“A good writer will always find it very hard to fill a single page. A bad writer will always find it easy.”- Aubrey Kalitera
You’ve pitched story after story to newspapers and magazines. You’ve sold your soul to try and land clients. You’ve pushed out countless query letters and letters of introduction… and nothing. No feature article in Forbes magazine. No Op-Ed piece in The New York Times. And little or no clients beating down your door.
James Michener said,“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
Instead, harsh criticism and rejection plague you, whittling away your self-esteem and confidence.
You tell yourself that this is the life of a writer. Rejection comes with the territory, and you’re right, it does. But … a nagging thought at the back of your mind makes you wonder.
Reality check: It is entirely possible that you are a bad writer. Let’s face it, there are people who are convinced they can sing. The judges on “America’s Got Talent” don’t think so and neither do any of the viewers watching.
Here at FreelancerFAQs we like to encourage fellow newbie writers. Writers need the positive fellowship of their peers. But this is not going to be one of those ‘pat on the back’, ‘keep the flag flying’ moments. This is going to say what many may find uncomfortable saying. This is going to be a kick in the butt and yes, it may hurt.
But sometimes the truth hurts, and the truth is that not everyone is a true and talented writer.
Sure, it’s a skill that can be improved. A mediocre writer can learn to become a better writer, and practice does make perfect. There are those who believe that there are no bad writers, but I believe writing still needs a basic level of talent. It’s something that either comes naturally to you or doesn’t.
Ask yourself why you deeply desire to be a writer. Maybe you think it is romantic or glamorous? Perhaps you just like the title of ‘writer’ – its plays to the bohemian side of your personality. Or you think it is a good way to earn some extra money. Whatever the reason, if you are getting consistent negative feedback from clients and editors, perhaps it’s time to take stock.
We as writers accept that rejection is always going to be par for the course. Tons of rejection, however, can give writers a tough skin; and while a tough skin is necessary to survive in this industry, hopefully, it is not so tough that bad writers end up with delusions of writing grandeur.
The challenge is in knowing where the line is in being a good or promising writer receiving the normal amount of rejection and a bad writer receiving a clear message that perhaps writing is not the best path for you.
So How Do You Know What a Normal Amount of Rejection Is?
We’re not asking for Pulitzer prize-winning writing here, but every good writer will land a few clients and enjoy a fair amount of happy clients. A good writer will land writing gigs IF they are really getting out there and doing the hustle. That will happen in and amongst all the rejection slips.
If, however, you are experiencing the following:
- You are battling to get gigs.
- You have more dissatisfied clients than happy clients.
- You are battling to get published in the myriad of publications out there.
- You’ve approached blogs to do guest posts for free and still get turned down.
Well, then it may be time to evaluate the situation.
This could mean one of a few things:
- You need to hustle more. Perhaps you are not putting in enough effort to find the work. Remember, it is unlikely to just land in your lap.
- You need to learn to craft better letters of introduction and query letters. Your query or LOI could be what’s holding you back.
- You need to follow submission guidelines for articles and blog posts more accurately.
- You need to come up with better story ideas.
- You need to take clear briefs from clients and follow them properly. Perhaps your dissatisfied clients are unhappy because you’ve completely missed the point on their brief.
- Master the fundamentals. You may need to get to grips with the basics such as grammar, syntax, and punctuation. I know I could benefit from this because I’ve long forgotten all the nuances taught in my high school English lessons!
- You could benefit from taking a writers course. For example, if you are keen to write for magazines, find a good course that focuses on magazine writing. The knowledge and tips you can pick up at a course like this could be invaluable.
- Make it a habit to revise and rewrite to polish your writing. Author James Michener said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
- And finally, it’s a matter of practice, practice and more practice.
These could all be reasons your writing career isn’t taking off.
Is Writing the Best Path for You?
However, there could be another reason. The one many don’t really want to acknowledge —that it could be a sign that writing is not for you.
Now before you slink off to sit on top of a pile of ash draped in sackcloth, this is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s good! Because there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means you have a different purpose and path to follow. Be honest with yourself and get real about why it is you so desperately want to live the life of a writer (because come on, it’s not the easiest path to embark on!).
Then dig deep to discover what other passions you have and identify what you are good at. Once you start to pursue that, you will find yourself in a much happier space and your chances of success will skyrocket! Don’t spend years on unnecessary failure – get busy with success!
Here are a few suggestions to help you uncover the truth. Are you a good writer, or a bad writer with the potential to improve? Or is writing all wrong for you?
- Ask friends and family for their honest opinion and don’t let it ruin the friendship or relationship if it’s negative. They may be reluctant to give an honest opinion for fear of hurting your feelings, so make it clear that you are at a crossroads and would prefer the truth to help you make an informed decision.
- Seek out some pros. Find a few writers you admire, follow their blogs and interact with them. Pay attention to their writing style, you could pick up a few tips. Once you’ve built up a bit of a relationship, you could ask them to critique some of your work. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no. But they could also say yes! This could provide you with some valuable feedback.
- If creative writing is your thing and you’re keen on publishing the next great novel, find a writers group in your area to join. Writers groups often have critique sessions with a panel that consists of professional writers. Some brutally honest and constructive feedback comes out of these types of sessions.
- Join an online writing community. The popular Make a Living Writing and Be a Freelance Blogger blogs both have community forums, coaching and mentoring services, job boards, and classes you can sign up for to help upskill you in things like landing higher paying clients and writing kickass query letters. There are many more helpful writer websites out there — here’s a list of 100 Best Websites for Writers to peruse. And of course, stick around right here on FreelancerFAQs where you’ll find hundreds of useful articles to answer every question you have about freelance writing.
We can all benefit from feedback and criticism. Learning from it is usually the difference between good and bad writing. And if you discover that writing isn’t the best path for you, don’t cry over it. You’ve just saved yourself years of angst and frustration. Simply call it a day and move forward on whatever path is meant for you.