So here’s a little story.
I’ve been writing since before I could write. Literally, I created a stapled together “book” at the ripe old age of five and handed it to my mom so she could write the words I wanted on each page (because, you know, not being able to read complicates things). Ever since then, I’ve been compulsively writing, wanting to write, or thinking about writing. It’s defined my life ever since I can remember.
And I only started calling myself a writer this year.
I get it. Calling yourself something like a “writer,” a title that can make some people think you’re instantly more mysterious or cool or sophisticated than you actually are, can seem scary. It was scary.
So I avoided the word for about twenty years.
But then I began to dive a bit more into the world of writing and blogging, and began to see that this hesitation was unfounded. In fact, my reluctance to own the title “writer” may have actually held me back from the kind of bold moves that I secretly wanted to take.
So here are four reasons why you, you who’s constantly got your head in the clouds and hands on the keyboard and espresso coursing through your veins, should call yourself a writer.
1. You need to treat your writing like a job
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve learned this year is to treat your writing like a business. If you ever hope to make writing a bigger part of your life (or even quit your day job!) you need to stop fiddling around and realize that becoming a writer is, in many ways, becoming a small business owner. You need a vision, a plan, a product, and a certain amount of know-how to get things off the ground.
What does that all involve?
Yep, writing is seriously hard work (obviously, you know this). And calling yourself a writer is owning up to the fact that writing is a lot of work. When I began telling people I was a writer, hearing that title come out of my mouth reinforced the idea that it’s my job. Writer is a job title, and I needed to see my writing not as my hobby but as my job.
If you’re ready to tackle that job and put all your heart and energy into it, if you’re willing to go through all the not-so-fun steps to get there, then you’re treating your writing as a business. You’re doing the work of a writer.
2. Your time goes where your priorities are
In order to do the work of a writer, you need to put in the time. That means shutting the door and shutting off the TV and pounding a few thousand words out of your keyboard. Doing this will always mean saying no to other things. But when you see yourself as a writer, not a hobbyist or an “aspiring writer,” you’ll put the other crap away and make it happen.
What bridges the gap between someday’s dream and today’s reality is whether you choose to spend today putting in the work.
Herein lies the difference between writers and aspiring writers: writers put in the work. They show up, they clock the hours. They know that a dream takes time, but they’re willing to put in that time.
Aspiring writers are waiting for something to happen. They wait for the perfect day or “inspiration” or someone else’s affirmation. But they’re waiting, not working.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with being someone who hopes to write someday but is currently in a circumstance where that’s impossible. Nor is there anything wrong if you like keeping writing as a hobby and are comfortable with the casual, “aspiring writer” approach to the craft.
But a casual, hobbyist approach will very, very rarely lead to a big “break” that will effortlessly make writing a huge part of your life. It just doesn’t work like that. If you want to be a writer “for real,” you need to prioritize it. And seeing yourself as a serious writer, calling yourself a writer, can help shift your perspective and help you prioritize what you’ve chosen to take seriously.
Your words matter, and your thoughts matter. If you expect to be a writer, think of yourself as one. Call yourself one. Be one. If someone wants to interrupt your time because you’re “just writing,” don’t let them! People don’t demand others to stop working at their job whenever it’s convenient. If you’re a writer, then writing is your job. Carve out writing time and then guard it like your life.
3. Thinking you’ll “earn” the title later is a lie
I used to think that I would be a writer if I made it big. You know, like, J.K. Rowling big. Like once everyone read my books and I’d earned a certain amount of awards and everyone else could affirm my writer-ness, then I’d be a writer.
Look, I know I’m not the only artsy type who gets self-conscious about their skills or whether they’re as good as the next person. It happens. But if that’s your tendency, then you’ll never think of yourself as a writer. You’ll never think it because there will always be someone else further down the creative road than you are.
There will always be someone with more blog readers, more copies sold, more earned per year from their writing. You will always be surrounded by people more successful than you. But you know what?
That says nothing about where you’re at.
Really, it doesn’t. There is no magic criteria you must meet to be called a writer. If your life needs to look like someone else’s before you can be considered an artist of the craft, well, that’s crap. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. You don’t need to wait for someone else to bestow you with that honor.
4. People need to know
Now, I’m not saying you should lie to people. If you spend 60 hours a week as a dentist and then write one poem every five months, people will find it deceptive if you give “writer” as your occupation. Just like I wouldn’t call myself an interior designer because I painted and re-furnished one room in my house this year.
But if writing is the goal of your life and you’re already working hard to make that happen, then people need to know!
When I made my writerly ways known more publicly, people started asking about it. People ask what stories I’m working on or how far I’m getting in my latest book. It’s great accountability when you know that your family, friends, and coworkers will be asking you about your progress.
It also opens doors. When I went to a local newspaper as a writer and asked them to review my book, they agreed, and then offered me a job as a freelance writer. Score! And it makes sense. You’ll find more writing opportunities when people know you’re a writer. You’ll connect with other writers who you may not have even known were fellow writers if you hadn’t introduced yourself as such.
Just a little honesty can work big magic.
Right now I’m learning what it really takes to be a writer, and diving into what it means to take my writing seriously. All four of these points I need to continue to cultivate, but seeing myself as a writer is a start.
What are your writing dreams? Do you call yourself a writer? What do you want to do to make them happen?
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