People always tell you writers fail because they lack confidence.
They also tell you they fail because they lack ambition.
But what about the rest of us? The ones who want it bad enough and do have the guts to reach out and grab it?
We fail, too. Miserably at times.
You could finish your novel, send in an article pitch, and still wind up with nothing to show for it.
And sure, you’ll try again. You’ll submit stuff to more than one place. You’ll knock on more than one door.
But after a while, many writers fall off the face of the earth, never to try again.
1. They over-saturate themselves with information
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself doing this. I throw away my billable, workable hours reading post after post on how to do something I’ve already mastered.
Now, I can’t blame myself for falling into this pattern.
While I’m reading those energizing posts, I feel like everything and anything is possible.
I still haven’t pitched a story or replied to a job posting, so nobody has shut me down.
Don’t get me wrong: reading motivational posts, how-to guides, or following tutorials by experts in the field are good things. You just can’t let the learning period become the “learning” period.
You feel me?
Once you’ve gotten enough information on how to do X, go ahead and try out X. Don’t go back to the training grounds unless you’ve hit a roadblock.
2. They don’t get organized
Let’s imagine you’re out in the open sea. Would a sailor just leave without knowing which direction they’re heading towards?
No. Because they’ll end up either a) drifting to their death, b) running aground on an abandoned island with no provisions, or c) being led in circles by the current, just to end up where they started.
Many freelance writers—or honestly, even creative writers—never get organized. They keep going about life, throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.
Not putting all your eggs in one basket is a valid approach. But targeting everything at the same time?
It doesn’t work. Trust me.
The only thing I get “done” when I’m aimlessly working is giving myself an anxiety attack.
I produce just about nothing and dedicate hours (some of which are meant for sleep) to freaking out about the vastness of the writing world.
3. They get impatient when they don’t see results
You buckled down long enough to write a couple of posts. You’ve pitched some stories. You set up your blog.
Where’s the money? Not in your pocket, that’s where.
If you’ve already made it this far—AKA put in time and effort to get a degree, worked pro bono to get experience/exposure, set up your freelancing platform or your personal blog—you’re desperate to reap what you sowed.
And that’s fair. Because knowing you’re “on the right track” doesn’t pay the bills.
But anything worth having is worth waiting for, and as cliché as that sounds, that’s the truth.
If you want some $3-for-your-700-word-post gig, you can open a separate tab right now, and sign up as a freelancer for a content mill.
But what is that going to do for you? Not a whole lot aside from massacring your morale as both a writer and a person.
Getting good clients/gigs takes time. Seeing your work posted on influential platforms adheres to time table. Getting your book out, growing a following, etc. etc. takes a truckload of time.
To do things right requires patience, not just dedication.
Imagine you’re a politician. You’ve already gone to law school and did all the things you’re supposed to do while getting that degree. Are you going to run for senate right off the bat?
No, because you’d lose. Because to be a good senator you need to go off into the world and get more experience.
Does it blow? Obviously. The last thing a person who just came out of law school wants to do is invest more time in something that—for all intents and purposes—still isn’t what they had set out do to.
The takeaway here is that these law school graduates still go on to become senators (if they stick it out long enough). And you can, too.
4. They buy into the narrative of other writers’ success stories
Many established writers like to share their rags to riches stories. This way, they hope to inspire the younger crop so they, too, can go “from zero to hero, just like that.”
But success isn’t linear, and even when writers add the caveat that “it was rough at first, but now it’s great,” it still sounds like we just have to go through enough plot points to reach our happy ending.
If you want to face the facts: what worked for one writer might never work for you.
Some of these freelancers and bloggers started their careers when their niche was less competitive. Others knew clients from before. Many simply were at the right place at the right time.
There is no formula. There are good practices, market trends, and general advice to help you perfect your craft, pitch stories, and land clients. But what will make the difference in your story has everything to do with you.
Now, there is one thing all of these success stories get right. And that is that you only see the dots connect at the end.
But if you turn down the noise, get organized, and give yourself a little time to achieve your goals? You’ll be golden.
Not because you’re an amazing writer. Or because you’re perfect. Or because you did everything right.
Instead, it will be because you adjusted your sails, went with your gut, and stepped up to the plate ready and able.
I can’t tell you what’s going to be your big break, or when things will start to fall into place. But if you hang around long enough, they will.
So what are you going to do?
Drift or sail, it’s your call.