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Don’t Let the “Play-It-Safers” Talk You Out of Your Writing Potential

No matter what your personal ambitions are as a writer, there will always be play-it-safers who tell you writing is a bad choice, it’s not worth it, there’s no money in it and, well, basically you need to lower your expectations and live down here with the rest of us. Don’t listen to them.

Stop aiming so high, you’re just going to hurt yourself or hurt someone else when you fail.

So, they say. How many of us face such discouragement?

How many people heed the warnings and take the easy, secure route?

How many people allow their dreams to be dismissed because they take advice from people who are not willing to follow and live their own dreams?

We’ve all had people tell us to lower our expectations and fall in line.

I’ve received the same type of messages. I’ve been asked countless times why I write so many useless blog posts and publish books since I’m (apparently) not making any money at it.

I’m never asked by the play-it-safers if I’m having any success blogging and publishing books. No, possibly because they are afraid to ask – afraid to find out that following your dream can be a rewarding endeavor.

The point is that everyone has an assumption about what you should or shouldn’t be doing based on their version of the world and how they believe things should or shouldn’t work.

And since they don’t believe in themselves, they also won’t allow themselves to believe you can do any better. In fact, they may try to stop you. Don’t let them.

We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.

―Anaïs Nin

However, the flipside of that is there are people who DO believe in themselves and will do everything in their power to convince you that you should believe in yourself, too.

It’s no surprise why one of the above two types of people tend to become mentors and the other type of person doesn’t (at least, let’s hope not).

Walt Disney

Walt Disney’s editor at the Kansas City Star newspaper fired Disney in 1919 and told him he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.

What if Disney had believed him and gone on to do something more realistic and down-to-earth with his life? If so, would we have ever heard of Walt Disney?

5 Things Play-It-Safers Say to try to Talk You Out of Your Dreams:

  1. You’re not lucky enough

The reality is that you make your own luck by putting yourself in the position for opportunity to strike. Play-it-safers never get “lucky” because they never position themselves for opportunities.

If you never write and publish a book, then you never have to worry about it not selling, much less about it becoming a bestseller.

However, if you do write and publish a book, you position yourself for opportunity, and to write and publish more books. Your bestseller might not be your first book. It might be your second or third.

  1. You don’t know the right people

The play-it-safers will never know the right people because they don’t get out there to do the work and network. If you’re putting yourself in position for opportunities, then you’re also putting yourself in position to network with the “right” people.

  1. What if it doesn’t work out?

Play-it-safers will always try to make you think of the worst case scenario because that’s what they focus on. The worst case scenario usually means you end up right back where you are right now.

Wow – you’re going to let that stop you? I didn’t think so. The worst case scenario is never as bad as someone else imagines it for you.

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles. I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened

–Mark Twain

  1. You will fail

The one thing you’ll notice from the vast majority who try to talk you out of something is that they speak in absolutes.

You will fail. Really? How do they know that?

People who never take any risks of their own cannot see the upside of trying something challenging. No one’s ever accomplished something worthwhile that didn’t hold the risk of “It might not work.”

And so what if you do fail? Failure isn’t a bad thing, especially when you learn valuable lessons you would not have learned otherwise.

  1. It’s hard work

Of course, following your dream is hard work, but that’s not a bad thing or something to avoid.

Thanks to TV and radio, we hear about overnight success stories all the time, but the truth is by the time you see someone new on TV, or hear a new artist sing on the radio, they’ve already been paying their dues working behind the scenes on their crafts for years.

It’s always going to be hard work, and that’s okay.

Remember the other type of people I mentioned who do believe in themselves and will do everything in their power to convince you that you should believe in yourself, too? Find such a person, ask him or her to coach you, to be your mentor, and get ready to roll up your sleeves.

For those who follow their dreams, hard work is just another way that demonstrates it’s worth it.

Don’t Be a Play-It-Safer

Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dream simply because they can’t see or even imagine what you can see and imagine. For you the sky is not the limit, but the naysayers and play-it-safers reached their limit of mediocrity long ago.

Let the play-it-safers, play it safe. But not you.

Go for it!

(Originally published by Bryan Hutchinson on the former Bestseller Labs website and also published in the book The Audacity to be a Writer.)

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • Karen Sargent

    Hi, Bryan! I told very few people I was writing, so when people found out I’d signed with a publisher, I got a lot of “I didn’t know you were writing a book!” I didn’t talk about it because even if people don’t verbalize their doubt, there’s often that look in their eyes that tells you what they’re not saying. But I also didn’t talk about it because I was my own “play-it-safer” in a lot of ways. Even though I was writing, I didn’t truly believe I’d end up with a book, and the fewer people who’d know I’d failed the better! 🙂 I teach high school English, and a student approached me yesterday with an idea for a book. We talked through her idea, her audience, etc., and then she asked, “Do you think it’s possible?” I told her, “I know it’s possible. This is cliche’ but if I can do this, you can do this.” Now, she has no idea what kind of work is ahead of her, but if this is something she really wants–if publishing is something anyone really wants–it is possible if they view their failures as another step that actually moves them closer–and if they are willing to do whatever it takes. Thanks for another encouraging pep talk!

    • You’re students are so lucky, Karen. And congratulations on signing with a publisher! That’s awesome.

  • James Donavan

    Hey guys I just found a pretty cool website for people to publish their stories and other writing. It’s called Awthr.com

  • Lori Widmer

    It’s one of my biggest gripes in the online forums — one naysayer gets going and the rest just suck up the “failure nectar.”

    It’s just not so.

    I’ve been at this gig for longer than I care to say. The naysayers around me have stopped. Why? Because I’ve proven them wrong. I did that by ignoring them and minding my business–my writing business.

    I get pushback occasionally from people in forums, but the facts don’t lie. I’m doing the damn job, not making excuses, and the results reflect that.

  • I love it, Bryan!
    I’m surrounded by a lot of play-it-safers, and I do my best not to absorb the mentality that they have.
    Writing as a profession is actually a taboo topic among my family and friends, so this is something I’m navigating by myself in the real world.
    I’ve been connecting with fellow bloggers and looking out for mentors.
    Writing is hard enough, I won’t make my life harder by listening to play-it-safers who just drag me down because they never went after their own dreams.