10 Toxic Mindsets to Drop as a Writer
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Today I'm dishing out some tough love, 'cause it's the only love I know how to give! I've been mingling with the writing community lately, and I've seen some really toxic opinions floatin’ around. I'm talking about completely false impressions based on the writing industry. Ones that could totally derail your progress. I think we need to talk about this.
I’m here to correct some of you folks so you have a much more realistic expectation of what you're getting yourself into. It might be painful. It might be ugly. But I'm doing it out of love! Straight from my cold, black heart. Now it's time for the tough love. I am correcting 10 toxic opinions about the writing industry so you don't screw up your own journey!
This video is sponsored by Skillshare. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Number 1: You Are NOT the Exception!
It's called the “exception to the rule” because there is a rule. You may think you're the next Stephen King, but Stephen King has been Stephen King for decades . . . and no one has dethroned him yet! The average fantasy novel is 90,000 to 120,000 words with wiggle room on the high and low end, but you will be the exception to the rule with a novel that's a whopping 600,000 words! Can you think of a single 600,000-word novel that made it big within the last century?
Neither can I. I'm not saying this to shit on your dreams–I think it’s important to trust your gut. But it's also important to be able to differentiate between your gut and your ego. Your gut tells you that you can do the incredible feat of writing a novel. Your ego tells you you're the single writer out of millions who will become a billionaire. Ego also tells you to release a dictionary of a novel, and everyone will buy it! Take a breather, think things over logically, and humble yourself.
Your gut tells you that you can do the incredible feat of writing a novel. Your ego tells you you're the single writer out of millions who will become a billionaire. Take a breather, think things over logically, and humble yourself.
Number 2: No One Owes You Anything
Readers are not gonna buy your book just because you're new, and damn it, you deserve the support! Do you really? Why should strangers spend their hard-earned cash on a writer they know absolutely nothing about?
We all want readers to buy our books in droves, but when that doesn't happen, it's not the reader's fault. It's yours! Or possibly your publisher, but mostly yours. Maybe you messed up the marketing, or hell, didn’t market at all! Maybe your book cover looks like a page from a kid's coloring book. Maybe your book isn't good. There are a million reasons why your book may not sell, but “readers don't appreciate my genius” will never be one of them. You are not entitled to an audience nor are you entitled to sales. You have to work for them.
Number 3: No One’s Gonna Do It for You
Even if you're traditionally published, the odds are you're gonna have to do a lot of the work by yourself. We love the idea of shipping the workload off to someone else! Let them handle all the boring stuff! The truth is success in this industry is based on the actions you take and the strategies you implement. And guess what? If you want someone to do the heavy lifting for you, it's gonna cost ya. A lot of writers don't have that kind of money lying around, and if they do it's because they’ve already done a lot of the hard work and earned the exposure in sales.
Number 4: Style Is NOT an Excuse
All writers have a particular style, and sometimes it allows you to break grammar rules here and there. It doesn’t allow you to throw grammar, syntax, and punctuation out the window and take a massive shit on your manuscript! Back in my critiquing days, I once read a single sentence that was a six-line paragraph. When I pointed out the run-on monstrosity, the writer got defensive, claiming it was his “style.” You might want to rethink your style, then, cause it's a nightmare to read. You don't get to exhaust your readers and claim that it's because your style is different and edgy. I mean, you can, but don't expect any good reviews. Style and readability can and should coexist in your novel.
Number 5: Overnight Success Doesn’t Exist
We hear about overnight success stories all the time. Writers we've never heard of who are suddenly number one New York Times Best Sellers. All of us aspire toward this growth because it seems so easy. The truth is there is nothing overnight about overnight success. We may be hearing about them for the first time, but we did not see the years they put into this book, and possibly multiple other books before then. We have no idea the struggles and rejection and exhaustion they’ve endured. I'm not saying this so you have sympathy for overnight successes. I'm saying this so you have realistic expectations for your own journey. Understand that if you want to be an overnight success, it's not gonna take one night. It'll take years.
Number 6: You Are NOT Too Good for the Nine-to-Five
Years ago, a friend of mine bragged to me that he had never worked a nine-to-five in his entire life. He always had friends in high places to give him creative gigs. He never had to work a normal job being a cashier or a waiter like everyone else. And he was immensely proud of this because those jobs were so beneath him. In other words, he was an asshole and we're not friends anymore.
If you've never had to work an unfulfilling corporate job, that's fantastic! You are incredibly lucky. But this is not an achievement, it's fortunate circumstances. As shitty as it sounds, most creatives go through the nine-to-five grind before they're able to make their creativity a full-time career. I know people who spent five to twenty years working a shit job before they were able to make writing their sole source of income. Please do not assume this is a step you get to automatically skip. And if by some circumstance you're able to do so, recognize how fortunate you are and be grateful for it, because it is definitely a gift!
Number 7: You Don’t Have To Do Shit
You don't have to write every single day. You don't have to do what famous authors do. You don't have to take my writing advice or anyone else's writing advice. There is no one way to be a writer, and there is no one way to be successful. The only thing you have to do as a writer is write. That's it. Stop holding yourself to other people's standards when they don't fit you.
Number 8: You Are NOT Too Smart To Learn
This is an issue I mostly see among amateur writers, which is mind-blowing because amateur writers know the least about writing. The reason it's a less common mindset among seasoned writers is that we've messed up a million times. We've experienced the shame and humiliation that teaches you that you don't know everything.
No matter where you are in your writing journey, it behooves you to understand one hard truth: you have a lot to learn. No matter how intelligent, well-versed, or educated you are, this fact will never change. Why? Because reader expectations always change. Writing rules always change. Publishing industry standards always change. If you want to last in this industry, you should be in constant pursuit of education. I may or may not know about a platform that can help with this, but the name escapes me . . . (It’s Skillshare, duh! I have an affiliate link here if you want to check it out.)
Number 9: You’re Gonna Get Rejected
A lot of people assume rejection only comes with the query process, which means self-published authors get a break from it, right? Wrong! Agents and publishing houses aren't the only ones telling writers to fuck off. You may ask people to beta read for you, and they may reject you. You may offer to hire an editor, and they may reject you. You may hit up potential ARC reviewers, and they may reject you. It's going to happen, and it's gonna happen more than once. You can't throw a fit every time it happens.
Number 10: You Don’t Have To Be Perfect
This is not my way of telling you, “Don’t hire an editor, publish your first draft with a hand-drawn cover and call it a day!” But it is my way of telling you to maybe ease off the self-loathing and imposter syndrome. There isn't a single perfect writer in existence, nor is there a perfect book. You may think a book is perfect but check the reviews. I doubt the opinion is unanimous. If there isn't a single perfect writer in the history of this industry, why are you holding yourself to such impossible standards?
So that's all I've got for you today!
When it comes to being a writer, the bottom line is you will make mistakes and it will be embarrassing. Dust yourself off and chalk it up as a learning experience. If the rest of the industry has to be flawed, you get to be flawed right along with us. Welcome to the club! We're weird and terrible.
What’s one toxic mindset you want to drop as a writer? If you feel like sharing, comment below! Us Cyborgs are all about mutual support in this corner of the internet.
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