Aspiring is for Pansies–Tough Love & Being a Writer

Okay, if you are a fan of this blog, you know I am all about helping writers. Part of how I help is that you can count on me for the unvarnished truth. I know there are a lot of people who believe they want to be writers. Hey, rock on! The more the weirder…I meant merrier. Yes…merrier.

Where was I? Oh yeah.

But, I do feel that our profession tends to get glamorized, and hopeful writers aren’t aware of what to expect. So when something comes flying at them from left field, they are unprepared and watching fire ants roam over their tennis shoes instead of catching that giant hurdling ball headed straight for their head.

Ooh! Just had a flashback. Did I mention that I sucked at sports?

So before you make that New Year’s Resolution to become a writer, finish a novel, take your craft more seriously there are some things to consider. First, if you just enjoy writing for fun and merely want to finish a novel to test and see if you can do it, all that follows does not apply to you. But, if you happen to be among that group who dreams of landing an agent, being published and becoming a successful author, I am going to give you a run-down of what to expect so you don’t get caught unawares. Yes, this applies to all the indie folk, too. No passes.


That most people will not take you seriously. If you are waiting for your friends and family to line up and pat you on the back and throw you a parade because you’re now a writer, you will be sorely disappointed. In fact, when they see how euphorically happy you are, just expect for them to assume your writing group is really a cult and stage an intervention. Likely they will call in experts who perform deprogramming for loved ones lost to devil worshippers, Scientology, or that new retread of the Branch Davidians in south Texas. So look out for any white panel vans, and never leave your drinks unattended. You could wake up in a dark room wrapped in blankets going through a “rebirthing” procedure to make you long to be something practical like an engineer or tax accountant.

When people ask what you do, you need to tell them, “I am an author” or “I am a writer.” Even if you don’t have your book finished. This is going to sting. As long as you introduce yourself via your day job, that is what you are telling your subconscious that you want to be FOREVER.

“I’m an administrative assistant.” Well, I hope you like that job because that statement is forming your identity. Don’t even try to cheat with “I am an aspiring writer.” Again, that is a subconscious cue, and twenty years later you will still be “aspiring.” Just go practice in the mirror and say a hundred times. “I am an author. I am an author.” If you want others to shut up and stop mocking you, just tell them they better knock it off because there is a part for a cross-dressing hermaphrodite who dies in a tragic blow-up doll accident in your novel.

Then they will play nice.

You are a professional writer. To quote the brilliant Yoda, “There is no try, only do.” Most people feel guilty saying they are a writer because they never write. In that case, you should feel guilty. Go nail your can to a chair and bust out at least a blog, you slacker. You are a writer, not an aspiring anything other than maybe an aspiring NY Times best-selling author or an aspiring Top 100 Amazon Author. Then you have my permission to use the adjective aspiring. For all other times?

 Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. Takes guts to be a writer.

Yes, other people will titter and roll their eyes, but you won’t care. In the meantime, toughen up. You will need the skin of a rhino in this business. Do not look for outside approval. That is about as productive as looking for unicorns or Sasquatch.

To steal from the brilliant author Chuck Wendig, “Writing is not a parade of peppermint puppies.” It is work. So here are some other things to expect go with the job. Even professional authors cannot write eight hours a day. There are other important tasks that go with being an author that often will feel more like goofing off. Just have to get over it. I can spot writers who do not perform these routine duties, because their writing…um, sucks. Mine did too. I used to think doing these tasks was “wasting time.” My prose suffered. You know what real wasting time is? Writing crap. So to make your work better and better…

We need to read. This is essential. The best writers are avid readers. I read a fiction and a non-fiction a week. One best-selling novel (genre doesn’t matter) and one craft book. I walk around with my Nook in my purse. Standing in line at Target? Pick the long line and read five pages. Waiting at the doctor? The bank? Getting a pedicure? Make use of that time. Read. I read for 40 minutes on the elliptical at the gym. The Nook’s ability to have giant font keeps me from throwing up and falling off.

And I highly recommend using one the single greatest inventions of modern man…the Post-It Highlighter (not on your Nook/Kindle, but on the paper books).

