Can you really make it as a writer?
You should never put all of your eggs in one basket. We receive that advice from a young age, taught the importance of spreading ourselves across disciplines and sectors, never to be left empty-handed. It seems like good advice, applicable to investing money or not focusing your efforts on one individual in your life. But can this sage piece of advice really be translated to the world of writing?
Because there’s another piece of advice that crawls in, one that tells us not to spread ourselves too thin. For if you take up five different interests, you’ll never be a master in one of them. It takes ten thousand hours to master something, and spreading those ten thousand over five disciplines renders you far from an expert.
I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I’d fill schoolbooks with stories about a little girl and her friends, or fairies existing amongst us. I had a phase of rewriting things I saw elsewhere, which I think many writers go through. I knew that I wanted to be a writer; there was no doubt in my mind. I’d look at the novels lining a bookstore and feel the envy tearing at my insides. I wanted that.
But somewhere along the way, you learn that being a writer isn’t an appropriate career choice. It’s one of those things they claim that everyone would be if they could, which is why you can’t. But would they? Would people willingly spend hours a day behind a computer, with their mind as their only company and source of income? I know people who couldn’t think of anything worse, while I can’t think of anything that I would instead do.
You’re taught that being a writer isn’t a sufficient career path, and in many ways, they’re right. Maybe you’re directed towards journalism, which isn’t actually for every writer, or perhaps you veer onto a different path in fright. I went for the latter. Discovering an interest in Psychology, I went all in. By night I typed manuscripts into a word document, and by day I studied clinical psychology and social anthropology. I was fascinated by these subjects and grateful to know them better, but by the end of my bachelor’s, I knew that I didn’t want to work in them. I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and nothing else could quench that thirst in me.
So I graduated with an expensive degree in my pocket and went into Content Marketing. It happened accidentally; an opportunity to write blog posts turned into an internship, which into a job. I feel fortunate to have these experiences, as they’ve allowed me to practice my writing and learn many valuable skills. But I know that Content Marketing is not my end game, far from it. And with each year that I turn older, I grow more and more aware of the impatient little girl who wants to be a writer.
I have a day job for the moment, but the impatience is growing too strong. And with it comes doubt, greedy for my hope and ambition. What if I’m just not good enough? What if I will never make it as a writer? I don’t have a Plan B. I don’t have anything else that I want to do. I didn’t further my education; I didn’t build contacts or consider alternative routes. In my heart, I know that I want to be a full-time writer. I want to craft novels and write articles on topics that I choose.
Other paths seem easier
I often wish that I wasn’t this way. I look at friends who are pursuing law or furthering their psychology education, and I’m jealous. I know those paths are in no way easy, but at least there is a path. Follow A to B to C, and you get there. You know what’s needed and where to go. My path is overgrown with weeds, and I can only see the finish line, miles away and mocking me. There is no certainty in writing; you can do everything right and never get it; this is the thought that keeps me up at night.
But thinking that way will ensure you don’t make it. I have to believe that the difference between writers who make it and those who don’t boils down to who wants it badly enough. The stragglers depart, leaving those determined to be a writer. That doesn’t mean that everyone can be a New York Times bestselling author, as there are different faces to being a writer. It merely means that if you want something bad enough and refuse to give in, you have to get there; I have to believe that. If I didn’t, I don’t know how I would continue to get up each day.
Do you need a Plan B?
Maybe it’s stupid not to have a Plan B, or perhaps it is signaling to the universe that you’re serious. You’re not giving up, you’re not close to throwing in that towel, and your lack of a Plan B confirms it. It could be bold, it could be presumptuous, but nothing is more daring than assuming people will sit and read 100,000 words to come from your fingers.
If you want to be a writer, then you have to declare it. To yourself, firstly, to acknowledge this ambition and desire. To others, in order to release into the universe and begin making contacts. It’s terrifying, as we fear that everyone will know if we then fail. But you won’t fail if you believe that you can’t, and honestly, who would even care?
I’m not saying that you have to quit your day job, as I haven’t either, but rather that you need to know your priorities and ambitions. If you want to be a writer, then write; there is no other way forward. If you want to be a writer, then you should want to write. You need to believe in yourself because no one else can do that for you.
I don’t have a Plan B, and I’m both terrified and excited for what is to come.
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