Published on 19th April, 2017

6 Lies You Were Told About Building a Successful Writing Career

It’s hard to count how many assumptions there are about what it means to be a writer. Perhaps people assume you spend your days in starving-artist-mode, huddled over a keyboard, living off black coffee and chain-smoked cigarettes in tattered old T-shirts and tweed jackets, not paying much attention to the lives going on around you. Or maybe, when you say you’re a writer, people assume you’re an already-famous novelist. However, you’ve simply been published on the internet a few times.

The reality is, there is no one right way to be a writer. But there are common misconceptions about what a writer’s career looks like, and how to get a writing career in the first place. Here are some of the top lies going around about how to become a writer. Hopefully, you can use this list to find some encouragement — and get back to writing!

1. Writing is an art and is always a form of self-expression.

While it’s true that writing can be an art form, it serves so many other purposes. Never sell yourself short on what you can accomplish with it. Every single industry — literally, each one — needs writing of some sort just to exist. Without technical writers, for instance, no one would understand how to use the software they’ve just purchased.

So, while writing can be a beautiful form of self-expression, it is unhelpful to think that everything you write must be a pure rendering of the deepest part of your soul. Sometimes, you just need to effectively communicate something.

2. Some writing careers are more “noble” than others.

Again, not all writing needs to be art — and not all writers need to be artists. While some writers successfully figure out how to establish creative careers for themselves (and that is a wonderful thing!), that simply isn’t possible, or even desired, for everyone. But there are many different career paths for writers: blogging, content management, copywriting, technical writing, video scripting, you name it. If you manage to make a career out of writing in any way, shape, or form, you’re living the dream, my friend.

3. You must have an agent.

Long gone are the days of needing a literary agent before you can get any actual work. While, yes, you will need one if you want to become an author (unless you plan on self-publishing), there are plenty of ways to get writing work without one. If you are trying to build a career writing for the web, all you need is your computer and an internet connection. (And, okay, maybe some coffee.) Start by applying to freelance projects on sites like Upwork — your writing portfolio will come in handy!

4. You just need to wait for your big break.

Don’t wait around for it — it’s not coming. One universal truth about being a writer is that you do, in fact, need to write every day to make it happen. The more you apply to jobs and send out pitches, the more likely it is you’re going to find paid writing work. A great opportunity is not going to come your way without you putting in a lot of work first.

5. Some people aren’t talented enough to become writers.

Many people are more naturally gifted at writing than others, but that doesn’t mean writing is all about innate talent. Writing is an invaluable skill, a tool kit that needs continuous sharpening; it is not something you are either simply good at or not. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy keep you from pursuing a dream of writing for a living. Keep trying, and take constructive criticism to heart to help you learn and grow.

6. You need a degree in English in order to write well.

Such a lie! While there is merit to having an English degree — you gain some great feedback in writing seminars and some new perspectives from reading certain works — it is hardly essential for building a great writing career. In fact, you don’t need a degree to become a writer, period. Some of the world’s most famous authors, like Ray Bradbury and Maya Angelou, never finished college. But that didn’t stop them, so why should it stop you?

Living, writing, and following dogs around in Upper Manhattan. Managing Editor for The Financial Diet. Major proponent of the wide-leg jean.

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