Is All the Hard Work Really Worth It?

One of the most common questions most of us have is, “Is all the work that goes into writing and publishing really worth it?”

Admit it. Even if you haven’t actually verbalized the question, you have asked it inwardly at least once.

I’ve gotten plenty of emails from other writers who’ve asked “is it worth it” in one form or another:

After rejection after rejection, can I really keep going?”

Is the endless waiting (on agents, editors, contracts, etc.) really worth the emotional turmoil?

Why should I work so hard only to put myself through the torture of painful feedback, criticism, and poor reviews?”

Will the writing, editing, rewriting, re-editing really help me improve? Or am I just wasting my time?

Is all the time away from family, friends, hobbies, etc. really worth it in the long run?

Is all the hard work of writing and marketing ever going to pay off?”

The above questions have crossed my mind at one time or another. It’s all too easy, especially nowadays, in the rapidly changing publishing industry to second-guess ourselves, to have a lot of doubts about what we’re doing, and to wonder if the work is really worth it.

In some ways, I guess the answer depends on what your ultimate goal is. We’re all writing for different reasons.

But no matter our personal goals, ministries, or aspirations, I think ultimately every author wants to gain some money and recognition from their writing and publishing endeavors.

Will you become the next Suzanne Collins making millions of dollars a year? Highly unlikely.

And will you gain the worldwide fame that JK Rowling now possesses? Probably not.

That kind of fortune and fame will not come to many of us. Only an elite echelon will reach epic proportions.

But chances are very good that you will achieve some measure of success as a writer . . . if you want publishing success badly enough and are willing to work hard enough for your dreams.

Just because we won’t become a household name like Collins or Rowlings doesn’t mean we can’t continue to dream big. I’m reminded of what author Debbie Macomber once said about dreaming big at a conference I attended. Her message was that if we ever want to “make it” we have to practice the power of positive thinking.

She asked us to write down five goals. The goals could be anything, even the desire to become a best-selling author or have a movie made from one of our books. She also encouraged us to write the goals on paper. When we write down our goals, our subconscious works toward them. Our heads will follow the dreams in our hearts.

However, when we fill our minds with “is this really worth it?” we’re essentially talking negatively to ourselves. While we’re wise to evaluate our situations from time to time, we can’t let those negative thoughts cloud our view—at least for long. We can’t walk around threatening to quit every time something discourages us.

Instead, we need to pull out our list of dreams, review them, and tell ourselves that if we keep working hard to reach the dreams, we’ll get there eventually.

Whenever I’m tempted to question if all the waiting and rejections and sacrifices and heartaches are really worth it, I try to remind myself of the good things about my writing journey: the love of telling stories, the friendships with other writers, the growth that’s come through trials, the miracle of completing a book, the joy that comes from a job well-done, and the pleasure of sharing my word with others.

Yes, I hope for more. I still cling to those dreams I wrote down at that conference. And I know if I want to see them come true someday, I’ll need to keep working hard. Keep the talk positive. And hold onto hope.

Whether unpublished or not, to be successful in the writing industry, we have to keep a long-term vision. Nothing happens overnight. Nothing.

I always love the saying that the writing journey is a marathon not a sprint.

So don’t give up when it seems like it’s taking too long. Those who find success are the ones who say, “Yes, it is worth it” and they keep running.

How about you? Have you ever asked yourself if all the work that goes into writing and publishing is really worth it? What negative talk is most common in your mind these days?


  1. Oh, all the time! Then I remind myself that, despite everything, I love writing. Even if it goes nowhere, I couldn't live my life not writing. Of course, this leads to arguments with myself during the tough times!

  2. Great post! Isn't that photo from Chariots of Fire? The score is playing in my head now.

    Sometimes I wish I could quit (I've been writing 15 years now) but I can't seem to give up my quest to write a really good story. If I just focused on the marketing aspect of being a working writer, I would be finished. It's the pursuit of excellence in terms of craft, that keeps the fire burning inside for me. This is what builds my resilience and helps me persevere.

  3. One thing that I don't worry too much about is the time. My husband has literally been waiting 10 years for me to sit down and write, so he's quite supportive of my work. My youngest is 9, so I'm much more free to do this crazy thing called writing a book.
    I sent my MS to my BFF's mom and she promised me she'd read it when the visitors were out the door. So, my beloved 2nd mother sat down last Friday night to 'do me a favour'...then I reeled her in! HA! She read it on two days. It's a 119,000 word book!!! THAT, ladies and gentlemen, was manna for my soul.
    Self doubt of the agent/publisher variety still nags me, but I have to remember why I write, which tell stories.

  4. It is a lot of hard work for sure. I didn't start writing to get famous. I started writing because I needed to write down the stories in my head. Was I naive about the rest of it? Oh yeah! But I am making a great living at it now, and enjoying the process. What's the old saying? 'do what you love for a living and you'll never work a day in your life' Some days it sure feels like work!

  5. Oh, I've been known to ask whether it is all really worth it from time to time. Usually when I'm exhausted from other junk going on.