We need to watch a lot of movies. The editor’s mantra is Show. Don’t tell. How do you learn to do that? Study. Watch actors. How do they portray the vast spectrum of human motion? How do they portray characters? Study dialogue. Absorb speech patterns. Study structure. This is a faster method than reading. Study how the screenwriter raised the stakes. Why did the movie work? Why didn’t it? This isn’t as much a substitute for reading as it is an addition to reading. But we can watch movies with friends and family and yet still be “working.”

How did the director portray normal world? Darkest moment? Study structure. Study endings. You get the idea. Few jobs can claim that spending the day watching movies is actually work. So enjoy.

We must blog. Blogging creates good habits, and it is in the job description of the 21st century author. We can gripe and moan all we want, but that doesn’t change reality. Reality is that writers with a platform are going to be more successful than writers who expect fans to materialize in a vacuum. If you want to become a professional writer then you should love writing anyway so this shouldn’t be as big of a deal as most writers make it. Suck it up and put on Big Girl/Big Boy Pants. Buy a copy of my book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer or, better yet. Sign up for my blogging class that starts in January. There are only 100 slots and they are almost full so go…now.

Okay, I’ll let you finish reading this blog.

We need to spend time on social media. This is like the watching movies and reading thing. Yes, being on social media is work. Now if we are just goofing off and sending people farm animals then yes we are goofing off. But if we are blogging and spending time on Twitter and FB networking with other writers and published authors and people in the publishing industry, that is called networking. If we are blogging, hopefully about things other than writing that is called “building an author platform.”

Additionally, I have found some of the best articles and blogs on the craft via Twitter and other bloggers. Social media gives us countless tools to improve our skills daily.

We need to write. Eventually all of this boils down to what it is we do…we write. As I said earlier, we cannot always be writing and the writing part, while the most important, doesn’t take up the most time. Reading, planning, researching, outlining, editing, revising, marketing are all parts of the job, too. Yet, ultimately, we need to sit our keisters down and WRITE. Not rocket-science here.

We need to learn to employ tough love. I can tell you from experience that you will have to be tough with friends and family. They aren’t used to you having a second job. Yes, writing may be your passion, but it is NOT your hobby. It’s a job.

Your friends and family will miss you being around all the time, and they will need to be retrained. And I am telling you now that they will not “get” you so don’t expect them to. Just be kind and consistent, and if they still don’t get the hint, invest in a caffeinated meth-addicted ferret to guard the door for you while you write.

Being a writer can be a lot of fun. Like I said, part of our job is to create and watch movies and read great stories, but it comes at a price. First, you will likely meet resistance, and might even be openly mocked. It may be a good idea to introduce your plans to your family in the following way:

“Hey, I sold all our worldly belongings, and the VW van will be here in the morning to take us to live at the Prophet’s commune in New Mexico. Your names are now Rainbow and Starchild. Ha ha ha ha, just kidding. Mommy is now a writer.”

Regardless how you break the news, it needs to be done.

Being a writer is tough work, but it is a whole lot of fun. I hope you guys now feel fired up to take on 2012 and I look forward to seeing at least a hundred of you in the WANA112 class. Good choice to sign up before the world ends :D. Just so you guys know, my husband is taking away my Internet next week for the holidays *sad face*. If I can chew through my bonds, I will be posting next week, but if I miss a blog, yes…I am still alive.

What are some other things a writer should expect? Add your opinion. I could have made this list much longer, but I figured I would let you guys chime in. I love hearing from you.

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of December I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!


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  1. luv the “tug luv” kristen, well put, as always….but i miss the cool use of the “strike-thru”….. maybe next post you can fit in some more of those? always witty

  2. mean to say luv the “tuff luv” …. put a “strike-thru” on tug luv, *smile*

  3. This is a great post! Reading and watching movies are both parts of the writing process that a lot of people tend to overlook. It’s great to see someone focus on that topic and inform writers about it. There’s more to writing that, well, writing.

  4. I love this and every line was true! One to add: Expect jealousy/envy/even hateful glares from other writers. This year I published 1 novel, 3 novellas and 1 self-pub. I “expected” hugs and fun times from some of my local support and was surprised when a few shriveled up and went sour on me. I’m not an ego freak. I don’t brag. Sentence above was fact, not Yet, in my naivety I had no idea that not every writer/author would be happy about my next big sale. It’s a shocking revelation and enough to send even the most social back into a hole. So, be ready for it. Even if you are like me and hopeful that everyone will “make it” that wants to, not everyone feels that way.

