Writing. Why is it so hard for so many of us? Is it the vocabulary? Or the intimidation of an empty page? Or the mortifying thought of facing your own thoughts? Whatever it is, people are afraid. Which is a shame, since writing is a useful skill to have. Copywriting is all the rage, isn’t it? But the spotlight casts shadows on some important aspects of the craft. Such as what it takes to be a successful writer.
Listen, I’m not going to sit here and call myself one of those. But I’ve been writing for seven years — super actively for almost one, now. Sure, I gain some traction on Medium, sometimes. But I’m not Malcolm Gladwell. I haven’t sold any books. I don’t have an email list. I just write things every day, and some of them occasionally get passed around. If you ask me, there’s a common misconception about being a successful writer.
But before that, let’s talk about anecdotes for a minute. Have you ever watched documentaries of successful artists? The singer-songwriters like Shawn Mendes and Billie Eilish? Or what about small creators who are obviously ultra talented? I recently bumped into a YouTuber from Siberia online— most creative person I’ve ever met. What does she have in common with other successful artists? I’m obsessed with the history of successful people — especially artists. You learn a lot about the craft from studying the mundane aspects of their lives. And one thing that always stuck out to me was their infatuation.
In the case of those two examples, they did nothing but play music. Even before they were paid to. They were hooked on it. It was a need for them. Not just a hobby or an investment. And that’s not uncommon for among superstars. You’ve probably heard this about success before: You have to be obsessed. You know, passion. And right now, you think you know where I’m going with this. But in fact, there’s a twist: I don’t think it’s a good idea to bank on obsession.
Because think about what you’re obsessed with. Is there anything at all? And what are those things, anyway? You’re not going to sell albums if your obsession is watching TV and eating pizza. Most people aren’t overjoyed at the prospect of playing the guitar so long their hands bleed. Or writing so much you get sick of looking at words. Or reading so much that your eyes hurt. And yet that’s what it takes to “succeed”. At least, if you use the passion model. After all, you have to realize who you’re up against: Crazy people who will do nothing else. And I’m not sure if that’s a good idea for most of us. Luckily, there’s something better.
And it’s called a routine. Write 700 words a day, every day, for a year. I guarantee that your writing will get better. You might even achieve some success. Whether or not this is realistic is irrelevant. The point is, it’s an opportunity everyone is equally entitled to. It doesn’t hinge on talent, personality, or some weird obsession. That’s how many writers become successful. It’s not that we’re much better at writing. We may not even like it very much — that’s me. But we do it a lot, for a long time. That’s how I got my start. I just wrote a lot. You can’t miss me. I publish one or two articles every day. Before you blow it off and say you don’t have the talent, try that. See if brute force, raw volume, and good old fashioned elbow grease doesn’t get you anywhere.