How to Use the 5-Percent Rule in Your Writing Career, Part I

How to Use the 5-Percent Rule in Your Writing Career, Part I

If you’ve heard of the 5-Percent Rule but have no idea what it means, you’re in luck: I’m here to scare the bejeezus out of you.

Ready to be terrified?


Okay, not really. Actually, if you can take the time to read this post all the way through before freaking out, I think you’ll be pretty ding-dang encouraged!

Using the 5-Percent Rule is actually an awesome way to beat your competition, stand out and become the writer and person you’ve always longed to be.

I can promise you, afterwards, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate on the basis of fear. Cross my heart.

But you’re going to have to stick with it, because at first, you will probably want to run and hide.

So prep yourself. Go pee. Fiber up with a bowl of Raisin Bran. Have, I don’t know, a Red Bull. Whatever your thing happens to be for Getting All Settled, do that thing. And then come do this thing, because I swear, if you can internalize this lesson, you will be set for life.

(Read: For the next five minutes until you have another creative freakout. But five minutes at a time, right?)

The 5-Percent Rule Is Here for You

Here’s the main lesson of this post: Just effing follow the 5-Percent Rule.

What does that mean? Let’s examine that, as I so often do, through the lens of a writer.

First consider another number: 80 percent. That’s the widely publicized anecdotal (and admittedly impossible-to-actually-back-up) number of Americans who want to write a book.

I can’t tell you whether or not this number is actually true, but I can tell you that it seems pretty darn close. I’ve heard everyone from teachers to doctors to checkers mention wanting to “finally write that novel/memoir/pop psychology treatise/biography/short story collection!” As a writer, I might not be the best one for objectively reporting on this number, since people usually share this fact with me immediately after asking what I do, but still. It seems pretty widespread.

I mean, it’s not like people are telling me, “I’ve just always dreamed of being a dentist!”

Because only dentists dream of that. And honestly, the rest of us wonder why the hell they do. (But that doesn’t mean we’re not grateful, Dr. Brannon. We are.)

Let’s Do the Math

So let’s just assume the number of people who want to write a book is 80 percent. Actually, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend its only eight percent. When you compare that to the percentage of Americans actually working as writers/authors, the difference is still mind-boggling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 131,200 self-proclaimed wordsmiths in the United States as of 2016. The American population, on the other hand, clocked in at around 323.1 million as of that same year.

I’ll save you the math: Only about .0004 percent of the population works as writers and authors. Given that “self-proclaimed” is a pretty loose qualifier, let’s assume there are even fewer people actually making a living writin’ and authorin’ … which makes that crazy-low percentage crazy-lower.

Here’s some more math I won’t make you do: Of the hypothetical (and for the sake of argument, much-reduced) 8 percent of people who want to write books, only about .005 of them will ever work as any type of writer, let alone as an author … which is even harder. (Though getting less so, points out the indie author.)

My point? Your chances are sliiiiiiiiiiim to none of ever working as a “real” writer.

That’s the bad news.

Possibly time for another round of Raisin Bran/Red Bull while you get yourself together. Okay, ready for the good news?

Statistics Do Not Define Your Life

You get to choose whether or not you’re part of that .005 percent.

Or .0004 percent. Or whatever infinitesimally small statistic you want to focus on.

You get to choose.

Really, I mean it. Because here’s the thing: Of all the people who say they want to write (or become fine artists, or play music professionally, or start a boutique marshmallow company) … most of them never put in the work. They don’t stick with it.

And now, another percentage, just to make sure you’re Really Super Confused:

The titular 5-Percent Rule.

So just what is this famous, mysterious, world-traveling, hand-shaking, baby-kissing percentage we’re all hearing so much about?

That’s what we’re going to explore in the second post in this series, so stay tuned! (Or check it out now!) 

In the meantime, want to explore your options as a writer even more? Need tips on getting started? Hope to become a funny copywriter ASAP, and need a little inspiration? I got your back, Jack, so go ahead and check out the Free Resource Library today. Just click that handy image below and be on your way!

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