You’ve written some stories, maybe even published a book or two. You dream of being a successful author. But how much do you want it? What does it take to be a writer?
A while back, I got a lecture from my mentor. He suggested I watch a couple episodes of The Voice, paying special attention to what it could teach me about my career as a writer. I got a surprising amount of inspiration from a single episode of the show and I wrote an article about my observations, but I didn’t address the main reason he asked me to watch the show.
I’m doing that now.
The performers on The Voice didn’t wake up one day, decide to be singers, and instantly show up on the program. Each one put in years of hard work and preparation. I wrote down this quote from one of them:
“These coaches represent incredible talent, hard work, everything I aspire to. I’ve put in 10,000 hours of work, singing and performing, preparing for this opportunity.”
Success in any avenue doesn’t come served up on a silver platter. It has a cost attached, and understanding what that cost is makes it easier to keep on paying when the going gets tough.
What it Takes to Be a Writer
In one of the episodes I watched, a woman came on the show after canceling eight years previous. She’d worked and prepared for the opportunity but just before the time came, she found out her son had leukemia and he became her first priority.
She postponed her dream so she could devote herself to her son during that time, and he recovered. Eight years later, after more hard work and preparation, she was back. All four chairs turned when she sang, and it was a glorious moment. She paid the price to get there.
The lesson my mentor wanted me to learn from the show is about what artists are willing to do to achieve their dream. The price is figured a bit differently for each of us, but there are some common costs you can expect to encounter on your writer’s road.
4 Things it Takes to Be a Writer
What challenges will you face? What price will you need to pay in the pursuit of your craft and career? Here are four things it takes to be a writer.
1. The price of resilience
You need to be willing to get up after each rejection—and there will be a lot. Accept that as part of the cost and move on. Every artist who’s reached success passed down the path of rejection to get there, so don’t let it stop you. In fact, you can get value out of rejection by using it to guide you in improving future efforts.
2. The price of practice
You need to have a driving desire to continue learning and honing your craft, as well as educating yourself about the business side of being an author. This can be expensive in terms of time, money, and sheer hard work. But it’s an essential price you have to be willing to pay.
3. The price of priority
You have to be willing to put writing first or at least very high on your priority list. It needs to be what you want to do all the time. You need to need to tell stories.
If you don’t feel that primal need, there’s nothing wrong with just enjoying writing as a pastime. To succeed as a professional writer, though, you must be driven to write, and the mass of that driving force should be because you find it fun and fulfilling.
4. The price of passion
As much as you try to spare them, your family will partially pay for your obsession along with you. You will necessarily have to make sacrifices that will affect them.
Make sure you celebrate your successes with them and communicate your desires clearly. Train them to help you keep your goals, and someday you will all enjoy the fruits of your labors. They’re a crucial part of the team that will support you as you pursue your writing, so it’s worth it to get them on board!
Set your mind for success
Paying the price means having a working writer’s mindset, knowing what the costs are and being willing to shell out. If you’re mentally prepared when these various bills come due, you’ll be able and ready to pay and closer to reaping the rewards.
Don’t expect to find short cuts or a fast, easy ride. Commit to the long haul and enjoy the journey. Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn likes to gauge her progress in terms of Olympiads—four year periods. If you move forward, consistently paying the price, when you look back over the last four years, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve achieved.
And looking forward over the next four years will be an exciting and motivating prospect.
What challenges have you faced on your way to becoming a writer, and how have you overcome them? Tell us about it in the comments.
Today’s practice is a writing prompt. A student is in a class she’s passionate about, but her teacher gives her harsh feedback. How does she respond? Does she give up, or does she keep going, determined to prove the teacher wrong?