rebelling against low expectations

No, Writing As A Career Isn’t Silly


Meet Bethany.

She’s a 14-year-old fiction writer from England with a dream of getting published someday.

And she just had a terrible experience.

In a discussion with three girls her age she was told:

“You can’t do writing as a job.”

“You may never get published.”

“You might not be good enough.”

“You need a real job to fall back on.”


Bethany was crushed. So much so that she wasn’t even up to sharing her pain with her beloved writing community online.

Her mom had to do it for her.

I logged into Facebook to see this cry for help in the writing group I lead:

“My daughter Bethany needs some encouragement. She had a discussion with three friends today who told her she couldn’t do writing as a job, she may never get published, she may not be good enough, and she needs a real job to fall back on. It made her so sad and discouraged.

As her mum, I believe in her. If she wants to write as a career, I am here to help, support, guide, and teach her — more than anything, to believe in her. So, as part of being her number one cheerleader, I have a request. Could you send her some encouragement?”

An outpouring of support from the community had already started, but I wasn’t content to leave my comment and walk away.

I knew this wasn’t an isolated incident.

Bethany’s friends were repeating something they’d heard — a popular belief on both sides of the Atlantic — that pursuing writing as a career is silly… childish even.

Like wanting to be a ballerina or an astronaut or an NBA player.

Smart people get real jobs.

Writers don’t make any money.

You’re just wasting your time.

You’ll never be good enough to get published.

Each time these ideas get repeated they grow stronger. 

And writers who aren’t prepared get crushed.

I knew Bethany wasn’t the first young writer to hear these arguments. And she certainly wouldn’t be the last. 

These dangerous ideas needed to be addressed.


At the time, I was recording a daily audio snippet for my writing students — answering their questions on everything from platform building, to motivation, to how to overcome writer’s block.

As soon as I heard what happened to Bethany, I knew I had my next topic.

I was going to tackle these lies head on.

I was going to tell Bethany that she wasn’t being silly.

I was going to explain why her friends were just plain wrong.

And was going to do it in less than five minutes.

So I did.

The lesson received such a positive response from my students I’ve decide to share it publicly.

I realize not everyone has supportive parents, a loving writing community, or access to writing mentors like Bethany does.

If Bethany needed this encouragement, how much more a young writer who feels alone?

So, to every young writer out there who dares to dream.

This is what you need to know.


No, Writing As A Career Isn’t Silly

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Hey guys, it’s Brett. And today we have a question from, Caroline, one of our incredible YDubber mothers.

She writes: “My daughter Bethany needs some encouragement. She had a discussion with three friends today who told her she couldn’t do writing as a job, she may never get published, she may not be good enough, and she needs a real job to fall back on. It made her so sad and discouraged.

As her mum, I believe in her. If she wants to write as a career, I am here to help, support, guide, and teach her — more than anything, to believe in her. So, as part of being her number one cheerleader, I have a request. Could you send her some encouragement?”

First of all, Caroline, you are doing such an amazing job as Bethany’s mom. And I actually recorded an entire episode on the role of parents in raising successful authors.

But today I want to focus on Bethany.

Bethany, your friends are wrong. The world has changed and they are talking about the old world. Fortunately, you are living in the new world.

They’re talking about the world where going to college guaranteed you’d get a job related to your degree.

They’re talking about a world where deciding to get a “real job” meant you could get a real job, paying a decent wage, and have a stable career.

But that world is gone now and it has been for a long time. 

Let’s talk about the new world.

In the new world only 23% of college graduates get jobs doing what they went to school for. And the majority of college graduates are working in fields that don’t even require a degree — meaning they had to use a fall-back option because their plans didn’t work out.

I can’t tell you how many students I know who tried pursuing a “real job” only to end up living back at home and working as waiters. And these are some of the smartest, hardest working, incredible people.

In other words, everyone today needs to have a fall-back option. You don’t just pick a career and get it. And in this new world your friends are likely going to struggle as much or more than you, because they are going to pursue things that supposedly make good money and you are going to pursue something you are truly passionate about.

Now you might say, “But one of my friends is planning to be a doctor and another is planning to be a lawyer. Aren’t they guaranteed to have successful careers?”

And the answer is: “Not in the new world.”

For example, in Canada, 78% of ENT specialists who graduated in 2014 failed to find a position.

The National Post ran a story on this called, “Medical Schools Churning Out Doctors Who Can’t Find Residencies and Full-Time Positions.”

In the United States, 20% of law school graduates from the class of 2010 are working in jobs that don’t even require a law license and 60% are working in low level legal jobs that are insufficient to pay-off their student loan debt, which averages around $100,000 per student.

The New York Times ran a story on this called, “Burdened With Debt, Law School Graduates Struggle in Job Market.”

And so this idea that writing is somehow the one career that has this problem, or is the one career that you might not succeed at, or that success is somehow “guaranteed” if you do something else — it’s just silly.

