who write for The Write Practice. And they give writing prompts. And then you read someone else’s writing and comment on what they have written.

          • Randy Rebecca Krusee

            Ah, I see! Thanks for the invite. You are still welcome to guest blog on my site anytime. 😉

  • Loved this post, Pamela. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the same position–having to write something the night before! Gary is right. It is a lot like college, though I hadn’t made that connection until he did.

    • Hello Carrie Lynn Lewis,
      Thank you for your kind remark. Do you rearrange the furniture and repaint your whole house instead of writing?
      What do you write when you are writing?
      xo
      Pamela

      • No need to re-arrange furniture or paint the house. I have more than enough other things to do.

        Two blogs to maintain (one with a partner)
        Students (colored pencil & oil painting)
        5 orphan kittens (5 weeks old)
        1 recovering older cat (10 months old)
        1 diabetic older cat

        Let me see….

        Freelance writing for an art blog
        A nonfiction book or two….

        I guess you probably get the idea.

        When I am writing fiction, I usually write mysteries/cozies, sometimes the odd political thriller or two, and some general fiction.

        • Carrie Lynn Lewis,
          Oh my, you do have your hands full. If I lived closer I would come and help you with the baby kittens.
          May I ask what art blog you write for? I love reading about art. And you teach art as well? A writer and an artist.
          So nice to meet you.
          xo
          Pamela

          • Pamela,

            I write for my own art blog (www.carrie-lewis.com) and freelance for EmptyEasel (www.emptyeasel.com). I teach colored pencil methods and oil painting methods through online courses.

            I’d accept the help with the kittens. They’re getting to be a handful.

            We lost an 11-week old kitten today. It was born with something called flat chested kitten syndrome. We didn’t know about it until a week or so ago and didn’t know what to do about until just a few days ago. By then, it was too late for effective action.

          • Oh Carrie Lynn,
            I am so sorry to hear about the death of the 11 week old kitten. That is so sad.
            Thank you for sharing where you write about art. I will check out the blogs.
            xo
            Pamela

          • Thank. Little CP had become like part of the family in a very short time. It’s a tough loss, but what we’ve learned will help us with others.

            Thanks for reading the art blogs. Let me know if I can help you in anyway.

  • Humor and the hard truth. I am in complete compliance with this post.

    • Thank you Vincent Harding.
      I hope you have a productive day and get all your laundry done.
      xo
      Pamela

  • Pam, you covered it well. There is a fifth path to failure that I see new writers fall into all time. Talking about what you are writing and what you are going to write. This is deadly. It is like letting the air out of the balloon.

    My success tip is the same as yours only I would add that sitting in front of the computer thinking about your project does help. Here is a meme I made for a Catherine Coulter quote.

    • Hello Cynthia,
      Oh, the fifth path is so true. I love the analogy to letting air out of a balloon. I often talk about what I am doing and then I don’t finish the project.
      So, I won’t tell you what I am working on now for the past two years that I can’t seem to finish. It is a delated balloon. Sigh, I will finish it. I just need to blow it back up.
      Thank you for the meme.
      xo
      Pamela

    • Some writing blogs encourage talking about your WIP calling it Marketing! What do you say about building your followers, your audience of buyers and readers, early in the process? My niche is children’s lit and I need to interest parents, teachers and librarians ahead of my publishing.

  • I seriously thought I was the only one who waited until the night before to write something! However, I’ve found that sometimes my best work is the last minute stuff. I absolutely love the line: “If you don’t write, there are no words to read” Beautiful! It sums up everything.
    As much as procrastinating is not good, I don’t think forcing yourself is, either. I’ve found that if you’re at a point where you have to force yourself to write, it won’t turn out good, and you’ll just end up rewriting it when you feel like it. It’s a touchy thing, really. You just have to run it over in your head until you get that ‘aha’ moment that sends you flying over to the computer.
    “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men”,
    Reagan
    http://www.fiction4hisglory.com

    • Hello Reagan,
      If I didn’t force myself to eat, I wouldn’t often eat. I forget. Writing is the same.
      I need to put sit down to write more often. You can’t write if you don’t write. Sometimes I take a break, like a walk with the dog, and then the story will work itself out in my head.
      I understand what you mean about not forcing writing. A balanced approach is always good.
      xo
      Pamela

      • Exactly! That’s what I was trying to say, it just didn’t come out that way. Thanks, Pamela.

