Is It Getting Harder to Become a Professional Writer?
The longer you wait to start, the harder it will be to make an impact.
Rewind to 1912, and the world record for the men’s 100-meter sprint was 10.6 seconds. If you had run at that pace during the 2009 world-championships, where Usain Bolt broke the record in 9.58 seconds, you wouldn’t even rank in the top 8.
The human race is constantly progressing and involving — building on the success and knowledge of the generations before us. The advancements in technology play a key role in the vast improvement in results of our predecessors.
Over the past 100 years, the average IQ has been slowly increasing. According to the APA, the average person of 2012 had a higher IQ than 95 percent of the population in 1900.
The human race is smarter than ever before, and modern technology gives everyone a platform to display their intelligence. With that, it’s getting harder for each of us to stand out. Someone of my skillset may have been hailed a genius 100 years ago. Today, I’m just one among millions with similar skills.
If Shakespeare had written Romeo & Juliet in 2021, or Plato had written The Republic as part of a University dissertation, would it have made the same impact as it has? Probably not; most of us would have already seen the ideas and themes in them through other mediums.
Have all the good ideas already been taken? Is it even possible to produce anything unique anymore?
At Saturation Point
The way we create has changed. Before the modern spike in technology, only a select few could be professional content creators. Only the fortunate musicians would land a record deal, and if you were a writer, only the very best signed publishing details.
If I had written these words back then, nobody would have seen them.
Today, the barrier of entry is much lower. With the right equipment and know-how, anyone can be a musician. Being a writer is even easier, all you need is a laptop to have your words seen by thousands.
That’s great news on the one hand, but on the other, the industry is more competitive — one that used to contain the elite few, now contains millions of people, all with varying skills and abilities.
Regardless of quality and accuracy. Today, you could publish a piece of complete garbage that still lands on a trending list and makes you thousands of dollars.
Quality doesn’t speak anymore. Quantity does. And with thousands of people all shouting into the abyss, it’s getting harder to stand out.
Lesson: Perseverance is Key
With so much noise on platforms like Medium, Instagram, and Spotify, it’s unlikely your work is going to be noticed straight away. Even if it’s ground-breaking and fresh.
The number of articles constantly being thrown at our readers is to blame. Our work is just one of the hundreds they get suggested a day. But perseverance is key. The more articles you push out, the more readers will recognize your name and click your work.
Ironically, articles aren’t viral because they’re high quality — rather, because they are extremely clickable; they play on human emotion, or something that elicits a curiosity.
It’s hard to tell when a piece is going to be a hit. Regardless of whether your views are at 10, or 10,000, you should aim to produce the highest quality of work you can. When that viral story comes along, you want it to tell readers what you’re all about, rather than attracting them for the wrong reasons.
Trend Setters & Followers
Take my example of Plato’s Republic. The reason it made an impact was because his ideas on justice were hailed as ground-breaking for the time period. Rather than following the path of his predecessors, he set himself the challenge of doing something no other man had achieved.
He didn’t follow the crowd. He didn't tell people what they wanted to hear as a means to gain attention. Instead, he spoke his truth.
The modern social dynamic we live in doesn’t reward this. Most creators measure their success through conventional and artificial means; through earnings and statistics — and the easiest way to achieve on that metric is by following the crowd and writing about the hot-topics.
With so many people all creating, it can feel like all the good ideas are taken. Rather than speaking our truth, creators fall into the trap of recycling old content. They see someone else’s viral article and think that if they recycle that message, that it will have the same impact.
If you just paraphrased Romeo and Juliet, would that make your work a best-selling article? Absolutely not. It’s not ground-breaking, it doesn’t reflect quality, and it doesn't stand out.
The game hasn’t changed, it’s just getting harder — the jar of ideas in the universe is slowly growing empty. To be a success, you need to do something different.
Lesson: Share Your Unique Message
Each of us is living our own, independent life. We have our perspectives, ideas, interests, desires and so much more. In fact, the only daily experiences you have that aren’t unique are those online.
If you want to stand out as a writer, you need to do something different. Touch on a topic nobody is talking about, share your opinions, your experiences. Something you’re passionate about.
One thing for sure; replicating the content you see online will not make you stand out. If you’ve seen it before, then so have thousands of other people.
A Generation Left Unimpressed
Cavemen were impressed by fire. Ancient Greek’s were impressed by philosophy. The Victorians were impressed by Shakespeare’s work.
But what are you impressed by? Phones have given us the world at our fingertips, and it feels like we’ve seen it all before.
It’s getting harder to make an ever-lasting impression on someone. For the most part, we instantly forget the Facebook and YouTube videos we watch. It takes something special to impress someone.
We have to do something to stand out. Yet, our readers are giving us less time to leave our mark. Our attention spans are now less than that of a goldfish. So if we are going to impress them, we need to do it as quickly and effectively as possible.
Lesson: Share a Message that Will Resonate With People
When writing a piece, it’s good to critically ask yourself:
- Who am I writing this for?
- Would they care about this piece?
- If I were them, would I care about it?
You can’t appeal to everyone, but you can produce content that resonates with a group of people. Write with their fascinations and curiosities in mind — try and draw on a topic that they really care about.
Writers talk a lot about the importance of a hook to draw readers in. While I agree grabbing their attention from the get-go is important, saying something worthwhile is just as much.
Is it getting harder to become a professional writer? Well, yes and no. Modern technology means that anybody, regardless of skill or experience, can instantly become a paid-to-be one — so in that sense, it’s easier than ever.
On the other hand, however, there’s an increasing amount of noise in the writing industry. With millions of people pumping out content every day, it can feel like all the worthwhile ideas are taken.
The standard has been raised over the last 20 years. But we’re fortunate that we get to take on the challenge and express ourselves. Competitive dynamics bring about the best in people and drive innovation; if you want to stand out, you need to create something unique and different, that deeply resonates with your audience.
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