9 Lies Writers Need to Stop Telling Themselves

I’ve come to the point in this writing journey (I hesitate to call it a career just yet) where some decisions need to be made. Some hard truths need to be faced, primarily that the raging chorus of the internet should not dictate what I write and when I write it. This simple fact has helped me to kill off some of the lies I have been telling myself about the journey, the craft, and the online writing community.

(It also helped me decide that sure, I can write two series at the same time and that has been something of a nightmare).

And then I realized that there are a lot of lies that us writers live by…lies that we tell ourselves in order to cling to a dream or to destroy it and give up.

So let’s do away with a few of them, shall we?

Life is busy. I don’t have time to write.

I often fall back to this lie when sales aren’t going my way and the day job gets in my way. But I have learned to sneak in writing whenever I can: 10 minutes while waiting for feedback during the day job, 5 minutes of notes on Evernote in a waiting room, whatever it takes. While I do prefer those 2-3 hour sessions behind the computer, sometimes I’ll go a week without getting one. So you have to learn to take whatever time you can. For some, it means staying up later and for others (the masochistic sort), it means waking up earlier.

Yes, life is busy. But if you really want to be a writer, you need to find a way to make it busier with your writing.

The money I’m making doesn’t justify the time I put into it.

This also describes just about every 9-5 job available today. And besides, let’s be real…if you’re in it for the money, you need to check your delusions at the door. Of course, we all want to land a lucrative deal or hit that undefined sweet spot in the self-publishing fog and be able to write full time for a living. But if dreams of making money is why you’re writing, you might want to consider another hobby…like day trading or bank robbery.

I’m going to make an instant fortune with self-publishing just like INSERT NAME HERE.

Sorry…but the odds say that this is not going to happen. Not overnight anyway. Yes, it has happened. But you’d have a better chance of winning the lottery. The thing with self-publishing is that it’s more than just the writing..it’s also the marketing, the cover, the networking, the word of mouth, the blah blah blah. Nothing about writing is instant. Not the work behind it and certainly not the money.

I’ll never make any money with self-publishing.

This is technically not true. Even if only your friends and family buy your book, you’ve made something. Also, you can’t approach self-publishing with that attitude. Make up some very reachable goal. For instance, let’s say you publish your first book and shoot for a goal of making $10 in your first month. Some basic social media presence, sales to family and friends, and then those random ghost sales will give you more than that. Once you reach that $10, maybe make a goal to earn $25 the following month. And on and on…but always remain realistic or you’re going to get very frustrated.

And above all, keep writing. There’s an avalanche of self-published books out there and if your name isn’t kept fresh, then you’re going to get lost. While some put out one or two books and fixate their attention on those for a year or so, there are others that manage to publish 3-4 books a year, constantly building on their income. Decide which path seems more to your liking and stick with it.

I’m not good enough.

This might be true. But you know how to fix that? Keep writing. Seek honest feedback from your peers. if the feedback is too brutal and makes you cry, again, choose another hobby because writing is not for you. Also, if you find yourself lacking, read more books and more blogs from writers you respect. If you legitimately think you’re no good, the only way to get better is to keep writing.

I’m awesome.

Shut up. Even if you are a great talent, no one wants to hear you brag about yourself. And you know what? As awesome as you might be, there are probably about 50 writers that are barely getting any attention that are much better than you. That’s the one good thing about the infinite number of self-published titles out there; competition helps keep writers active and constantly improving their game. Keep that in mind before you shout your own praises from the rooftops.

Author X is selling really well. I need to write like them.

No you don’t. You need to write like you. Sure, you might get some inspiration and motivation from other writers, but please don’t write like them. You take away a certain something about your own writing when you try to mimic others. If you need proof, I can show you about 20 short stories I wrote in high school and college when I was convinced that Clive Barker was the greatest writer on the face of the planet. Those short stories suck. Reading them is painful and the voice in them is certainly not mine. It’s a watered down version of Barker and the only reason I haven’t incinerated those stories yet is because they are a reminder of this very rule for me.

This genre isn’t selling well. Maybe I should start writing another genre that I’m less passionate about but is obviously popular.

No. Don’t be a sell-out. While I can’t stand to use this as an example, think of this: When Twilight was released, there was an infinitesimally small market for the YA chick-lit-vampire-shapeshifter-sparkle-stalker genre. That genre exploded and out of it, an entire flood of YA literature was born and instantly took up far too many shelves in bookstores.

So take chances and write that weird off the wall stuff that’s rattling around in your head.. Don’t abandon the genre or style you feel is the right fit for you just because some other genre is selling well.

If an agencies and publishers reject me, this dream is dead.

It’s becoming painfully clear that agencies are out of touch with what readers want (says the writer than has vowed that he will continue shopping to agencies while also self-publishing). If an agency or publisher rejects you, consider the feedback they give you and improve your book. But don’t abandon it. See the comment above about feedback. If you’ve had enough “professional rejection” then it’s time you explored all of your options.

One of the many great things about self-publishing is that a rejection from an agency is only eliminating one of several options to get your words in the hands of readers. So no…a rejection from an agency is not a death sentence. If anything, it’s like a big mean Mama Bird kicking her black sheep bird out of the nest onto the prickly rocky ground below. And once there, it’s time for the baby bird to do some exploring.

So stop lying to yourself. All it does it cause doubt and give you an excuse to not write as well as you can. I am in the camp that believes that this is the best time in the history of ever to be a writer. So take advantage of the ample opportunities to get your stories to the public and stop with the lies.

If you must lie to yourself, here’s a good one to start with: “I can hit 7,000 words today.”

Take that lie with you and start writing.


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