I don’t know who originally came up with this “writing advice” …
But it’s all true, and useful suggestions to help you on the path to becoming a better writer.
Because you have enough difficulties in life without growing miserable because of choices you are making in the realm of writing.
Let’s look at the list …
How to be a miserable writer in nine easy steps:
- Constantly compare yourself to other writers.
- Tell your friends/family what you do and expect them to cheer for you.
- Base your writing success on one project.
- Stick with writing what you know.
- Undervalue your writing expertise.
- Let money dictate what you write or how well you write it.
- Stick to writing projects your family would approve of.
- Set or accept unrealistic writing goals for yourself (to be done tomorrow).
- Quit doing what you love.
And let’s unpack this writing advice one by one.
1. Constantly compare yourself to other writers
Few writers, even good ones, are satisfied with their current skill level in writing.
The truly good writers – the creatives who are honing their task craft of writing and growing better at it – are usually less confident than the ones who may not be as good at writing …
… but who know how to get their work out there.
So, you might be a pretty good writer but find yourself comparing with writers who are more “successful” because they know how to market and advertise their work.
They know how to play the social media game when you’d really just rather focus on the craft of writing than having to jump in and:
- Do your own advertising
- Create a page on Facebook and update regularly
- Join a dozen writing groups
- Post a dozen times a day on Twitter
- Post half a dozen times a day on Instagram
- And don’t forget using all the right hashtags
You get the idea.
Rant about creatives having to also be marketers aside …
You might compare with other writers because you really aren’t that good of a writer yet.
It’s actually a good thing for you to recognize this!
This means you will choose to do something about it rather than assume you don’t have anything to learn.
Teachability is always a terrific trait in honing any kind of art or creative skill.
So, there are writers out there who are better than you.
Learn from them!
- Read their books – whether fiction or nonfiction or inspirational.
- If they have books about writing, read those.
- Keep writing every day to hone your craft.
And you will surely develop your voice become a better writer.
Who knows, maybe other writers will start comparing with you one day.
2. Tell your friends and family what you do and expect them to cheer for you
I used to say that my children were my biggest fans … and they probably still are, but they’re teenagers these days and they don’t always want to hear about my writing.
When I first started blogging, some of my siblings would share my posts …
I can’t remember the last time that happened.
They have their lives too.
You might have that one family member who faithfully likes and comments on your blog post or who wants to read every single manuscript draft that you come up with.
If that’s the case, awesome!
But in all honesty, those kinds of supporters will be few and far between.
Especially in the early days and months and years of becoming a writer (yes, the times you need the support the most) is when you’ll probably get the least support from family, friends, and maybe even spouse.
As much as you may be tempted to dwell on that and let it make you a miserable writer, don’t do it!
Just keep honing your craft and trying to become a better writer in every way you can.
If you don’t give up, there will likely be a time when your friends and family members begin to recognize your skill and gift as a writer.
Until then, don’t let their lack of interest discourage you from doing what you truly love to do.
3. Base your writing success on one project
At a writer’s conference that I attended several years ago, I heard the news that agents and acquisition editors won’t even take you seriously if you’re just going to be a one-book writer.
If they want to take a bet on you in the traditional publishing world, they want to know you’re going to be in it for the long haul.
It makes sense to have that mindset in regards to your writing overall.
The first thing you write is probably not going to be the best thing you write.
So, if that first novel feels like a flop, move on quickly to the next idea you have and start fleshing that out into a story.
Learn from any mistakes you made with your earlier writing project, and just keep moving forward.
4. Stick with writing what you know
One of the most common pieces of writing advice new writers will get is this:
Write what you know.
And it makes sense, especially at the beginning.
It doesn’t require as much skill to write what you know, giving you the chance as a newer writer to focus on other aspects of developing the craft of writing.
But at some point, writing what you know can get old and you might decide you want to venture out.
It can feel pretty miserable if you think that you can only ever write what you know as a writer.
So, write what you know …
but don’t be afraid to jump into research and experimenting with some new genre or style of writing.
