How to Tell If You Have What It Takes to Succeed as a Writer

Susan DeFCreative Writing, fiction, Reflections, Writing resourcesLeave a Comment

As a freelance editor, I work with all kinds of different writers—from those racing to make the tight publishing timelines set by their publishers to those who are just starting off on their journey.

Sometimes I’m the very first person a writer has ever shown their manuscript to.

Sometimes I’m the first person they’ve ever shown their writing to at all.

And if there’s one question I get asked by newer writers more than any other, it’s this: Based on what you’re seeing here, should I bother to pursue this?

Or, to put it another way: Do I have what it takes to succeed as writer?

These are generally people who have had some other path, professionally speaking, and are now revisiting their first love, creative writing. They’ve written a book, or part of a book, and now they want to know, considering the time and effort that would be involved with pursuing this passion, whether it would be worth it for them to do so.

I understand why they’re asking, but it’s a hard question to answer.

Because really, what makes writing “worth pursuing”? If it’s the likelihood that you’ll be able to quit your job and pursue creative writing full time, then maybe it’s not—I’ve been an editor for a decade, and publishing professionally twice that long, and I know a whole lot of writers, many of whom are, by any measure, quite successful, but only a handful of whom don’t have a day job.

But consider a parallel: I’m unlikely to ever win a marathon, but that doesn’t mean running is not a passion worth pursuing. Running a marathon is an exceptional human feat, one few individuals will ever achieve, the pursuit of which will make you stronger, more disciplined, and healthier overall.

In a post I wrote for Jane Friedman, I discuss how the ability to revise based on feedback is key, and further describe the type of writer who is likely to succeed in publishing. You can read the full post here.

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