    1. Very true. When I started having success, I lost friends. Well, people I believed were my friends. Tow things will reveal your true friends–failure and success ;).

      1. Very well put. It’s a true to test on holding your head up and trudging on. But, to be an author and not just a writer, that is what we must do. Thanks for a great post! I needed this today!

    2. That’s horrible. Unfortunately, people who lack confidence rate themselves compared to others. Their well-being is only in relationship to the success or failure of those around them. It’s an insidious character flaw many unsuccessful or marginally successful people have. I know this, because I was like that.

      1. Flawed people need love to, so I’m going to kudos you for recognizing and moving on. 🙂 I only measure my successes against myself and what I’m capable of. It’s fun to test “me” to see how far “I” can go. I wish that practice for everyone—it’s very enlightening.

  5. Best unvarnished truth and kick in the back pockets I’ve read on writing. Sharing – everywhere. Thanks. 🙂

    1. Awh that’s too bad Rachel. Congrats from me, that all sounds great!

      1. Thanks. I’m over it. I just think other newbies should be ready for it. 🙂 It will happen. I wish it wouldn’t, but we are human after all. lol

  6. If and when you find an agent, don’t expect them to be your BFF. They’re a hired gun, like a lawyer, whose job it is to get your prose or NF proposal into the best shape possible then sell it for as much as they can with the best contract they can negotiate. (I’ve been through six agents, so far, with two published NF books.) They don’t have to be nice, but effective.

    Don’t waste time focusing on others’ $$$$$$$ advances and thinking that’s going to happen to you too, because…you want it to. Just show up and do your best work and keep your fingers crossed.

    Most book advances are small and, yes, you will also have to do most of your own marketing. Start a separate bank account for this, because it adds up fast.

    Don’t blab endlessly about your book, and certainly not to other writers in your genre. It’s your intellectual property and you need to protect it.

  7. I just signed up for your blogging workshop. Thanks!

    1. You are going to be SO glad you did!

  8. Lady Kristen

    Stanley Goodspeed: I’ll do my best
    John Mason: Your “best”! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and….

    Well, there was something else. Something about a prom queen. But I forget. Or I made damn sure I did :-P.

    That was from The Rock. John Mason (Sean Connery) would probably have said the same about ‘aspiring writers’. “Aspiring? Losers always whine about aspiring. Winners go home and write ten NanoWriMo-s. A day. Every day.” Oh. And he’d probably have said something about prom queens. Or kings, if the aspirer was female.
    Er – do they have prom kings?
    I think I must be a pansy. Viola tricolor hortensis. Though I’ve spent a lot more than Twelve Nights writing, and I never had an Aunt Hortense :-P.
    But I still think I must be a pansy. Why? Because when I introduce myself, I still sometimes refer to the day job that makes me mumblety-mumble dollars a year. And sometimes to writing. And sometimes to web page desing. And sometimes to… well, it varies. Because I’m a lot of things. And it’s kind of hard to set a ferret to guard the door I don’t have (I live in an apartment :-P) against my wife. Mostly because she’s wheel chair bound, and I’m her sole carer. When I’m not working, that is. At the mumblety-mumble thing.
    So yes. I’m a pansy. Well, a pansy with one book coming out in July, one currently being considered by an Agent, and four more in progress. Or, to put it another way, I’m not an author. I’m not a Business Process Engineer. I’m not a carer.
    I’m a me.
    Oh – and I never did anything to a prom queen either :-).
    This is me. Graeme Smith. Writer of comic fantasy – well, it is if you laugh when you read it. This is me.
    Pansy :-).

  9. Hello Kristen,

    I still remember the first few times I uttered the phrase, I am a writer. The kind smiles, The expression that said, Sure you are, Honey. Now let’s get you fitted for that straight-jacket, shall we? By definition, if I write, I am a writer. Laughs on all of those happy grinners, I’ve earned a few awards for my writing, and I have a published book.

