I get letters from aspiring writers from time to time. Here’s one of them now:
Dear Famous Author Bill Ferris:
I want to be a successful writer, but it takes time and hard work, both of which suck. How do I become a success without having to work for it, and when do I get my participation trophy?
Thanks for being so handsome.
This real letter, which I absolutely did not make up as a straw-man argument, perfectly illustrates that the only thing keeping you from writing success is you. It’s not that you don’t want to succeed, it’s that you’ve prioritized other things ahead of your writing—cable television, video games, your job, a meaningful social life, your family. None of these things are going to help you achieve the success you crave. What’s really important to you? You’re going to have to make some difficult choices about your life. Here’s what you’ll have to give up to become a successful writer.
- Your sense of entitlement: Nobody promised you success, other than all those writing-advice columns about how to achieve success. You have to earn it in this business, baby!
- Excuses: Only when you admit that your success or failure is completely within your control can you truly succeed as a writer. Remember: whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you’re writing, which is exactly how that saying goes.
- Friends: This one will be easy. In the unlikely event that a misanthropic writer such as yourself could ever develop friendships, your work habits, distracted demeanor, mercenary willingness to harvest every conversation for written content, and disproportionate burden on your comrades’ bar tabs will drive them off naturally.
- A vial of your own blood: When the time comes, you’ll understand why—and you’ll be eager to wield the knife yourself.
- Extra words: You must eliminate all unnecessary words from your writing. For instance, in my first draft, that last sentence took an entire page.
- Time: I know it seems like you’d be on top of the best seller list if only you had more time to write, but the fact is, nobody is going to magically give you the time you need. The wizards in charge of such things have already given that time to me, and I’ve already squandered it, so you’ll have to carve out those precious writing minutes for yourself.
- Your hobbies: Everything you do that does not involve pecking away at your laptop (which cost more than your first car) or scribbling into a notebook (which is nicer than your first laptop) will seem like freeloading—ironic, considering how many of your hours at the office have been secretly spent working on your book.