rebelling against low expectations

No, Writing As A Career Isn’t Silly

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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.”

Ouch…

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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TRANSCRIPT:

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.

….

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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


About the author

Brett Harris

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

rebelling against low expectations

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