Fight for the Right to Write

So far, Rachel Harrie’s Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign has been fun and educational. I’m meeting many new authors, some of whom are in the same Fantasy group as me, and others are from different campaign groups. This collection of writers is one of the most friendly, genuine, and dynamic I’ve found online, and I feel fortunate to be taking part in the campaign.

However, I’ve noticed a disturbing theme among many of my fellow writers: lack of confidence. Evidence of this theme shows up as a tendency for self-deprecation and defensiveness regarding their decision to invest time in their writing. It’s almost as if they feel they have to apologize for being a writer.

Whenever you begin any endeavor that requires practice and some degree of talent, you go through a beginning phase where you doubt your abilities. That’s perfectly natural. At the outset, your work probably isn’t very good, but writing is definitely a “learn by doing” activity, so you must endure those crappy initial efforts in order to write the next piece. And the next piece will be better.

Yes, you need to take responsibility for learning the craft and consciously evaluate your work for ways to improve. Most writers I’ve met constantly seek ways to improve their work. I believe that inherent in the passion to write is the passion to improve.

However, as a writer you face several psychological obstacles that can easily derail your desire to one day become a published author.

The First Obstacle Is Ourselves

No one is born a writer. You become a writer when you start writing regularly. Conveying a story through the written word is a challenge, and with rare exceptions, you’ll be on your own when you make the decision to accept that challenge.

Life is full of distractions and responsibilities, so most people have difficulty justifying the time they have to spend learning the craft of writing. That’s why something like 80% of the adult U.S. population claims they want to write a book, but few of them act upon that initial vague desire.

None of the writers I’ve met in the Platform Campaign have this problem, because they are all taking action, but most potential writers never get past their inertia or their fear.

The Second Obstacle Is Our Friends and Family

The sad truth is that friends and family may not be supportive. In fact, they may do things to discourage you. Every time they criticize your commitment, your odds of getting published, or the quality of your work, they throw another wet blanket over the flame of your passion to write. Every argument, every long-suffering sigh, and every eye-roll erodes your confidence over time.

Writers that successfully handle unsupportive friends and family due so with avoidance tactics. They simply don’t talk about their writing with the nay-sayers. They join writers’ groups, or they find someone among their friends and family who is supportive and only talk about their dreams with that person.

The Third Obstacle Is Society

Society doesn’t value writers who aren’t published. As soon as you tell someone you are a writer, they want to know what you’ve published. If you haven’t published yet, you get a look of confusion, like the next sentence they want to say is, “Then how can you consider yourself a writer?”

It’s almost as if getting published is some kind of award where the prize is being able to call yourself a writer. So what exactly should you have called yourself when you created the work that eventually got published? The work existed before it was published, obviously. If it had never been published, would you not get to call yourself a writer?

To me this is like one of those tree falling in the forest questions. Whether or not the tree makes noise is independent of someone being there to hear it. Just like whether or not you are a writer is independent of being published!

The Fourth Obstacle Is The Book Industry

Historically, writers faced serious barriers to getting published. I could practically write a book about this subject alone, but I’ll restrain myself. Let’s just say that the odds of getting published through the traditional route of getting an agent and a publisher were, and are, very low. These days, publishers select books more for their commercial potential than the quality of the writing. Obviously, the book must be well-written, but you can write an amazing book and still have it be rejected because it does not appeal to a wide enough audience.

Additionally, authors who have been enterprising and brave enough to publish themselves have faced ridicule. The stigma of self-publishing has decreased dramatically over the past couple of years, but it is still there. Most readers don’t care who publishes the work, but people involved in the book industry make a big deal of it. Beyond the stigma, running your own publishing business requires hard work and money, making it even more difficult to financially justify your writing efforts.

The truth is that achieving financial success with your writing is difficult, no matter how you choose to publish. I believe that you have to perceive your writing as a self-fulfilling activity. If you need external validation from a publisher or dollar votes from readers to make the effort worthwhile, stop writing right now and go find something else to do that is more likely to give you fiscal satisfaction.

Overcoming the Obstacles

I believe that the key to overcoming all of the obstacles mentioned above is to maintain the conviction of your choice to become a writer. Fight for your right to write. In the U.S. this ideal is codified as “freedom of speech,” and more generally, the “pursuit of happiness.” No one can make you give up that right except yourself.

I can’t tell you that you should “just be confident.” I know it doesn’t work like that. But what you can do is maximize your exposure to positive circumstances and minimize your exposure to negative circumstances. All the while, repeat this mantra: “I have the right to write.”


Have you had to fight for the right to write? Do you feel like it is an ongoing battle, or have you achieved peace with your decision to be a writer? Do you still have fears that erode your confidence, or have you figured out ways to overcome them? Tell me in the comments!


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  1. Oh, wow, I needed to read this today. I’ve been really lucky in that most of my family/friends have been very supportive of my writerly dreams. I think my biggest obstacle is the overwhelming odds stacked against all of us by the publishing industry, and the fact that so many writers have said the things I’m trying to say in my stories and, to my mind, have said it 1000 times better than I can. I basically just keep trying to remind myself of all the authors out there who were working away at it for decades before they finally got published (my newest inspiration is Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe) and that my words DO have merit. Blogging has actually turned out to be REALLY helpful for this, because I get so many nice comments and compliments on my writing. So… onward and upward!

  2. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Crystal. Yes, always onward and upward. Also, remember that "better" is in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t matter how many authors have already addressed the same themes you put into your stories. Your story is unique, and the way you write it will connect with certain readers who will believe that your version is better than what was created by those authors who have been "working away at it for decades." It’s the nature of subjectivity!

  3. What a thoughtful post. I’m one of those who is guilty of putting herself down. Some days I feel like everyone is ‘better’ than me, and I’m wasting my time. I’m working on it, I just count it as another part of my education as a writer.

  4. Hi Daniel *Waves*
    You are spot on with this post. Writers do face obstacles and yet sometimes the greatest obstacle can be the psycological ones. This is why I am nominating you for the Liebster Award. See my blog for details and Congratulations!

  5. Thanks for visiting, Christy. Thanks for the award too. I’ll be right over!

  6. Great post. And that’s not something I say lightly, because I don’t leave "great post" comments. You have talked about many of the things I’ve touched on on my own blog.

    I do think, though, that "just be confident" is a big part of it. Like just doing the writing. It’s part of the job of writing. I see so many bloggers (so many) who get to the 15-20K mark on a work and give up on that one and go to something else. Usually, they cite inspiration, but I really have to wonder. At some point, you have to commit to something and follow it through. Being confident is part of that.

  7. Fantastic post, Daniel. You covered a lot of important issues we, writers, face on daily basis. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Andrew: I agree that "just be confident" makes for a great daily (maybe hourly) affirmation, but I know that the desire to be confident and feeling confident are two very different things when you are reading a bad review or a publisher’s rejection letter.

    Angela: Thanks for visiting and for your words of support. I also appreciate you listing my blog in your mash up. Your efforts are a great example of how supportive writers can be toward one another.