    I absofanaticalutely agree with your advice. Whenever someone tells me they are writing and hope to be a writer ‘someday’ I always tell them they are a writer NOW. And then I make them say it.

    Looking forward to class.

  10. Eh, I’ll call myself an author when I believe I’ve earned that title, and not before. When I was a college student, I didn’t call myself a teacher (even though I tutored, taught Sunday school, and had a gig teaching SAT prep for Kaplan). Calling myself a student didn’t stunt my growth and keep me from being able to be a teacher. I’m making progress toward becoming an author, but I’m not one yet, as I define the term. (This reminds me of the “pre-published author” meme, and Editorial Anonymous’s take on it.)

    1. I don’t agree. We need to make the mental transition to make the lifestyle change. Start blogging. Trust me. If you say, I am an author and people ask,” What do you write?” And you say,”Actually I am finishing my first novel, but I have a blog that I post three times a week.” If they google you and FIND you and see 40 blog posts, don’t you think that makes you a professional? Saying you are an author takes you away from being a hobbyist.

      If I decide to be a restaurant owner and take out a loan and pay contractors to build my new restaurant, I am a restaurant owner even before the first dish is served. I have shown commitment and put my time and money where my mouth is. Same with writing. Feel free to say “I am a writer” until you publish. Fair enough. But aspiring will keep us aspiring forever if we aren’t careful.

  11. Right on the money! One thing you left out was the lounging in the hammock is a necessity. As are long bubble baths. Where else would writers get their great ideas?
    And spouses just won’t believe you’re hard at work! Sheesh . . .

  12. I am a writer! I really am a writer! You described my life to a “T”. Would you mind if I sent this blog to my husband? He’s so jealous of my computer that sometimes I fear for its life! He thinks that the reason I watch movies and read so much is because I’m lazy. He resents the fact that I am teaching these same skills to my daughter. If I encourage her, she’s going to be a fantastic writer someday!

  13. Interestingly enough (at least to me), I think it was my friends who started introducing me as a writer before I did. I guess that means I have good friends. One of my best blurbs comes from one of Canada’s best humor writers (and award winning): my friend introduced me to him as a humor writer. Later, I sent him part of my ms and he gave me the best blurb ever (and a personal email that is in my pick-me-up folder).

    As for me, however, I still sometimes introduce myself as a teacher. I’m now lashing myself with an apostrophe.

    Happy off-lining!

  14. I absolutely agree about watching movies. TV dramas, too. You can learn how screenwriters use Chekhov’s gun, see how to set up your characters and admire the shortcuts they use to show character (SAVE THE CAT, anyone?) With my writing schedule this is a way to beef up family time in a way that actual reading of books doesn’t always manage. Thanks, Kristin!

  15. Where is it you get that ferret and do they come already addicted or do you have to feed their addiction? Quick, I need answers. The kids get out of school early today and will be home for the next 3 weeks!! Ahh screw it, I’ll just take them to the movies! Thanks for all the great advice and have a wonderful holiday!

  16. I’d add “Expect everyone to think you’re unemployed if you ever go full-time.” This one came as a bit of a shocker to me. I figured that once I was publishing enough articles and doing enough other writing and editing work to support myself solely from my writing, people would take me more seriously not less seriously.” Yeah . . . didn’t happen. I still get relatives sending me links to full-time jobs because they think I need one. And watch out for people who think you’re able to volunteer for everything because you “don’t have a regular job” and can set your own schedule. Volunteering for every good cause that comes across your path can turn into a full-time job in itself 🙂

    1. I get offers for “real jobs” too! My well-meaning in-laws are quick to tell me about opportunities they think I’d be awesome for (um, when would I have time)? And while I do set regular times in my schedule for volunteering and singing to get me out of the house each week, some people think I have plenty of time to do their bidding (um, no, I have to work and write).

      Not having a set schedule usually only means I’m busy almost all of the time and have to squeeze in days off.

  17. Absolutely hilarious! You are an expert at blending humor with the bitter truth. I haven’t blogged for a month. But I will today! Thanks!!!

    • Marianne on December 16, 2011 at 11:44 am
    • Reply

    I will be one of those in AWANA112, making sure I take the class before the world ends. I think the hardest part of convincing people/family it’s a job, is lack of pay right now. Happy Holidays!

