About a year ago I got a Random email from one of my readers (Yeah, that’s what he called it). This particular reader felt like he could write, but found all kinds of excuses not to. I guess he wanted some unsolicited advice.
So my equally long reply arrived a pregnancy later – that’s when I saw it. I told him I’d been there before. Asked him to write for himself and not anyone else. To relieve his heart and soul. After all, that’s what we writers do.
I’m slowly starting to think I was wrong.
What does it really take to be a writer? Especially a young one who is still figuring out this strange thing called adulting? Has anyone though?
I wish someone had warned me before I became one.
After the 3-month honeymoon phase full of ideas and encouragement wears off, you will be left all alone. Just you and your blank page, clueless on what to do next. Then everyone will step in with their own 2 cents on how to make it as a writer.
- Find a niche so that you can stand out and become an expert. Got that, next?
- Look for a mentor who will teach you their ways – I’m still searching, hello?
- You should get out of your comfort zone (aka blog) and write on other sites (aka guest post). This is for your own good, to get your name out there.
But do I have to?
- Constantly share your latest articles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, basically any social media network you can think of.
P.S. It doesn’t always work.
- Stop writing so much and shoot a video for once – that might work.
So with your current limitations (read laziness), you’ll probably ignore some and experiment on others. But you will do what you can to get your blog off the ground. Get people to talk about it, or at least know that you own a blog on WordPress.
This is because you have a wild dream. You want your words to take you all around the world, preferably on a first-class ticket. Or get you free access to live concerts.
But before you achieve your high-flying dreams, you first need to go through these 10 struggles of being a budding writer.
Disclaimer: they are not that pretty.
You are the true definition of DIY.
If anyone asks, you’re the photographer, photo editor, graphic designer, content creator, social media marketer… basically everything. Sometimes even your own editor (probably not a good idea).
You don’t know what you’re doing half the time.
I mean, do your followers even relate to half the things you write about? Will all your marketing efforts make sense in the long-run?
Am I making sense right now?
You’re an eager learner
Being the clueless writer you are, you read at least one online article a day – on how to write better, market better or even make more money (that’s if you already are). Even these crazy tips from renowned fiction writer Stephen King on writing. Like how you don’t need drugs to be a good writer.
You sure about that?
You write every day.
No, scratch that. You have to write every.single.day. Sharpen the tool regularly before it gets too blunt to leave a mark on the page.
It doesn’t matter what you write about, as long as you do. Whether you vent about your terrible, horrible, not so good very bad day. Or something sad and poetic. Like about that guy you still have a crush on, even though they said no to you years ago.
You probably read a lot.
Oh yes, you’re a reader too. And you probably have a bunch of thick novels stacked by your bedside, which look like they workout more times a week than you do.
If not, you are trying to get into the bookworm habit – because real writers read books instead of binge-watching TV. Or their favorite HBO series.
Self-doubt is your friend
You doubt yourself as a good-enough writer, even more than a dolphin doubts it’s a mammal and not a fish. The feeling is fueled especially when only 3 people like that new blog post that took a lot of brain cells to come up with. And they said hard work pays.
How about when your editor shuts down what was the best piece you ever wrote, in your eyes? All your dreams of becoming a bestselling author are shattered in one moment, simply by one critical comment. You are even tempted to break contact with them for a couple of weeks as you heal.
You still need them in your life though.
You like freebies
Everybody loves free things. Including you. So you rush to sign up for online courses (aka sponsored Facebook posts) targeted to entrepreneurs, social media marketers and bloggers like you. You’re everything, remember?
You gladly do the free course or watch the free webinar that all trainers offer as bait. But it ends there. Since you can’t afford the full course (in dollars) you learn as much as you can. Then you go back to Facebook and look out for the next free training.
You want your words to sing
You strive to write in colourful language, just like your favorite writer. Words that will make tiny eyes pop and grab your readers by the collar (hey Mike). You manage to do it a few lucky times and the attentive ones are impressed.
Eventually, you discover writing like a pro is too hard. So you humble yourself and go back to writing the way you talk. Because every writer has their own voice.
You don’t mind validation at all
In fact, you want the whole world to fall in love with your words. To trickle in daily from Google search into your blog and leave warm comments about how your writing makes their life worth living. Or any comment that will validate
But the reality is only a few friends and strangers will read your blog religiously. And like all your super long social media posts. Because those are your true fans.
There are good and bad days
Like in any profession, you also have bad days. Days when you curse the exact moment you foolishly decided to pursue this writing dream. If only you had a time machine.
But then there are also fantastic days. Days when ideas gush out of your brain like milky water from the crest of the Victoria Falls. You could write a whole book in a week, if you were paid to.
As a writer, you live for such days. You take advantage by churning out as many posts as your creative mind can come up with – good things never last. Until your inspiration streak eventually ends and you’re back to being the same old insecure writer.
So yeah, that’s the secret life of a writer. If you were hoping for some wonderful inspiration about how being a writer is such a fulfilling job (after food connoisseur of course), I’m sorry to disappoint.
I’m no expert at this of course. I’m only telling you this a young writer who’s been blogging for a while. September 15th marks our second-year anniversary; but who’s counting?
Don’t leave just yet, here is some professional advice from someone who’s actually living pretty well from his craft. A role model and imaginary mentor to many Kenyan writers like me. He even won the best Kenyan blog BAKE award for 3 consecutive years.
I know, who does that?
Some people don’t want to be serious writers. They just want to dabble in it, stick a foot here and there every three months on a lonely website. That’s fine with me.
Then there are those who want to make a living from this. This is their main hustle, their (only) dream career. I know many of us are like that.
My unsolicited advice? Keep writing and keep learning. You see those writers you admire? One day you’ll feel how it is to be in their shoes, being looked up to.
Just keep on moving.
And hopefully, these struggles will become easier the more adulting you do.
I hope my reader found the courage to write his first post. Then his second. Or at least a sad lonely poem for himself.
My inbox is open 24/7. I even dusted the tables and mopped the floors. You can send me something cool at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I promise I won’t write about it. Unless you want me to.