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It’s difficult being a writer. There are plenty of hurdles along the way, as everyone knows. Some of these are inevitable — a writer’s life is not a simple one — but some of them can be avoided.
As a writer, you’ll learn plenty of lessons along the way. And you’ll probably come out of the whole thing wiser and a lot more pragmatic than you went in. It’s best to go into writing with open eyes and a willingness to learn — but it’s nice to have a heads up on some of the difficulties you’ll face, so you’re a bit more prepared.
To give you a helping hand in the right direction, here’s our list of 7 valuable lessons for writers that you won’t want to learn the hard way, and our ways for recognizing and coping with them.
Lesson 1: Inspiration won’t always strike
Lesson 1 is a simple one and one that you probably already know.
That pesky writer’s block is getting in the way of you finishing your first novel, and try as you might, there’s nothing that can get those words flowing again.
We’re here to tell you that that’s completely normal — it’s just part of being a writer. You’re an artist, after all! Some days you’ll feel full to the brim of brilliant ideas, and you’ll be able to write thousands upon thousands of words, and it’ll feel exhilarating.
And some days? Some days, you’ll stare listlessly at the blank page on your computer, clutching your lukewarm cup of coffee and wondering how you’re even going to finish a sentence.
Our advice? Don’t be disheartened. It’s okay to take a break and do something else. Get out of the house. Go on a walk. Come back the next day with a fresh mind.
And if that doesn’t work, there are a few things you can do to beat writer’s block. Try writing something else, like a diary or write on a completely new topic. It’ll feel good to get some words out, trust me.
If you’ve got a looming deadline, then make a writing schedule to give your work more structure. You can also try free-writing, a technique where you continuously write for a set period of time (ignoring spelling, grammar, and sentence structure etc.). It’s a good exercise to get you feeling more inspired and creative, and you might even get some decent content out of it that you can use once you’ve shaped it.
Lesson 2: You need to get comfortable with criticism
As a writer, you’re going to need to grow a thicker skin. There’s going to be plenty of criticism coming your way — from your friends, family, mentor, publishers, readers.
We don’t want to alarm you, but it’s one of those lessons that you are going to learn as a writer, so it’s much better that you’re prepared for it.
The good news? That most of it is for your benefit. Those people around you aren’t giving you criticism for no reason (and if they are, you should maybe think about getting some nicer friends). It’s meant to be constructive criticism. Use these words and advice to help you become a better writer, and write a better book. It may be exactly what you need to propel yourself to success.
Our advice? It’s easy to feel vulnerable as a writer, but don’t take criticism personally. Try and be as objective as possible: your book isn’t you. Ask those critiquing to elaborate more on their points, to give you something to work on. And if they’re readers who just don’t like your novel or your style then try not to get upset. Not everyone is going to love your work.
If you need a bit more advice, then check out this cool article on how to deal with criticism well as a writer.
Lesson 3: Ditto rejection
Rejection is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a writer, and unfortunately, it comes to us all.
Just look at JK Rowling — she’s now the most successful writer on the planet, and her net worth is roughly $1 billion. The Harry Potter books have been translated to over 80 different languages, and are now a huge franchise which also includes various films, a play, games, and a theme park.
But as everyone knows, it took JK Rowling a long time to get there. She wrote Harry Potter in cafes as a single mother on benefits — regularly sending out drafts to publishers and getting rejected. In fact, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times before she could get anyone to bite.
Our advice? The best thing you can do is be prepared for rejection and accept it. It’s painful, but it’s part and parcel of writing. Keep reaching out to people — you just might not have met the right person yet. Your big break could be just around the corner. Imagine if JK Rowling had stopped at her 11th rejection? We’d never have even met The Boy Who Lived.
Lesson 4: Don’t be afraid of commitment
If you want to be a writer, you’re going to have to commit to being a writer.
Not committing will make the whole process harder for you in the long run. And we’re not talking about practical things, like having another source of income to pay the rent while you’re coming up with novel ideas.
