Creative Writing: Expectations vs. Reality (3 Issues to Look Out For)

In the past, I’ve had unrealistic expectations of what creative writing was, what being an author meant, and how I could make a living off being one.

And if you’ve ever thought (even subconsciously):

  • “I’ll publish my work and become really rich”
  • “I’m going to write a masterpiece on the first try.”
  • “Writing is easy, anyone can do it.”

Then keep reading for the 3 expectations I’ve had for creative writing, and the 3 realities I’ve come to understand!

Expectation: “I’ll publish my work and become really rich”

Reality: That’s highly unlikely.

According to Book Riot (who quoted the Author’s Guild):

“The median 2017 income of participating authors was $6,080 with just $3,100 of that being from book income alone (as opposed to speaking fees, teaching, book reviewing, and other supplemental activities). The median income of people who described themselves as full-time authors was just $20,300 when including all book-related activities.”

Sarah Nicolas

Unfortunately, authors really don’t make a lot. Only the really lucky or privileged ones usually make it to “really rich” status.

So if you’re writing with the expectation of money bags falling into your lap, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

It’s hard enough to even get published and market yourself, but to expect to make a ton of money as an author is unrealistic.

That’s not to say that authors shouldn’t be paid more, or that you shouldn’t expect better for them and yourself.

But maybe don’t quit your day job to purely pursue writing without someone to pay the bills.

Expectation: “I’m going to write a masterpiece on the first try.”

Reality: You won’t.

I’m so sorry, but you won’t.

From one perfectionist writer to another, it’s not physically possible.

I know I’ve gotten excited at the thought of sitting down and immediately writing beautiful prose.

But then sit down, I start writing, and I realize that I’m not writing as well as I thought I would.

Because, as it turns out, you can’t write your fifth draft on your first.

That is to say, you’re not gonna write your best stuff the first time you sit down to write your book.

And take it from someone who at one point started to hate writing: putting unnecessary pressure on your work to pop out of the womb perfect isn’t gonna help you.

It only hinders any progress you could be making.

So find some smaller, purely self-indulgent projects for practice before you go and write that big project.

It’ll help you feel good while giving you that much-needed practice.

Expectation: “Writing is easy, anyone can do it.”

Reality: Well, you’re half right.

I’d say, for the most part, anyone can write.

But It’s not easy.

It takes time to think of ideas, to outline if you’re a plotter, to write it all down, to edit everything, then rewrite again and again — and that’s on top of your normal life stuff!

You’re going to have good days where you can pour words on the pages like water, and bad days where you can’t remember a single word in your language.

Plus, it takes practice to improve your writing, which takes writing loads and loads of “junk.”

Which is frustrating when you just wanna write the super cool good thing already!

And that sucks, but it’s completely natural.

Remember, writing takes time and mental energy and years of practice. You’re making something outta nothing but your lil’ noggin’!

And tears. Many, many tears . . . .

Writing isn’t easy, but it should be fun! Or at least satisfying.

You should feel accomplished when you write.

So find the things to write that give you the energy, and write your little heart away!

I hope this post doesn’t completely deter anyone from creative writing or getting published.

Both are their own difficult battles, but can be extremely rewarding.

Although rewarding doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table, I hope every once in a while you can put pen to paper (or fingers to keys).

‘Cause writing, for me, is food for my heart.

And if it feeds your heart, too, then provide it as often as you can.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

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