3 Tough Questions That Might Make You Quit Writing

There are a thousand reasons for someone to pick up the pen.

Some people fall in love with the craft. Others, the lifestyle. Some like the image, the attention, or the opportunity for self-expression. A good number think that it’s what they were born to do — while others just can’t imagine doing anything else.

A lucky few even get to do it for the paycheck.

Whatever their reason — and for many people, it’s hard to point to just one — writers only do their best work if they keep in mind the why of writing. What does the act bring to them? What are their expectations for the future? What does “success” look like, and how long are they willing to work for it?

These questions, however, are not the tough ones.

No, the difficult questions are the ones that make you wonder why you should even bother writing at all:

Question 1: If you knew that you would never make money off of your writing — would you still do it?

Imagine knowing for certain that the long hours you put in at your desk each night will never add a single cent to your bank account. You’ll never get to the monetary tipping point that will allow you to leave your day job and write full-time. Writing will, forever and always, be an unpaid hobby for you — and one you only get to tend to after the rest of your responsibilities are taken care of.

Do you need a financial reward to continue writing?

Question 2: If you knew that you would never get credit for your writing — that you could only operate as a ghostwriter — would you still do it?

Imagine doing all of the hard work to create great writing — only for somebody else to claim the credit. Now imagine being buried under an avalanche NDAs so thick that you can’t even tell your friends and family what you’ve been working on. The only recognition you get comes in the form of a paycheck with your name on it — outside of that, you are completely unknown, and nobody will ever trace your greatest works back to you.

Do you need social validation to continue writing?

Question 3: If you knew that you were the only person who would ever read your writing — you will receive neither money nor recognition for it — would you still do it?

Your notebooks. Your Documents folder. Your Google Drive. This is where your writing lives — in places that only you can get to. And even if you could post to free and open platforms, you would get zero likes, zero comments, and even zero pageviews. Your writing is for you and you alone — and that’s the way it’s going to stay.

Do you need more than intrinsic rewards to continue writing?

These are tough questions because they force you to confront potential worst-case scenarios — where nobody appreciates you for your creations, and you make no money off of your ink, sweat, and tears.

But as uncomfortable as it may be to answer these questions — and answer them honestly — it’s absolutely necessary in order to find success.

If you know that you expect to make money off of your writing, then you can work hard to pursue the genres, styles, and platforms that can guarantee a paycheck.

If gaining a following and social recognition is what you expect, then you can figure out where the fans are and work to put yourself out in front of them.

And if you’re perfectly happy knowing that your writing might never go anywhere, well…I’m jealous as heck.

Writing — as a hobby, as a craft, as a pursuit, and as a profession — is about more than just the words on the page. It’s about you — how resilient you are, how curious you are, how self-aware you are, how dedicated you are, how creative you are — and about how you react to both real failure as well as the potential for it.

You need to be able to identify what will get you through the difficult times in your writing career — and you need to know what’s likely to lead you to throwing in the towel. These three questions — as painful as they might be to answer — can help.

Answer them honestly, and then use the answers to shape your approach.

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