The best way to succeed is to do what your most passionate about, because that’s what you’re going to work the hardest at, that’s what you’re going to put in the time for, and that’s the thing you’re not going to give up on even when you get discouraged and don’t experience instant success.

And here’s another thought for you, Bethany. 

“Would you rather fail at something you love or succeed at something you hate?”

There are so many people out there who are having “successful careers” and they’re absolutely miserable. They just hate their jobs. It sucks the life out of them. They live for the weekends. And they get to the end of their lives and feel like they wasted it.

I have a front row seat to this in the entrepreneurial world because there are all these people in their 30s, or their 40s, or their 50s, and they’re finally deciding to break free from the rat race and say, “I want to do the things I’m passionate about. I want to do the things that truly get me excited.”

Yet they’re starting decades later after spending more than half their lives and so much of their energy on things that just made money. I mean, that’s silly.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying, “Everyone is likely to fail at their chosen career, so you might as well fail at writing.”

What I’m saying is: “There’s a chance you might fail. But no career is immune to failure. And sometimes the greatest career failure is to succeed at the wrong thing.”

The fact is, your friends are wrong, Bethany. They are living in the old world. Fortunately, you don’t have to live there with them.



If this lesson encouraged you, please consider sharing it with any other writers you know.

And if you’re an aspiring Christian writer under 30, consider getting on the wait list for my writing program.

It’s called The Young Writer’s Workshop — and we’ll be accepting new students Summer 2018.

Click Here to Join The Wait List

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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • This is a great article. It is terrible how writing seems to be the only career that gets such bad publicity when you’re really not guaranteed any “good” job. You and Jaquelle are doing an amazing job of training us to write well in YWW. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Brett!

    • Adora, I know! It’s crazy to me how writing is viewed as the “unrealistic” job when there are certain things you can do to make it completely doable. I’m so glad YWW has been helpful and encouraging!

  • Listening to this episode made me realize that my dreams actually can happen. Thanks Brett and Jaquelle-we truly appreciate the work you have put into making the YWW so awesome. If you haven’t joined us, PLEASE DO! 🙂 We would love to have you join the community and see all the amazing content.

      • Oh, thank you so much, Brett! How could we be anything less when we have such amazing instructors? 🙂

  • Thank you so much for this! I sometimes get discouraged, when the world tells me lies about my dream of being a writer. You told them! 😉 If fact, if it wasn’t for you all at the Reb, I wouldn’t be a writer for Fervr, Secondly Magazine, and my own blog! Thank you for taking on the lies…

  • Wow, this is such an amazing post! I hear all the time that you can’t really make a living off writing and this audio was such an encouragement to me. I have several brothers who write and I’ll have to show this to them! Thanks Brett!

    • I’m so glad it was an encouragement to you, Ashley. I think the biggest reason young writers don’t succeed is because they succumb to doubts and discouragement.

  • Brett wrote an article!! 😮 Thanks for sharing this with the world, Brett. Great encouragement for us writers who sometimes wonder if our dreams are impossible.

  • I agree, writing is in no way a silly idea. If people didn’t write for a job, then how do the libraries even get started? They couldn’t, I write regardless of other opinions. But that’s just it, there opinions and not facts. Keep going, because nothing worth having comes easy. By the way, FLAWLESS job on the Do Hard Things book, just read it, laughed, and loved it.

  • Love this!! As a little encouragement to everyone: I graduated from high school in May and decided to take a year off of school before getting my creative writing degree in order to focus on my writing career. I had some goals for the summer, such as finding an ongoing writing job and getting some of my fiction published, but I doubted they’d happen anytime soon. Flash forward to two weeks post-graduation and I now write for a fitness website (it was the first writing job I applied for, and I was hired with fantastic pay) and I have a paperback coming out soon. It IS possible!!

  • THIS. Thanks for sharing! Yes, so true. Do what you’re passionate about, because you’ll fight for it, and often times its the fighters that succeed in the truest sense of the word. And now with indie publishing? Being able to make a career–or at least a part time job–out of writing is so much more than just a possibility, it can be a reality.

    • So good to have you chime in here, Kara!

      Yes, the opportunities available through indie publishing have really changed the game — whether your goal is to be an indie author or simply use indie publishing as a path towards a traditional book contract.

      Also, in case anyone doesn’t know it: Kara Swanson is a published young author whose new book, The Girl Who Could See, looks incredible:

  • Wow, thank you for sharing. I am actually a young aspiring writer, but I had never really considered writing as a good career option. At least I know that now it’s not impossible, or even improbable to make a career out of writing, even if you never go to college. Right?

    • It is certainly not impossible or improbably to make a career out of writing. And depending on what sort of writing career you want to pursue, college isn’t necessary — though it may still be valuable. My writing career took off while I was still in high school.

      • I am wanting to write novels, probably fiction or historical fiction. But either I hit writer’s block or I never seem to have the patience or time to finish. I’m hoping my senior year to do a program where you learn to write a novel though.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →