Be Willing to Work for Nothing

If you’re like any reasonable human being, you want to be able to make money while not working. Seeing as that’s not possible without work, you want to be working as little as possible while making the absolute most that you can. This is probably what we would define as a good job.

So you want a nice, easy job, huh? One that pays you six figures to sit at a desk and answer three phone calls a day. In an air-conditioned office. And the boss allows you to bring your computer. The only other thing you’re doing is bringing the boss his coffee. Overtime is one extra phone call. Life is good.

Not going to lie, I would like a job like that. Who wouldn’t? As long as you answer those three or four phone calls a day with amazing tact and prompt, you might even get a raise. I know we’re in fairy-dreamland here, but such jobs exist that you can do very little work while earning a sustainable income. My mom had one such job.

Regardless, the wish for a magic red button that you can press to have all your problems fixed exists in all of us. There are a lot of things you want, but you don’t want to work for. Perhaps after watching Commando, you now want to be buff like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But then you think about all the Snoballs and Twinkies that requires you to sacrifice, and in turn you dispel your dreams as you crack another beer.

The mantra of life is as follows: You get what you work for. You don’t work, you get nothing. Nothing of substance, at least. You bust your hump repeatedly over the course of five years, and people are going to start throwing money at you. This is how life works. You work for money, you pay money for stuff.

So how does this apply to being a writer? Well, a number of nonwriters have coined a particularly unfunny joke about us: “Yeah, I’m a writer.” You say. “Oh?” They reply. “So you’re unemployed?” The other nonwriters laugh it up, pretending to understand just how true the joke may be.

Short digression: some guy at a party thought it would be funny to pull this joke on Brandon Sanderson after he’d asked him what his profession was. Brandon responded: “I just hit the New York Times bestseller’s list.” You probably dreamed of such things happening. Dreams come true.

Okay, back to the blog post. The point is this: writing is not the cushy office job where making money is a breeze. It may be fun while you’re pounding away at the keyboard with dreams in your head, but nothing brings you back down to earth like a lengthy and expensive electric bill.

Put simply: to be a writer, you must first be willing to write for no pay.

Note I said “willing to write”. It’s possible that you are able to land a lucky shot and get a writing job early on, but it’s usually tough to get a writing job anywhere, let alone creating your own content. To become the next Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, or even Grandpop Tolkien, you’ve got to learn to be a nobody first. This means that you exchange many hours of hard work for nothing.

But that’s what separates the writers from the 9-5 workers: Taking a leap of faith, a step into the unknown. Choosing the mystery card instead of cutting their losses and starting again. All successful writers took a gamble: now their names are known by all. Tolkien could have chosen to be a librarian. Or an office clerk. For heaven’s sakes, he was a linguist! A writer?

But that’s what it takes to have your dreams come true. This seems like a bad place to end this article, but there’s really not much else I can tell you: he who labors in obscurity for years (obscure blog, anyone?) will reap the rewards in public. He who gives up fails and does not become a writer.

Be brave. And never, ever give up.

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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