You’re not alone.
Every writer doubts their ability to succeed — even the successful ones.
Especially the successful ones.
It’s daunting to write a successful blog post, newsletter, book, or movie. But it’s even more daunting to write another one.
Being unsure of your ability to succeed as a writer doesn’t mean you’re not a writer — it means you’re human.
Success as a writer is guaranteed if you do two things.
2. Define success as having written.
If you’re unsure of your ability to succeed as a writer it’s likely because you’re unwilling to commit to writing and/or define success as a thing out of your control.
The number of people who read your writing doesn’t make it better.
The amount of money your writing earns doesn’t make it better.
These metrics are beyond your control no matter how great a writer you may be. You can influence them, but you can’t control them.
J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book wasn’t better because someone bought it after eight companies passed on it.
Stephen King’s manuscript for Carrie was the same when he threw it in the trash convinced it would never sell as it was when his wife pulled it out and urged him not to give up on it.
The success of my For The Interested newsletter isn’t determined by how many creators happen to open it each week.
Writing “success” is binary: You write or you don’t.
You finish what you write or you don’t.
You put what you write into the world or you don’t.
If you do those things, you’re a successful writer.
The rest is luck…and semantics.
Write a list of all the reasons you may fail as a writer.
Then, write a list of all the reasons you may succeed.
The key in this exercise is the word “may.”
The list of reasons you may fail will come to you quickly because that’s a mindset you’ve put yourself in already — it’s why you’re reading this right now.
But give yourself time to work on the list of reasons why you may succeed.
Don’t stop until that list is longer than the fail list.
You’ll realize the odds aren’t actually against you — they’re in your favor.
Yes, it’s hard to succeed as a writer…but people do all the time. Why can’t you be one of those people?
Yes, you have limited time and energy to devote to your writing…but a book that takes two years to write has as much chance of success as one that took a year.
Yes, your day job may prevent you from blogging every day, but the lessons you learn from that job may be fodder for more valuable posts than you’d create just sitting at your laptop every day.
For every reason you may fail, there’s a reason you may succeed — you just have to look for them.
Writing is uncertainty.
The foundation of writing itself is uncertainty.
No matter how much outlining you do, when you stare at a blank page you never know exactly what you’ll write or how you’ll write it.
When you write a powerful line, it sparks enough uncertainty to make a reader want to find out what you’ll say next.
Uncertainty creates tension, and tension creates drama, and drama creates interest, and interest creates success.
If you knew success was a guaranteed as a writer, you wouldn’t want to be one.
You’ve chosen an uncertain path in part because you’re drawn to the tension, drama, and interest that comes with it.
You could have chosen a path where success is guaranteed — graduate from medical school and you’ll be a doctor, get a teaching degree and you’ll be a teacher.
But you chose an uncertain path for a reason.
You have what it takes to be a successful writer.
You have something to say…even if you don’t yet have the words to say it.
You have a voice that needs to be heard…even if no one’s listening at the moment.
You have the time and resources to write…even if only a paragraph a day scribbled in a notebook.
You have enough connections to succeed as a writer…as long as you know one person who can share your writing with one other person if it’s good enough.
You have enough ideas…and you’ll have new ones every day if you pay attention to them.
You have the time to read this article…which means you have the time to write one of your own.
What you really want to know is WHEN you’ll succeed.
If I guaranteed you’d become a successful writer, but told you it wouldn’t be until you wrote your 100th thing, how would you feel about it?
Would you still want to be a writer?
Would that removal of doubt energize you or deflate you?
The insecurity you feel around your ability as a writer isn’t solely about whether or not you have what it takes to succeed — it’s also about not knowing how long it will take to do so.
If it takes five years, is it worth the effort? What about 10?
If you knew it’s going to take 20 years, would you still want to do it?
The uncertainty of success as a writer can be difficult to handle, but there’s an upside to that uncertainty.
It means success can come at any moment.
It might come 10 years from now…or it might be right around the corner.
There’s only one way to find out.