Don’t Let People Tell You That You Can’t Write

If you want to be a writer, go after it. Period!

They said, “You can’t write.”

“You can’t” are the two most destructive words in world history. These two words have destroyed countless numbers of dreams. They have wrecked people’s potential. And they have ended people’s belief in what could have been.

When you declare that you want to be a writer, family and friends will laugh and snicker, and some will say, “You can’t be a writer.” It's as if you said to them, “I want to fly like a bird to the moon,” or “I want to swim like a fish across the big blue sea.”

“Its impossible,” some will say. “Only the gifted, can write,” others will say. But the most hurtful, soul-crushing thing some will say is simply, “You can’t.”

Here are three takeaways from Will Smith in his movie, Pursuit of Happiness.

You can’t write. Woman tossing her hair in a forest.
You can’t write. Woman tossing her hair in a forest.
Image by from

If you dream of being a writer, protect your dream

Share your dream with only a select few people who you know will support you. If you run around telling everyone you know about what you want for yourself, you’ll find many people won’t support you. At all costs, protect your dream from naysayers and doubters.

The bigger, more ambitious your vision, the more people will resist encouraging you to go after it. It’s not that they are malicious or want to hurt you. In a misguided way, they want to protect you.

If people can’t write, they will tell you you can’t do it

Writing is unique because it doesn’t take a lot of specialized training or expensive equipment to do it. At a minimum, you need a tablet and a pen. Throw in a basic understanding of English and you’re a writer.

Millions of people say they want to write, but they don’t do it. And most of those who try writing never finish.

When you tell people you want to write, there’s a good chance some of those people have tried to write and failed. They won’t tell you they couldn’t do it. Instead, they tell you you can’t do it.

Woman behind a scarf. You can write.
Woman behind a scarf. You can write.
Image by from

If you want to be a writer, go after it

Do not listen to people who tell you you can’t write. While you cultivate the writer within you, keep your inner writer a secret to all but a select few. If you need support, join a writer’s group. But don’t let the well-meaning members keep you from writing.

If you want to be a writer, go after it. Don’t make any excuses. Don’t let people discourage you by saying you can’t do it.

If you want to be a writer, don’t listen to people who say, “You can’t.”

Listen to yourself and say, “I can.”

Published in The Ascent, The Writing Cooperative, Illumination-curated, Writers’ Blokke.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store