Tuesday, September 6, 2016

14 Ways to Guarantee Failure as a Writer

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I’ve never met a writer who didn’t SAY they wanted to be successful. And while everyone’s definition of success is different, there are a lot of writers out there who are working hard to avoid success.

The one thing I’ve discovered on my own writing journey is that I’m often my own worst enemy. I’m the person who has—most often—stood between me and achieving my dreams. But if you really don’t want to find success, here are 14 things you can do to guarantee writing failure!

14 Ways to Guarantee Writing Failure
1. Spend too much time watching TV. There are some great television shows out there right now (Castle, Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, Bones, are some of my favorites). And while they can provide inspiration, they can also stand between me and writing time. I have to decide which is more important, writing or watching TV.

Spend the majority of your time reading about
writing instead of writing.
2. Spend the majority of your time reading about writing instead of writing. You’ve seen this one a lot on my blog lately. But the reason is that I’m running into this a lot with wannabe writers.

3. Don’t track the time spent online. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re surfing the web. Social media (can anyone say Facebook?) is a big sinkhole for time. Because of this, I pay very close attention to the clock when I’m online.

4. Don’t EVER follow a schedule. I get a lot done during my writing day, and the primary reason is that I follow a schedule. I’ve learned that it’s the best way for me to stay productive with my ADD tendencies.

5. Avoid setting goals. It’s really hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.

6.  Don’t come up with a plan or track writing progress. Just like #5 above. If you don’t have a plan, it’s hard to tell if you’re actually making progress. Beyond that, if you’re not tracking your progress, it’s much easier to get discouraged and give up.

Always rely primarily on inspiration and
feeling motivated.
7. Always rely primarily on inspiration and feeling motivated. Inspiration is great, but perspiration is gold. The transition from writing as a hobby to serious writing comes right here. It’s when a writer can and will put words on paper even when he doesn’t feel like it.

8. Make unsubstantiated assumptions. Making assumptions is rarely a good idea, and that’s especially true in the publishing industry.

9. Don’t be willing to wait. Waiting is never fun. And patience isn’t in my arsenal of super powers. But I’ve learned how this business works and waiting is part of it. If you’re willing to wait, good things will come.

Never listen to the experts.
10. Never listen to the experts. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come to me as a freelance editor and paid me to edit a manuscript. Then, completely ignored my advice. I get that it’s our work and we’re in charge, but don’t ask my advice if you’re just going to argue with my expertise. That’s a waste of my time and your money.

11. Try to apply the advice of EVERYONE who offers it. No this isn’t contradicting #10. Choose the people you take advice from and realize that not every piece of advice is the right thing for you.

12. Only read passively. Words are our business. Don’t waste an opportunity to learn. Look at the book or article or blog you’re reading as an opportunity to improve. Why do you like it? Why did you choose that book? Don’t pass up what amounts to a free workshop when you read.

13. Don’t believe in yourself. Ultimately my success and my failure rests with me. If I don’t believe in myself, in the calling and gift that God has given me, then no one else can help me.

14. Give up too early. This one is related to #9. When I started writing seriously, I was part of a group of women and we were all about the same level. Today, I’m one of the few left. I’m not more talented than the others, I just refused to give up. Talent will only take you so far. Success comes from pig-headed diligence.

This is my list of things to avoid. When have you been your own worst enemy?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Are you the roadblock to your own #writing success? @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. Ouch! My toes are really sore from reading this list. I have a lot to work on if I want to keep going in the right direction. Thanks for the reminders, Edie!

    1. "Inspiration is great, but perspiration is gold." Love this Edie.

    2. Hullo, Ellen! I now have an image of some athlete drenched in golden sweat!!! bahahahahah

  2. I am so GUILTY of several of these problems. Thanks for writing, Edie. This is expert advice I will follow.

  3. ya, the schedule thing gets me..... I try, really I do....

  4. Edie, you hit the nail on the head with the perseverance comment. I think it helps too as you put in the time not only with your writing but with connecting with others you grow roots that ground you in the community. Once you start others will encourage you to keep going.

  5. You nailed me with number one and things went downhill from there. Thanks for a great list.

  6. No wonder I'm not getting anywhere! :) Thank you for the post! I'll be using this as my guide!
    Thanks, again,