Tag Archives: affirming the consequent

Writing Excuses 8.34: Survivorship Bias

When people who have succeeded at a given endeavor speak about their success, we are inclined to listen because hey, we’d like to succeed there as well. It’s critical to recognize the bias here. Survivorship bias is the skewing of the data that occurs when you examine and seek to emulate successes without considering failures in that same space.

Here at Writing Excuses we suffer from it. So in this podcast we’ll talk about the places in which our experiences may just not apply to you because we got lucky. Sure, there are things we’ve done right, and clearly in some cases we’ve been able to exploit good fortune to our advantage, but in this episode we’ll focus on the non-reproducible aspects of our own success with an eye toward helping you to focus your own efforts on the things that actually matter.

The Liner Notes We Keep Promising You: Here is Tobias Buckell’s post on Survivorship Bias (note: contains strong language)

Word of the Week: “Rothfussian,” which means “writing something so awesome on your first go that success cannot be denied to you.”


A very successful author or artist has a fan who decides to emulate that creator’s life in crazy, cargo-cult detail in an effort to become similarly successful.

We plugged Michael Moorcock’s Elric series for you, but those are no longer available on Audible. You might consider Moorcock’s Blood: A Southern Fantasy instead.

Writing Excuses 8.13: Fake It Till You Make it

What does it mean to “fake it till you make it?” For this episode we talk about the things that we do, or that we have done, that help us (or helped us) feel professional. Howard explains the origin of his legendary online buffer, and how eight years later he changed his wardrobe. Mary tells us the story of the omitted first line of Glamour in Glass, and how her reaction to it was destined to shape (or solidify) the image she wanted others to have. Brandon talks about his first time on the NYT Best-Sellers List.

Obviously the thing we should all be doing, first and foremost, is writing, but there are professional behaviors you can engage in that will help you feel more like a professional writer.

But! There is a logical fallacy to avoid, however. “Affirming the consequent” is when we look at the things our favorite authors do, and do them without realizing that those are consequences of being professionals rather than precursors. We talk about some of the consequences that we, as authors-aspirant, might find ourselves affirming.

Finally, we talk about “imposter syndrome,” and there’s good news on that front: even many full-time, award-winning professionals suffer from it.


This is a submission prompt! Submit a story to a high-level market that you think you’ll never sell to.

A History of Warfare, by John Keegan, narrated by Ian Stuart