        • Reagan,
          Your comment was very clear. I just wanted to put in the walking dog part. So dog lovers wouldn’t think I only like cats.
          I hope you had a fun day.
          xo
          Pamela

  • LilianGardner

    I started writing a novel about a married couple who decided to immigrate from the Middle East to the U.S. with their two teenage boys. It proved to be a tremendous psychological struggle which caused them years of hardship, solitude, and the feeling of not belonging.

    I’m half way through their story, but find it difficult to progress because I’m unsure what to tell and what to leave out. Guess I’ll sort it out bye-and-bye.
    Motivation is important to writing and wanting to finish the ms. Deadlines are perhaps a factor to get a story done.
    I really appreciate your post, Pamela. The first part sounds just like me.

    • Hello Lillian,
      I would love to meet your characters. The personal element is what makes the story interesting. The more I care for your characters, the more I will want them to succeed, because they will be real to me. Fictional characters can become like a real friend. One you want to meet.
      I hope you have a great day. Do you ever give yourself little deadlines? Like so many words a day? I have to create deadlines because the year is slipping away from me.
      xo
      Pamela

      • LilianGardner

        Thanks for replying, Pamela.
        (We have something in common; we love cats.)
        I love deadlines and I love challenges. I try promising myself to write at least 500 words a day, but it doesn’t always work.
        One of my weaknesses is starting too many stories and leaving them halfway. I detest this and make up my mind to finish one of the manuscripts, and guess what? Sometimes I do.

        • Hello Lillian,
          A fellow cat lover. I am delighted to meet you.
          Oh, that is my weakness too. This year I am convinced I will finish the half finished projects that litter my mind.
          That is great you have the goal of writing 500 words a day. I must do that as well. It is so hard to finish anything if I only think about it.
          All my best,
          xo
          Pamela
          p.s. do you live with a cat?

          • LilianGardner

            Hi Pamela,
            We have a cat, a tabby with a dark-grey and white mantel. She’s clever, clean and affectionate. We can’t live with out a cat, it seems. My husband and I believe that a home has a good atmosphere with a cat as an ‘inmate’. Am I making our cat too human? Her name’s MInnie.
            I confess I don’t always get 500 word done every day.
            Warm wishes,
            Lilian

          • Hello Lillian,
            Hello to Minnie from me and Charlie, Nepeta, JR and Harper. We have four cats. A cat who use to manage our home, Pooh Hodges, was a writer here on The Write Practice. He died on April 1st of this year.
            I don’t think you can ever make a cat “too” human. Pooh had his own blog. http://www.thecatwhowrites.com. He dictated and I typed.
            Warm wishes to you and your family.
            xo
            Pamela

          • LilianGardner

            Pamela, I remember your beloved Pooh and shared your loss at his passing, although I did not tell you at the time.
            I am shattered when my cats stray and don’t return home, or when they die.
            The best therapy is to get another cat. They are adorable creatures. I love their independant characters.
            I will access Phoo’s blog.

  • Hi Pamela, This is my first visit to your blog. I enjoyed reading the post. The points you made are so true. I am assuming these are your drawings; like them too.

    • Hello Monna,
      Thank you for visiting today and for taking the time to comment. I write here every other Tuesday. My next post I am writing this week so I don’t have to go and buy new clothes. I will have time to do my laundry.
      What do you like to write?
      xo
      Pamela

    • p.s.
      Yes Monna these are my drawings. I am happy you like them.
      xo
      Pamela

  • Helene Thomas

    You certainly hit the nail on the head when you wrote how to
    be a failure. Writing I have no problem with, it’s that darn editing, editing and
    more editing…

    • Hello Helene,
      Oh, the editing, and editing and editing. I agree.
      Hope you are well,
      xo
      Pamela

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  • marimed

    I have a story in my head that I want to write down someday, it’s about friendship and sacrifice, I kind of have all the characters in my mind and the events and everything but I just can’t seem write it. I enjoyed your post a lot, it’s like you were describing me.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  • Heidi Staseson

    Pam, thanks for inspiring me to get down to it. Here’s the link to what I wrote for my “practice” today. The 15 minutes I allotted took an hour but still feels good to have done it. Esp, since just I’ve been that person who bought the book on writing to feel better about myself rather than actively applied the learning. 🙂 Happy Sunday!
    http://heidistaseson.com/2015/07/19/mounting-my-television-and-purging-my-mathbooks/