I recently wrote a post offering 23 reasons why you should write. There are plenty of good reasons to take up writing, either as a hobby or a profession. Well, as with everything, there is a flip side. There are plenty of reasons to avoid writing. Too many people think that it’s an easy job, or that it’s a great way to make money. (Pardon me, I just spit soda out my nose I was laughing so hard.)
Writing certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s often frustrating, requires more time and skill than many people want to believe, and you have a very low chance of commercial success (if that is your goal). Even people who have a creative bent and who are looking for a creative hobby may be better off expressing their creativity in other ways. So if you’re on the fence about taking up writing, either as a profession or as a hobby, here are some reasons why you might want to stay away.
- You just want to work from home. Many people get this romantic notion that they can become a writer, chuck the corporate grind, and work from home. While this can be a viable goal (I do it and I know many freelancers and novelists who do), this is a weak reason for writing. There are many things you can do from home and unless you really love writing, you should consider them, instead. Writing at home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, anyway, and you probably won’t find yourself at home as often as you think.
- You want big money (or even a little money). Writing can be lucrative if you pursue corporate or technical writing jobs, or advance far enough up the ladder that you can write for the very high paying magazines and websites. However, your average novelist, blogger, and poet is poor unless they have a “real job” that’s paying the bills. The J.K. Rowling’s and Dan Brown’s of the world are few and far between. The average freelancer can consider themselves lucky to make a good part-time income for the first few years. Writing is not a fast track to riches so if that’s what you’re seeking, find something else to do.
- You want fame and publication. Do some people become famous (or infamous) from writing? Sure. Are the odds in your favor? Nope. The odds aren’t even in your favor that you’ll be published, at least in anything more than a small magazine or corporate manual. Competition is fierce and if you’re only going to be validated by publication or fame, you’re in the wrong career. Even self-publishing will not likely yield the ego-stroke you crave.
- You don’t enjoy rejection. Writers are rejected all the time. Sometimes it’s polite, sometimes it’s rude, and sometimes you’re rejected by silence. Even corporate writers get rejected. If this is going to upset you, find another creative outlet or at least be satisfied by keeping your work to yourself. Putting yourself out there is going to lead to rejection, just like online dating. Guaranteed.
- You don’t enjoy being criticized. As with rejection, criticism will be ubiquitous. Editors, agents, clients, readers, and even friends and family will have something to say about your work. They may put it politely or they may be rude. Either way, if you hate people telling you that you’re wrong or that your work stinks, then you need to rethink this writing gig.
- You aren’t willing to work long, strange hours. Stories and ideas will wake you up all all hours. Clients will have bizarre deadlines. Some will call at the exact minute that an idea pops into their head, even if that is slam in the middle of your dinner. If you’re working across time zones, prepare to put in some strange hours. If you’re working a day job and trying to write, you’ll likely be getting up early or staying up late to squeeze in some time. Writing isn’t a 9 to 5 job.
- You don’t enjoy isolation. Writing is a solitary activity. While you can mitigate this somewhat by heading to a coffee shop or library where you can at least see other people, if you are a social butterfly who loves water cooler chat, writing isn’t for you. What will happen is this: You will seek to fill the social void by spending too much time on the internet, thus never getting any work done.
- You don’t want to sell yourself. Writers in any field now must market their work and themselves. This means building up a platform, querying and pitching, public speaking, networking, and packaging your work in the most market-pleasing ways. If you dread the thought of speaking up for yourself and your work, writing is not for you.
- You don’t enjoy crazy. Characters will talk to you. You will get up in the middle of the night to write down ideas. You will talk to yourself. You’ll spend a lot of time in your own head. You’ll over-analyze everything. You’ll take on your character’s emotions (for good or bad). Rejection will make you sad or angry, and criticism will make you feel like you suck. Then there are the occasional bouts of manic euphoria when you succeed. Writing will make you crazy. If you prefer stable emotions, find another career.
- Should you succeed, people will bother you. Let’s say you succeed and become a successful writer. What happens next? People start coming out of the woodwork with demands on your time. They want you to speak, endorse their work, read their work, refer you to someone, find them a job, teach them how to write, ask you to write this “one tiny thing” for them for free, edit their work, or help them get published. It’s unending and the price of fame. If you’re not okay with this, don’t be a writer, or at least don’t succeed at it.
- You hate writing and/or are not good at it. This should be an obvious reason not to pursue writing, but amazingly many people keep writing even though they hate it, or they cannot string a sentence together. If you’re sentences; punctuation – and tense use are looking this, than it may be time to end.
- You don’t want to learn. You can learn to be a better writer and that might mitigate number 11, above, a bit. However, you have to be willing to learn. You have to be willing to take classes, practice, and listen to feedback. If you aren’t willing to do this because you think you know it all or you are so artistic that no one can teach you anything, then quit right now because you will not get better.
- You think it will save you from a job you hate. Generally, the things you hate about your job will follow you into writing. If you hate bosses, too bad. You’ll have more than a few as a writer because agents, editors and clients are your bosses, now. If you hate the low pay, chances are you’re going to make even less as a writer. If you hate nit-picky details, you’re in trouble because writing is all about the details. If you hate being bothered by anything that’s not your job, you’re going to hate having to do all of your own marketing, billing, etc. In other words, writing is full of things to hate, just like any other job.
- You have a reading phobia. If you hate to read, you aren’t going to make it as a writer – in any genre or niche. Good writers are readers. That’s how they learn what works and what doesn’t, how to master the technical elements, what’s in demand in their field/genre, and what they can do to separate themselves from the pack.
- You don’t have a passion for it. Working through all of the rejection, criticism, learning, and isolation is tough. It’s just not worth it if it’s not your passion. Even if you’re a good writer, it’s not worth the pain unless this is something you want above most other things. You’ll end up half-assing your work and it will show.
- You only want to write. Writing is only half the job. You have to market yourself, handle your finances and billing, buy your own supplies, fix your own computer and printer, maintain a website, go to conferences and meetings, deal with clients and editors, and any of a hundred other things that any other small business owner has to put up with. Writing is actually a small part of the job. If you only want to write, never aspire above the hobby level.
- You value your health. As a writer, you will sit too much, possibly eat too much (because sitting and eating seem to go hand in hand), get carpal tunnel syndrome, strain your neck and back from sitting in weird positions for too long, get a crick in your neck from holding your phone to your ear because you lost your headset, and wreck your eyesight. There are a lot of ways to pass the time that are healthier. Perhaps you should take up judo or swimming?
- You want to be with your kids. Writing is a full time job. You will have to meet with clients, run a business and, oh, yeah, write. This is not conducive to spending any more time with your kids than any other job.
- You are an “artist.” If you refer to yourself as an artist, give up now. This often goes hand in hand with a precious attitude that balks at revision, can’t take criticism, and considers itself above any sort of actual work. “Artists” sit around and complain about how unfair the system is and how no one “gets” them. They throw temper tantrums if someone suggests that their pieces need more work. If a reviewer refers to you as an artist, fine, but you are first and foremost a writer. That means that you have creative tendencies but you are a hard worker, open to learning, able to take criticism, a good collaborator, and above petty temper tantrums when things don’t go your way.
There are a lot of ways to express your creativity and/or make a living. Writing isn’t the easiest job and it’s not worth it unless you love it beyond all reason. If you’ve read this list, though, and you aren’t dissuaded, the go ahead and write. You just might succeed. At least you have a better chance than the person who cringed at every item on the list and kept going anyway.
(Photo courtesy of nrjfalcon1)