What's the biggest mistake beginning writers make?

Dear Literary Ladies,
What is the biggest mistake or miscalculation aspiring writers make when first start sending their work out? There's usually no feedback, so what's the single most important lesson to keep in mind?

It was during the six years when I was editor of McClure's magazine that I came to have a definite idea about writing. In reading manuscripts submitted to me, I found that 95 per cent of them were written for the sake of the writer never for the sake of the material. The writer wanted to express [her] clever ideas, [her] wit, [her] observations. Almost never did I find a manuscript that was written because a writer loved [her] subject so much [she] had to write about it.

—Willa Cather, from an interview, Omaha World-Herald, 27 November 1921

Am I talented enough to be a successful writer?

A note: Occasionally, I will reprise favorite posts buried deep within this blog. Here's one I really like:

Dear Literary Ladies,
Sometimes I wonder if I really have what it takes to be a successful writer. The desire is definitely there, but I’m not sure I have the talent. For those of us who don’t feel particularly “gifted,” what hope is there?

I didn’t have any particular gift in my twenties. I didn’t have any exceptional qualities. It was the persistence and the great love of my craft which finally became a discipline, which finally made me a craftsman and a writer.

The only reason I finally was able to say exactly what I felt was because, like a pianist practising, I wrote every day. There was no more than that. There was no studying of writing, there was no literary discipline, there was only the reading and receiving of experience. . .

So I would like to remove from everyone the feeling that writing is something that is only done by a few gifted people . . . You shouldn’t think that someone who achieves fulfillment in writing and a certain art in writing is necessarily a person with unusual gifts. I always said it was an unusual stubborness. Nothing prevented me from doing it every night, after every day’s happenings.

Anaïs Nin, “The Personal Life Deeply Lived” (from a series of lectures, 1973)

Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

Contact: navaatlas (at) gmail.com

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