    I'm trying to learn to keep my long-term goals in perspective rather than get caught up in the successes of others around me. Reaching our goals takes time and lots of it.


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  6. I have had tons of moments where I've asked myself is this really worth it?! All the tears, moments of frustration...pacing the floor figuring out where the different plot threads should go...but I've come to realize this is my love...I couldn't spend the rest of my life NOT writing:) So will keep learning, keep growing keep focusing on doing my best...because it's in me and I have to get it out !
    BTW thanks for the tips...I have written down my 5 goals :-)

    thanks, Lorna

  7. I just told my husband that writing is like a roller coaster, there are the highs and the lows and the loop the loops, but all of it is thrilling. I've been dreaming of writing for over ten years and have been serious about it for the past five months, but in that time, especially when I read other people's blogs and see what the writer's life is REALLY like, I've had my doubts. There are many things about writing that I expected, but so much more that has come as a surprise. There is a part of me that yearns and longs to do this more than ever with each passing day - despite the hardships.

  8. Thanks for the support of positive thinking, Jody. None of us know where this writing road will take us, but having an End Goal helps keep me going. Plus, I just love the journey (on most days). :<)

  9. Yes, I have asked myself if all this work is worth it.
    Most days, my answer is yes.
    Some days, my answer is no.
    Those are the days I take myself for a lo-ong walk and talk it out with God until I get my head screwed back on straight.
    I also usually talk it out with my "security net" -- my closest writing buds who talk my down off the ledge when I feel like jumping.
    And really ... I can either wonder if it's all worth it doing this -- being a writer -- or wonder if it's all worth it doing something else.
    And when push comes to shove, I'd rather angst over my passion.

  10. So true. I've tried giving up this pesky writing gig. Really, I have. Not all that long ago, I told my mom I was done. Finished! Then she caught me working on a new story. LOL. I can't help myself.

  11. I'm still so early in the journey that I don't think I've REALLY had to ask myself that quite yet. I love what you said about positive thinking. Simply love it. It's also about trusting God. Not so easy to do, but necessary.

  12. You are very wise, Jody, and generous for sharing your wisdom with us--thank you!

    All the junque of publishing a book and marketing it became worth it the day I got a phone call from a reader who said, "Thank you for writing this book--it was exactly what I needed to get me through this time. My son is waiting for a liver transplant, and we're praying he lives long enough to receive the new liver."

    Wow. I never dreamed my writing would help someone on that level. What a humbling experience.

    When I want to quit, I pull back for a few days to gain some perspective, pray for guidance, and eat ice cream with five or more words in the title!

  13. Although we love to write, what would be the use if nobody read our jottings? It would be like an artist leaving his paintings in a burning house. We must strive with every ounce of our being to ensure someone appreciates our work.

  14. It's always worth it if writing is what you love.

  15. Thanks for the encouragement, Jody! Though I'm nowhere near publishing, I've felt the doubt too, staring at my mangled manuscript(s). Is all this work worth sharing the stories in my head? But somehow I can't imagine myself doing anything else. So I keep working, writing, learning. Positive thinking is like jet fuel! It's amazing what you can accomplish with it. Without it, it's hard to get off the ground.

  16. I think it's important to find joy in achieving small goals. When I look back at where I was a year ago I feel satisfaction with what I've accomplished. A few days ago I discovered that the public library in the city I live in had ordered 3 copies of my first book (Panama Girl) for three of its branches. Those small accomplishments are meant to be treasured!

  17. Thanks Jody for such an insightful post. I've only been writing steadily the last two years and never felt such joy as when I sit down at my desk and know I have the next several hours to create a totally different world. My niece recently read my manuscript and found a Bible verse in the text that resonated with her. She chose to inscribe the verse in both of her son's Bibles and thanked me. Although I wasn't the author of that verse, the fact that my writing brought it to her attention and inspired her, made it all worth while.

  18. I haven't wondered if it was all worth it, because so far it hasn't felt arduous. The nagging negative talk? That I probably won't ever get published. And odds are, I won't, but it won't keep me from continuing to write and trying, because I love it all.

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  20. Oh yes, I have asked and answered that question.

    It is worth all the time and hard work. I learned this when I gave a talk to some middle graders about my writing journey and how I wanted to quit many times, but stayed the course.

    After my talk, a little girl (about 10 yrs old) came up to me and told me I inspired her to write.

    So, yes, all the hard work, time away from family, rejection letters, starting over, revising, late nights...yes, it is all worth it just to hear a child speak those words.


  21. Sooo hard when you pour years into a book or books, only to find you chose the wrong topic/book length, etc. But God has a way of encouraging me when I'm thinking of chucking the whole thing. As I look back over my life, I realize that writing is what I will do till I'm dead, whether it gets published or not. But I'm hoping that someday there will be a payoff for all this time I've poured into it, and I won't have to be posthumously rewarded for it! Grin.

  22. If you're writing for the right reasons, you're going to write whether you get published or not. It's a need. A blood-hot need that fills you up. That said, such a solitary activity -- living in your head, as it were -- makes it so easy to slip into despair. It helps to know that others are going through the same thing. So we can all be unhappy together.

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