You’ve probably heard this story. It’s a common one. The one about how J.K. Rowling got like a million rejection letters for Harry Potter before a publisher finally accepted it.
That story makes me feel good about myself. I love reading about how now-popular writers used to be destitute. Maybe I’m just semi-sadistic.
I used to think to myself: If they did it, I can do it too.
Before everyone knew their name, they still had writer’s block and wrote embarrassing similes.
But now they’ve made it.
Now their similes are flawless.
They used to be where I am today. I can be successful (whatever that looks like), I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and one day a publisher will recognize my talent.
This is why you can’t have nice things
That mindset that will ruin your career. If you look at famous writers and think to yourself, “That can be me one day. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll eventually get noticed.”
You’re kidding yourself.
Those famous writers were nothing like you before they got famous. They are simply more disciplined and better than you are.
They are better because they wrote consistently, especially when they didn’t feel like it. Do you?
They are better because they didn’t ignore the naysayers. They used it as fuel to become better, and to prove them wrong. Do you?
They are better because they were okay with an imperfect story as they wrote – they just needed to get words on the page. Do you?
They are better because they said no to other social obligations, and made daily sacrifices so they could write. Do you?
I think the only ones still reading this post are the masochists. If I truly am semi-sadistic, then we will get along swimmingly.
Stephen King collected rejection letters like medals, adding them to a nail on the wall. He is quoted saying,
“By the time I was fourteen… the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”
King writes 2,000 words a day and reads 4-6 hours a day.
To be a successful writer you have to have thick skin and big balls. Sitting back and saying “one day I’ll get there” proves that you won’t get anywhere.
Only while sprinting towards your goal are you allowed to say, “One day I’ll get there.”
But you aren’t allowed to say that when you’re on your ass.
Why are you being so mean and abusive to me?
As writers, we as a whole have a reputation for not writing. I don’t know your daily schedule. I don’t pour your cereal – and I’d prefer not to because I’m grumpy in the morning and it would be an awkward, unpleasant experience for both of us…
But I do know that the people who are crazy enough to live like they already are a bestseller get further than people who constantly compare themselves with everyone around them.
Hate to break it to you, but the bestsellers didn’t get famous overnight even though that’s how it looks from the outside. Thousands of hours of hard work got them their break.
So to live like a bestseller means adopting their hard work ethic and writing habits that eventually got them fame.
Now that I’m sad and depressed, tell me what to do because I have no direction
Drop the victim attitude.
That’s more like it.
If you want to be a less sucky writer, here are a few things that have helped me be less terrible. (It’s all about perspective. If for some strange reason you think you’re a good writer, then that just means you need to read more.)
- Read a wide variety of genres. And read a lot.
- Be disciplined to write. And if it’s hard for you, then suck it up and cut out all distractions so you can’t do anything else aside from writing. Yeah, the tough love just came out.
- Be disciplined to learn the craft of writing. Go to seminars, workshops, and read books on writing.
Wait, 3 points? I already knew those! Tell me something I don’t know
First, that was a little rude.
Second, I didn’t include those points to educate you. I included them to tell you what to freaking do.
Now is the time to start sprinting relentlessly towards your goal while wheezing under your breath, “One day I’ll get there.”
As Nike says, just do it.
Question of the day: What habits have you developed to help you become a better writer?