5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Writing

vintage photo of a young child holding a quill pen and frowning

My venture into writing, as an adult, began with blogging back in 2011 as a vanilla blogger and 2012 as a sex blogger. These days, most of my writing is for other people as a freelancer. Writing takes so many forms, but I think many lessons are more universal than we know. 

Writing Everyday is Not Required

How many of us have heard the advice to write every day? For some people, it works, but for others it’s impossible. Unfortunately, it becomes a cudgel with which we beat ourselves up. Another reason why “we’re not good enough” when the reality is that yes we’re writers, but we’re also other things to other people.

If you can write daily, go for it. But if you can’t, that’s okay. The one thing that has helped me is a consistent writing practice. Routine, scheduled writing that works with your life is infinitely better (and less stressful) than telling ourselves we need to write every day and then mentally berating ourselves when we don’t.

Done is Better Than Perfect

No one is perfect, including those of us who strive for perfection. (Says a recovering perfectionist.) Good enough is not a failure. And done is much more impactful than a “nearly perfect” draft that never sees the light of day.

Once I accepted that my writing would never be perfect, I found it (slightly) easier to let go of my unrealistic expectations. I do the best I can as I write; I check my work for obvious errors; then I hit publish (or send off my piece). Whatever you want to accomplish as a writer will never happen if you don’t finish something, imperfect though it may be.

The Thing You Can’t Stop Thinking About is the Thing You Need to Write

The only time I ever get writer’s block is when there’s something I want to write but I don’t think I can or should. That comes in so many forms: topics that don’t “fit” with my previous writing; opinions that might not be well-received; personal problems when the worlds’ problems seem so much bigger; and on and on and on.

Writing isn’t the same as publishing. Write the thing you can’t stop thinking about. Once it’s written, then decide if you’ll put it out into the world. Maybe the answer is yes. Maybe it needs to stay private. But if an idea won’t leave you alone, write it so you make room for other ideas to come forward later.

Nobody Pays as Much Attention to Your Writing as You Do

This changes as your audience scales, of course. If you’re a baby blogger, almost no one is reading your stuff unless you’re sending them a post link and basically begging them to read it. Even as your audience grows, most readers aren’t paying attention to the details that you’re so worried about. That typo? Only the grammar nerds saw it. The could-have-been-better sex scene? Most readers didn’t notice anything wrong with it.

And those fears about not having written in a while or seeming to “write all the time?” (Real conversations I and other bloggers have had: are we writing too much?!) No one else is obsessing over your publishing schedule the way you are. Write the damn thing. Publish when you can. The one random asshole who says something is just that — a random asshole. They can be ignored.

Growth is Small and Incremental (Mostly)

Are there blips and moments when your blog jumps in views because someone linked back to you? Yes. Can you go viral online for a random tweet you never thought anyone would actually read? Of course. But real growth as a writer or blogger is small and incremental. It occurs in inches not miles. It happens day by day and year by year, not all at once.

That “made it” moment or that “big enough” moment you think might be around the corner (I say to myself from 2012)? Probably not happening. Real sustainable growth occurs when you show up consistently and write the damn thing. The abilities and confidence you crave for yourself tend to creep up on you. No one descends from the heavens to anoint you with it. It mostly happens when you’re focused on the work you want to do and aren’t paying attention to anything else. And I haven’t met too many people who think they’ve “made it” because they’re constantly setting new goals to reach.

Are you a newer or just a struggling writer? All those doubts and fears you have — about your talent, abilities, or future — are shared by every other writer out there. If any of this resonates with you, remember you’re not alone and even the most experienced writers had to overcome our own doubts and fears.


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