How to Know You Aren’t Ready to Start Making Money Writing Yet

Pre-publishing is a key stage in any writer’s journey

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There aren’t literary prodigies the same way that there are math or music ones. The reason for this is simple enough — it takes a level of emotional maturity that is impossible in even the utmost gifted to write a truly great piece of literature. Even writing a deeply insightful blog post can be challenging without emotional depth. Similarly, it takes a lot more to get really good at writing than just writing skills. Making money from writing requires a plethora of secondary skills such as networking, selling, pitching, digital marketing, etc. Many of these can only be learned from real world experience.

And yet, a word of caution.

The world of writing professionally, in fact, the entire adult realm is filled with awesome opportunities. This is especially true for creatives, as creativity becomes the last skill to be automated. It’s a surefire way to standout in a competitive job landscape. However, there is no need to tackle it before you are ready. Here are a few signs that you are too early in your writer’s journey to begin thinking of making money from writing just yet:

You Are Filled With Endless Ideas

Not to say you shouldn’t always strive to come up with novel and creative new ideas. But there is something about the time before writing professionally, when the world is filled with possibilities, that is special. Everything and everything is a source for inspiration. It is possible that in your youthful excitement, or in your naiveté for what it looks like to make money writing, that your mind bypasses all the challenges between where you are now and where you want to be, and simply lets you create.

Cherish this time. The pre-publish time of your life, as some writers call it, is a special one. Free from the burdens of having to make money from your talent, you can focus solely on the things you enjoy to work on. Once you get started professionally, it may be years and years until you build up what you need in order to do the work you like, whenever you like.

“When you’re young, you’re very reckless…Then you get conservative. Then you get reckless again.” — Clint Eastwood

Marketability Hasn’t Occurred to You Yet

I remember how, when I was a teenager, anything and everything marketing related, at least when it fell into the sphere of my writing, seemed like a painful waste of time. Querying agents, submitting to online magazines, building up a social media presence — all of it came second to what I cared about most: writing. The last thing on my mind back then was how marketable the thing I was working on would one day be.

And that’s fantastic. Many of the greatest works of literature in history have come from people who cared very little for the marketability of what they were doing — instead choosing to focus on just writing what it was they wanted to read.

However, in the professional world, not thinking about marketability is like thinking you can become an engineer without knowing math. The way you use writing is everything when it comes to professional writing — be it novels, plays, screenplays, technical information, or blog posts.

If marketability hasn’t occurred to you yet, be grateful. Your mind somehow knows that the first step to being a great writer is to understand how to write. The rest of it comes later.

You Have No Idea How to Edit

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — wholeheartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

- Sir Arthur Quiller-Couc

An important step in the writer’s journey is learning how to view their work somewhat objectively. I say somewhat because it is nearly impossible to view your own work fully objectively. Just like it’s impossible to view yourself wholly objectively. Though editing our own work will never be something we are as good at as others, the better we get at seeing our writing in relation to the bigger picture, be it editing-wise, story-wise, market-wise or genre-wise, the more successful we will be.

There was a time in my extreme youth that I could not view my writing objectively AT ALL. Everything I wrote seemed to be the best thing ever. Now, I hardly ever write anything I like at all! At the end of the day, however, I simply tell myself, “that will do”.

If you are at the point where you don’t even know where to begin with editing your own work, don’t worry. You’re not ready to start making serious money at writing yet. What you are ready for, however, is to keep writing, and learn the painful lessons in your own time.

You Think A Book Deal Will Save You

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair — the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” — Stephen King

How do you envision your writer’s life to be? You probably pine at the day that the world recognizes your talent, don’t you? You envision yourself on talkshows, the center of attention, as critics around the world wonder where your native genius came from that allowed you to create something so one-of-a-kind and extraordinary! Don’t feel bad for having this dream. We all do. It’s human nature to desire accolades and attention. It’s why so many people do so many crazy, stupid, unhealthy and even amazing things. But don’t get hung-up on it.

Most of the time, your work will go unnoticed, you’ll be lucky if you get paid, and someone else will get all the credit.

In reality, that big, lottery-ticket book deal will probably never come. But don’t let that stop you now. Keep writing knowing you are going to be the greatest thing ever. What reason is there to do anything full-heartedly, anyways?

Originally published at on May 4, 2020.

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