  18. Dang girl, you hit the nail on the head again! I’ve been writing since 2007 and when I said to friends or family that I was writing, I’d get the polite nod of the head, etc. I don’t think anyone “got it” in any way until last month when my first novel hit Amazon. Then they read it and it was like “Oh, you’re a writer!” (Not sure what people thought I was doing for the last 4 years in my office every night with the door closed ; ) Now they’re asking for more and happy not to hear from me because they want to read the next book. Not sure anyone other than another author ever “gets” it totally, but it’s nice having the physical product into their hands so they see the external manifestation of what I’ve been talking about for so long.
    I have a day job and it feels like work. When I carve out time in my day to devote to the business of writing, it feels like goofing off because it’s so enjoyable. Editing until my hands are covered in blue pen – fun. Typing until I have to ice my wrists because I just had to get those words out on the page – fun. Checking in with tweeps and blogs – fun.
    It feels like cheating sometimes, doesn’t it?

    • Monique on December 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! I write full time but I work part-time for a local chamber of commerce. Despite the fact that the majority of my time is spent clacking away on the keyboard, I still answer the “What do you do?” question with my part-time title. Perhaps I’m subconsciously afraid of the potential censure?

    Well, this blog has converted me to the shoulders straight, chest puffed out proud writer. That’s what I do and want to do forever!

    Thanks again, Kristen!

  19. Thanks for putting this so well. A writer is a person who writes. Just like a walker is a person who walks. You don’t walk five miles a day and say you’re an “aspiring walker.”

    On the other hand, I know writers who call themselves authors, but are only hobbyists.They say they want to be published, but they scorn social media and consider reading publishing blogs ‘time wasting.” They call authors who read their own reviews or pay attention to sales “vain.” They send out hundreds of queries but never learn how to write an effective one. They never learn to edit themselves. They throw a rough draft on Amazon and get their family and friends to buy a few copies, but they won’t put in the time to produce a professional product or market it professionally.

    The hardest thing for some writers is learning that writing is a business.

      • Debra Eve on December 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm
      • Reply

      Great analogy about walking, Anne!

    • Miranda Hardy on December 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm
    • Reply

    I am a writer and future New York Times Bestseller. Very inspiring post.

  20. Yay! Thank you so much for this post! It took me a long time to admit that I am a writer. The closest friends accepted it without blinking. Some other friends… they still blink a lot.

  21. Ok, ok, ok…beat me up…procrastination done with…Anne Allen, Laurie McLean, Nathan Bransford all told us at multiple Central Coast Writes’ Conferences we have to blog to build our writers’ network. So for Christmas I gave myself your blogging class…I’m one of your January 100. Have a lovely holiday…and can’t add you to my blog because you haven’t taught me how to do it yet…Anne did, but I was out and about and not sitting and taking notes!! But I could mention your books on FacebookCentralCoastWritersConference page to get my name in the pool. Judy Salamacha

  22. Amen and hallelujia sister! Sitting at ohare airport waiting for shuttle and studying writericity schtuff. Have my kindle and laptop…and script…I asked Santa for more hours ïn The day.

  23. So Kristen Lamb is one of Anne Allen’s go-to authors for blogging expertise…so I’m testing her out in January. Meanwhile you all can get her books or sign up for her class, too.

    She invites, “You can pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books! Sounds like a merry merry to me or a New Year’s resolution to keep in 2012.

  24. Question: Where can one buy a caffeinated meth-addicted ferret for door-guarding while one writes? I *might* be in need of such a thing. ;0)


  25. I’ve received three vastly different reactions to the phrase “I am a writer.” Some people are genuinely curious about how anyone makes a living that way. Some used to give me that “You’ll never succeed” speech. And still other, sweet but sometimes naive creatures say “Wow! For real?”

    I tell that last group, “Yes, but it involves a lot more work than you think!” If you only aspire, you will get squashed. Living a dream takes work, regardless of how glamorous it may look to people on the outside.

