There is a simple formula for becoming a success as a writer. In fact, it only takes three steps. I’m going to list them for you – follow these and you will be incredibly successful.
Step 1: Become a good writer. Simple right? Master your craft, learn grammar, punctuation, how to vary your sentence structure. Of course you need actual skills to be a successful writer, otherwise, why would anyone want to read what you have written? Don’t make people work to understand what you have written.
Step 2: Work hard. Put in time writing every day. Work your marketing, edit, make sure you develop great covers for your books. Put in the time.
Step 3: Get lucky. Wait, what? Yeah… luck plays a huge role.
Look, sorry for the click-bait title, but this article is actually about survivorship bias, not becoming a successful writer. The truth is that there is no sure fire way to succeed. I have no more ability to tell you how to succeed than you have to tell me.
I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve sold a few books (seriously, only a few – probably less than a hundred total) and I’ve been paid as a magazine writer a few times. On the other hand, I read all the success bloggers. I read Ben Hardy. That guy pisses me off. Not saying he’s not a great guy, in fact, I suspect he is… it’s part of what pisses me off (if I’m being honest it’s my innate cynicism and his innate sincerity). Anyway, he’s damn successful and he publishes formulas for success… but he doesn’t talk about survivorship bias.
There’s a story about Richard Branson… he tried to buy an island, was turned down because he didn’t have any money, chartered a plane to get home and sold tickets for all the seats he wasn’t using. He made a bunch of money and decide to create virgin airlines because of it.
Cool. Let’s talk about Steve. Steve chartered a plane and tried to sell off the spare seats. He only managed to sell three and lost a shitload of money. Steve is now broke.
First, the story of Steve is probably fiction. If it did happen his name probably wasn’t Steve, he might have been she… whatever. The point is we will never know that story, so we think it’s such an amazing thing and secretly wonder if starting an airline is a good idea.
The point is we hear about the ones who succeed, but unless we personally know someone who failed we don’t hear about the ones who failed. Why would we?
That’s where the luck comes in. Without luck, we won’t be the survivor. It will take varying amounts of it, but you can do everything right and fail, you can do everything wrong and succeed. Donald Trump is a failure who got lucky. His businesses are among the worst run on the planet. He’s had so many companies go bankrupt it’s hard to keep track of, he’s a con artist and a criminal, but he’s also the president of the US. I’ve known people who work so much harder than I do, who put in all the time, have all the talent, and they are still penniless. You don’t know their names, because they aren’t successes.
What you can do is improve your odds. Make it take a lot less luck. You do that by getting good at the craft you want to succeed at. You do that by keeping on keeping on even when it gets hard, you do that by putting in the work every day.
So, here’s my plan: I’m going to write every day. I’m going to keep getting better at it. I’m going to publish three articles a week, maintain my consistency. I’m going to try to monetize my posts sometimes and hope that I can make a few bucks. I’m going to try and squash my inner cynic and embrace my inner Ben Hardy.