Before we start let's get one thing straight. This isn't an upbeat motivational piece about writing. I hate that shit. The can-do, write 1000 words a day, revise-revise-revise, and you will triumph mentality is the flipside of the coin that I'm trying to stamp on here.
Here's the thing.
You will notice this pyramid (in common with most others) is pointy.
Consider how little room there is to stand at the top. Consider if you and a bazillion other people all tried to go up it at once... my advice would be rather than obsessing about how much you might enjoy the view from the top it would be much better to decide just how much you enjoy climbing pyramids. If you think you'd get a buzz out of the climb, and that the view from pretty much any of the steps would be pretty cool... well then, go for it!
This rather over-stretched metaphor is my response to the many people (some I know quite well) who consider themselves writing failures because they only [enter your success here]. I've listened as fine writers self-flaggelate because they "only" managed [insert success story here]. And I'm sat there thinking... you wrote a frikken book! That's more than most people manage. Then you got an agent and sold the frikken book to a publisher... then you got paid and the book was on shelves from New York to London... and a good number of people gave this book all five sparkling stars and sang its praises... and here you are tearing chunks out of yourself because not _everyone_ loved it... because it 'only' sold thousands... because Writer X sold more, got talked about more, won some silly prize?
And let me stress - I am _not_ Mr Upbeat. I'm not Mr Positivity. I'm just a realist. You can't leap from one side of the Grand Canyon and beat yourself up for not reaching the other side. The leap's the thing!
You don't fail at writing. There's only win.
Failure's not an option. Not because of some macho WIN WIN WIN BS, but simply because it's not on the option list. When I sing in the shower failure isn't an option either, no matter how badly I sing!
People keep asking me for tips for aspiring writers. Is there even such a thing? Start typing... you're a writer. There's no aspiration required.
Or are they aspiring to be a New York Times bestseller? Hell, my advice then is: don't. It's like aspiring to win the lottery. Work hard, buy your ticket. Have fun with the show where the numbers are called. Move on.
I'm on that pyramid. There are people who have been a hundred times more successful than me. There are people who have been a hundred times less successful. I wouldn't count myself a failure at writing if I'd never done more than touch the first step.
For years I wrote for a shifting audience of five or ten people on a writing group. If that was all I ever did I would not have considered my time wasted, any more than I consider the time I spent blowing shit up on the Xbox wasted, or reading a book, or playing a game.
The biggest writing triumphs I've ever had were achieved long before I was published. I wrote things that when I read them back made me laugh and made me cry. Later I wrote things that made other people laugh or cry (in the right places even). That act of sharing, of putting the objects of my imagination into someone else's head with enough clarity and power to evoke strong emotion... that right there is the best writing will ever offer you. And doing it to ten people or ten thousand people is no more gratifying that doing it once - to one person - the first time.
So yes - my advice to aspiring writers could be and has been a check list of good practices, but the real advice is to do it because you enjoy it and to enjoy the hell out of it. And most of all:
i) Never let it be a chore.
ii) If you must measure your success... do it with metrics that actually matter.
iii) Forget about failing... it's not that sort of game.