  26. An inspiring post and right on target. I stopped teaching to help my kids with education issues. Now they are grown and gone, so I have no excuse to jump on this writing thing. But the hardest thing when asked “What do you do?” is to answer “I am a writer.” I feel like I don’t deserve that title until I’m paid something or published in some obscure little magazine. Filling out forms where they ask occupation is when I hesitate frequently to put down “writer.”

    I have a blog and signed up for your workshop, so maybe I’ll gain the confidence to say without hesitation “I am a writer.”

  27. I think this is very true. Because writing is something I love so much, I often classify it as “fun” rather than “my job.” In reality, it needs to have that kind of priority if it’s ever going to get done.

    Now I really want a caffeinated, meth-addicted ferret to guard my door.

  28. Once I started finally thinking of myself as an author and introducing myself as such, my world shifted and all was suddenly clear. It’s like I was finally “allowing” myself to live the life I was born to live. Soon, doors started to open and the opportunities flowed in. So yes, I believe being a writer is as much a mindset as it is an active discipline. In other words, be who you are and unlock your true potential. Loved the post!

  29. Wow. Great post. I’m signing up…and practicing my new introduction response. “Why, I’m a writer actually.”
    As for everyone else (including the in-laws) they can like or not. I don’t care. 🙂

  30. I dislike the term “aspiring writer”, too. It’s as bad as starving artist, hopeless romantic and filthy rich. In the same way that you don’t have to starve to be an artist, can be romantic without being hopeless and can have wealth without it being ill-gotten gain, you can be a writer without constantly aspiring. You are a writer when you decide to be one.

    Let’s lose those downward defining adjectives. I am a writer because I write. When I decided to call myself a novelist, that became my truth.

  31. I think you may have been speaking to me. Thanks for the kick in the pants because I needed it, and, yes, you’re absolutely right about introducing yourself as a writer. If you can’t form the words, your subconscious doesn’t believe you. Also, the moment when one of my published friends turned to one of her kids and said, “She’s a writer. She does what Mommy does.” is probably one of the most inspiring moments of my life thus far. I’m still not published, but I’m a heckuva lot closer thanks to that remark.

  32. I call myself a writer because I do it every day. I feel like it’s part of who I am. I don’t mean that in a new age Oprah crap way, but in that, I think about my writing, use my skills in otehr ways, and well, hell….I write.

    I agree with you about reading, blogging, being involved. I’ve had it with reading blog posts about not being appreciated when that blogger/writer doesn’t read and comment others.

    I think social media is very important. The main reason is, it puts you touch with people who probably are better than you. What’s a better way to learn?

    Great post

  33. For a long time I had trouble telling people I was a writer. Finally, I sucked it up and got business cards from Vistaprint. viola! I was now a writer and could prove it. I still had to answer questions about what, when, how, but at least I believed it enough myself to get the cards.

    As always, your blog hits the target, Kristen. Thanks for keeping us all real.

  34. Love this. Maybe we all should print this out and hang it in our writing areas 🙂 I think I would add learning to be accountable to yourself because that’s been my biggest issue over the last year and I’m still not good at it but it’s what I’m continuing to work on. I’m hoping to take your blogging course with money from Christmas so we’ll see 🙂 But I’ve got both of your books and Bob’s book… I just need to stop and go through them now.

  35. Super insight once again, Kristen. I’d add that writers should also expect to hear over and over again how hard it is to get published. Loving what we do and putting the forth serious efforts you listed are great ways to show the naysayers who’s boss. 😉

  36. Fabulous post, Kristen. I love your sassy attitude and the way you are able to get a message across. In the beginning, when I put my first book out, I was also a Realtor. When people asked me what I did, I’d say a Realtor. My husband would quickly butt in and say, “and she’s a published author.” I felt a little uncomfortable, because it was so new, but my husband, who is also a Realtor, tells everyone now that his wife is an author and he hands out my bookmarks. I’ve had to learn it from him to say “I am an author.” So, now I am no longer a Realtor, I am only an author, aspiring to be a NYT best-selling author.

    And I totally agree that it is a mindset. Your actions will follow what your mind focuses on. I am focused on being a best-selling author.

    Also, I love the fact that we are able to watch movies and TV dramas to improve our writing. Often times my husband and I will talk afterward about the the story structure we just saw. It’s great for improving my writing.