5. Undervalue your writing expertise.
If there is one thing writers struggle with more than pretty much anything else, it is this:
Creativity is an art, not a science.
Because of this, it is hard to know when and if you have truly mastered the art.
Creative people and writers tend to err on the side of self-doubt for the most part. Even very successful writers often face the unwarranted (but very real) fear that their most recent writing project is the last thing they will ever write.
They fear that the elusive Muse will take off and return to whatever land it came from and they will never be inspired to write anything good ever again.
How much more, then, would an aspiring writer struggle with feelings of self-doubt or even the imposter syndrome.
There is no easy or quick solution for this, except just to be aware of it when those doubts come … about your writing skills and ability to write anything remotely cohesive and comprehensive.
Push through and just keep writing.
6. Let money dictate what you write or how well you write it
One of the best pieces of advice I got during the three-year MFA program I attended was this:
If you’re making a lot of money writing, you’re probably doing it wrong.
I know … it’s counterintuitive.
And there are a lot of different ways to look at this, but the point my professor/mentor had was this:
The best kind of writing doesn’t always get a lot of attention … or a lot of money.
He is a nonfiction creative essayist and his wife is a poet. Both of them spent their careers in teaching because their writing wasn’t enough to support them financially.
(Now this gets into a different topic altogether and one I’m not going to discuss right now, but the main point is that writing well is not always synonymous with writing for money.)
You might get attention and you might get paid for good writing, but you might not …
and it’s when you’re dealing with the “might not” that you have to decide whether you’re going to go with the latest writing craze or whether you’re going to write because you love it.
7. Stick to writing projects your family would approve of
I would argue that there is a balance to be found in this bit of writing advice.
While you don’t need to seek the approval of your family for every writing project, neither do you want to write something that would intentionally offend or distance them just for the sake of getting it out there.
“Is that something you’re glad about? Do you feel the poem sort of got things out in the open and sort of relieved your mind, or … or did you just do it because you loved me?Patricia Hampl
“Because I loved you,” the mother answered. “I always hated [the poem].”
8. Set or accept unrealistic writing goals for yourself
This summer, I’ve been tackling some big writing goals …
- Getting ready to publish on Kindle Vella
- Getting this website/blog launched
- Posting here three times a week
You know how it is.
We have lots to do.
I have found it virtually impossible to focus on both the website and Kindle Vella at the same time.
While my tendency is to be frustrated and disappointed with myself, the healthier option, and one I wholeheartedly recommend to you, is this:
Just do what you can.
Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself in your writing.
Those might be actual writing goals:
- “I want to write 50,000 words in one day.”
… or they might be more like targets that you have little power over:
- “I want this book to be a best seller.”
Side note, if an aspiring author puts as part of their job description, “I know this is a bestseller, and it just needs to be edited,” I will not place a proposal on it because it’s an unrealistic expectation …
I don’t want the author to assume that the only reason their book didn’t make it to New York Times’ bestseller list is because of my editing.
You’ll be a much happier writer if you don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself.
Then if you do write the next bestseller, you’ll get to be pleasantly surprised! 😉
Quit doing what you love
This last bit of advice on “how to be a miserable writer” is a little vague.
It can be read in several ways.
But one way I read it is this:
Don’t allow yourself to get distracted, disappointed, and disillusioned to the point that you forget what you love about writing.
- Yes, you will face distractions.
- And you will encounter disappointments.
- Disillusionments will definitely come your way.
But remember why you write.
You might even want to come up with a “why I write” manifesto to encourage you in challenging times.
I mentioned this in a recent post, but a couple of years ago, I was inundated by a whole lot of stuff and began wondering if I should just let go of my dream of writing.
Nothing was happening and I felt alone and discouraged.
I admit that, yes, I took some time away from writing … but I came back to it.
Because writers are just that …
We are writers.
Whether you are a miserable writer or an inspired writer, you are a writer.
It’s in your blood.
It’s a piece of your soul.
So, why not love the craft? The magic and mystery of word-weaving.
Because the world doesn’t just need more stories …
It needs better stories.
And maybe that story whirling inside your heart and mind is the world’s next better story.
Only one way to find out.