Why would you want to be a writer anyway?
“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it”
― Roald Dahl
Right after my Medium Milestone — my first 500 followers — I kinda stopped publishing. It’s been weeks now and I have no excuse … or do I?
Keeping up the habit of writing and publishing regularly and staying focused on your writing career is quite hard to do when you have a life as well. Of course, writing should be your life. And you have no idea how much I want it to be. But I have to live as well. Or rather, make a living. And since I’m not there yet with my writing, I have to do something else to earn my income.
As a freelance editor, I have been particularly lucky landing a principal who keeps me occupied — and earning — for the bigger part of my work week. Though I am occasionally required to visit clients, I can do most of my work from home. I actually like the work, even more since I have been entrusted with an important new project. How’s that for an excuse? There are only so many hours in a day and I am nowhere near as productive as I’d like to be.
I keep telling myself it’s all a work in progress, this new writing life. But that in itself, of course, is yet another excuse.
Be honest — what excuses do you make for yourself not to write (and publish)? See if you recognize any of the list below and let me know in the comments.
Excuse №1: I am too busy to write
It is the oldest excuse in the book. But sometimes, it’s just the truth.
It’s hard, becoming a serious writer when you have other obligations distracting you from your goal.
The most prolific writers here on Medium will tell you that you need to write daily to become an accomplished writer and publish several articles a day to become successful on Medium. I agree to some extent. Of course, we all speak from personal experience. And there it is: the word ‘personal’. For every writer submitting him/herself to a strict, daily regimen, there is a writer perfectly content only writing whenever inspiration calls.
Let’s just say both types of writers are right. Who is to say then what is the right way? The truth is, there isn’t one. The writer’s process is an extremely personal one. As I wrote here before, there are many different writing methods and routines.
I believe that when you are indeed committed to being a writer, you will create the time you need to write. You will manage to set time apart from your busy schedule to work on being a writer.
Excuse №2 I don’t know what to write [about]
Really? I don’t want to sound judgemental, but … how do you expect to be a writer if you lack the imagination to see, hear, taste, smell, feel the inspiration in virtually any subject on earth?
I often got this response way back when I still blogged for (small) businesses and taught small business owners how to blog. I would ask them a few questions, such as:
- What about your business do you pride yourself the most on?
- How has your business developed? Can you draw me a timeline?
- What is your most valuable asset and why?
Each answer will inspire more questions and before you know it, a story is being told: a blog post in the making (and several more to post at later times).
Following this example, you could ask yourself:
- What is your fondest childhood memory and why?
- Use your senses and describe what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling in this particular moment. What does this trigger in you (some memory, a moment of happiness or sadness, an urge for action)?
- What is your most prized possession and why? Can you tell its story?
If you truly have no idea where to start, you may try starting your day with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages method. Morning Pages are not meant as a creative effort but rather as a tool to help clear your mind — clean out the cobwebs, so to speak — enabling you to get ready for you day and to help you focus on your work.
You could use a mind map: the association method where you start with writing down one word in the middle of a large piece of paper or a whiteboard and expand from that word, writing down anything and everything you associate with that word.
You’ll be surprised by the size of the web you’ve spun.
Another method I learned in a creative writing workshop is making a mood board. It’s actually incredibly fun to do. You could make an ‘old-fashioned’ mood board on a large piece of cardboard or paper, cutting or tearing pictures and words from a stack of magazines, but you could try the digital way using Pinterest.
Creating mood boards will help you plot storylines.
If you’re more into non-fiction and for whatever reason reluctant to draw from your own life, leaf through a newspaper of find an online news source, scan headlines until you find an article that appeals to you. Read it, form an opinion of it and write about that. You could write a review about the article, or explore the article in depth, debate it or debunk it. Whatever the angle, you have something to write about. In addition, this makes a terrific exercise as it trains you to read comprehensible and to write down your thoughts and feelings in a clear and concise way.
Excuse №3: Everything’s already been done
True story. If you only want to be that writer with the million dollar idea, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. There are so many factors that add up to a bestseller, it’s not even funny. Setting out to be the next J.K. Rowling or the next Stephen King shouldn’t be your main reason to write. Nor should the fact that just about anything you may think up already has been done, discourage you. After all, there is one unique ingredient you can add to your writing that nobody else has: you.
You as a person, with your own unique background, experiences, memories, opinions and feelings can tell stories nobody else can. You make your writing unique. Even when you write about a subject that has been treated ad nauseam, you will write from an entirely different point of view than anybody else. Besides, some readers cannot read enough about certain subjects, so don’t ever think you have nothing to contribute.
Excuse №4: I’m not good enough
That’s your inner critic speaking. You know, that nagging little voice in your head that seems to enjoy holding you back. Don’t listen to it. Who do you think would be a better judge of the quality of your writing, you or your readers? By listening to that inner critic, giving in to that nagging voice, you deny your perspective readers the opportunity to judge your work. What if that inner critic is wrong (spoiler: it is)? You would never know.
Saying ‘I’m not good enough’ is no way to actually achieve anything in life — least of al be a writer.
Excuse №5: It’s just too hard
Yes, being a writer is hard. It is time-consuming, frustrating and confronting. But if being a writer is what you really want, you should ask yourself exactly how hard is ‘too hard’. Nobody can tell you what ‘too hard’ is — it is subjective. What one may find ‘too hard’, another may call ‘not hard enough’. The truth is, anything worth doing takes effort.
Being a writer can be a particularly hard career choice, since you make it your business to pour your heart and soul out and submit it for judgement to the world. Such is the fate of The Creative. Unless you’re that fortunate, rare writer whose debut becomes that new international bestseller, to become an accomplished writer, able to live off your writing, will be a struggle. But if you believe in The Craft and if you are committed to being a writer, then you will persist, no matter what.
For a true writer has no choice but to write.
This post was originally published on Medium in my publication Hearts in the Write Place on December 17, 2019.