We’re talking about mentally making a commitment to writing. You’d be surprised, but it’s actually way harder to write — and finish writing — your novel until you get to this point.
If you still think about writing as a hobby, or a pipe dream, then the end of your novel (or whatever else you’re writing) will seem a million miles away. It’ll feel unachievable or unrealistic, which in turn will only keep your finish line at a distance.
Our advice? Don’t be afraid of this commitment. Tell people you’re writing a novel. Set aside dedicated time in your day to sit down and write. Come up with a set of achievable goals with your writing.
Lesson 5: Writing without reading just doesn’t work
Whatever you’re writing — whether it’s a novel or something more commercial like online content — you need to keep reading.
Many writers learn the difficult way that wide reading is vital to writing well. Stopping reading will only stagnate your brain, as no new information is coming in. And this can often lead to writer’s block — uh oh.
Reading is important for a number of reasons: it keeps your vocabulary broad and it can inspire you with exciting new ideas. It’s also good to keep your finger on the pulse with other novels in your genre or online niche; reading around helps you to stay updated and keep a healthy eye on the competition.
Our advice? It’s an obvious answer — keep on reading. Don’t stop just because you’ve decided you’re writing a novel. This doesn’t mean you’ve learned everything there is to know on your subject!
Stay involved in your community: if you’re a crime fiction writer, then find out who everyone’s talking about at the moment. If you’re an e-commerce writer and you specialize in website branding, then keep an eye on websites for sale, and keep checking out what ecommerce experts in your niche are saying on their blogs.
Don’t stop at reading the work of competitors, either. Read about your readers: you need to identify who you’re writing for and what they’ll enjoy. This will help with establishing, and even marketing further along the line.
Lesson 6: Don’t be a perfectionist
Particularly with your first drafts, it’s very easy to get hung up on every single word and imperfection. But do you know what? It’s a draft. That’s literally what it’s there for — so that you can revise and revisit.
It’s another difficult lesson to learn, but don’t stress about the little things. By all means, take pride in your work. But don’t let your quest for perfection consume you. You need to put your pride to one side, and allow yourself to write without judging yourself too harshly.
Our advice? Learn to recognize when you’re obsessing over a sentence. Take a step back, and have a break. Try to carry on writing past that point — after all, you can always come back and edit. You’ll probably end up rewriting it a few times in the future, but you need to get your words down on paper first, and if you’re too prissy, you won’t even get past this stage.
Lesson 7: Don’t lose sight of your reality
By the time most writers realize the toll of this lesson, it’s too late.
It’s easy to get so caught up in writing your novel that you squirrel yourself away. This can leave you isolated from your loved ones, and living a pretty unhealthy life, surviving only on coffee and cigarettes.
It’s a cliché, but it happens all the time. Don’t lose sight of your reality because you’re too invested in your fiction. You need to keep a balance, and not let your writing consume you.
Our advice? Keep your friends, family and/or partner close; let them know how you’re doing, and include them in your writing journey. They’ll want to support you, and they’ll appreciate being in the loop.
Similarly, remember to take care of your mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise regularly, even if it’s just going for a walk outside to break up your day. Make sure your diet is balanced and healthy. Drinking is fine (who doesn’t love a well-deserved glass of wine after completing a chapter?) but remember everything in moderation.
These are the some of the hard lessons you’ll probably learn along the way as a writer. Hopefully, by reading this post, you’ll be more prepared for some of the difficulties that come with writing and how to overcome them. It’s much better to know what you’re facing in advance, rather than learn the hard way.
Just understand that you are not alone. Every writer has to go through this, so don’t worry — there’s nothing wrong with you!
What did you think of our tips for writers? Is there anything that you’d add that you’ve learned through writing? Let us know in the comments below.
Victoria Greene is a freelance writer and e-commerce marketing expert who loves to see new entrepreneurs, writers, and small businesses grow and succeed. She’s passionate about sharing her knowledge to help others. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.