  37. Yes! Yes, yes, yes. “If you want others to shut up and stop mocking you, just tell them they better knock it off because there is a part for a cross-dressing hermaphrodite who dies in a tragic blow-up doll accident in your novel.”

    One of the biggest obstacles I come across is my family telling me that writing doesn’t make money, it’s so hard to get published, etc. I should definitely start employing this tactic!

  38. My thought: Expect non-writers to think a book takes about as much time to make and deliver as a McDonald’s cheeseburger. When I’ve said, “I’m a writer,” the next question is about if and when my book is out. As we get to talking, I realize that a lot of people have absolutely no idea what all is involved in writing, revising, editing, querying, more editing, publishing, marketing, etc. a book. There is genuine surprise, if not shock, that the process of churning out a readable novel might take several months to years.

    With the encouragement of you and others, however, I’m glad I got to the point of confidently stating, “I am a writer.” I’ll be thrilled when I can add the word “published” in there. 🙂 Thanks, Kristen!

  39. You’re right. Writing is at the end of it is a job. I heard somewhere George Carlin used to punch a time clock when he wrote. If you’ve got a day job, writing may turn out to be a second job. You can’t miss a day or the writing gods will fire you.

  40. You make my day. Often.
    I learned to drop the “aspiring” and the “stay at home mommy” routine.
    One gets used to the “poor girl is crazy looks” and I am my own meth-addicted ferret, figuratively speaking. My honey asked me to wait to write until after dishes were done and laundry was caught up. He eats through a straw now, so all is right with the world. 🙂
    I’m off to watch the Blues Brothers and plan the ex-husband’s, er, that mean character in my book, demise.
    Do I need to mention writers are the ultimate sado-masochists. Hells, we invented the term.
    I’m off the meds and my VW bus is equipped with a ferret catapult. NY Times bestseller list, here I come.
    You are a side of awesomesauce.

  41. Well, that’s a great reminder of how tough on myself I need to be. Thanks for that! I hope you’re having a great time this winter. Happy writing!

  42. Bought one of the books, will soon be buying the other. As you can see, I haven’t yet implemented the most important rule, but that will get done soon. (I’m Renae Rude.) Just wanted to say that you make me laugh. I appreciate that because, sometimes, this writing gig is just too damn serious. Where can I get one of these ferrets you mentioned?

  43. I loved this post, full of practical and necessary advice. It was great to see it written that I have to watch Teen Mom 2, ANTM and Glee, My other half suggested that my strict reading, TV and radio regime was monumental case of time-wasting 😉

  44. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I’m a Mom and a Writer”. I used to get all wiggly about that non-published part, but like you replied in a comment up above, now I say I’m working on my first novel and I have a blog. To me, publishing a post three times a week is a valid form of writing. Calling myself a writer felt odd at first, but now I’m comfortable with it. My husband and kids were introducing me as a writer long before I was, which showed me how much faith they have in me. It was a big step to have that faith in myself.

    Posts like this always encourage me to keep that belief. The writing world is definitely better for having you in it, Kristen. Thank you.

  45. I printed this one out for future encouragement.

  46. As always, a fantastic entry. Honestly, I have a hard time saying that I’m a writer. Somehow I can’t justify it in my mind even though I write all the time. I’ll have to work on that one 🙂

  47. I meant to leave a response yesterday, but I became side tracked. So I came back in today and finished reading your blog. I love this blog and it is so true. Your sense of humor came through and you had me laughing with you. I am getting better at telling people I am a writer. Hope you have a fantastic Holiday.

  48. Terrific post! I’ve really enjoyed being part of the WANA1011 class! I have no trouble saying I’m an author. I’m one of the lucky ones, finished a finished novel, and landed an agent. Thanks to Kristen and WANA, I now have an action plan, and am well on my way!

  49. Thanks for the encouragement! It seems tough to try and explain to people that we actually are writers even if we aren’t yet published. The two reactions I seem to get the most are either 1. asking when my book comes out, or 2. saying they have always wanted to write a book. I used to get annoyed by all the comments about how everyone has a story to tell and anyone can write a book. Now I just ignore them and focus on my writing. But I think we sometimes need this reminder to think and speak what we want. How does the saying go: Be, Do, Have. We have to be the writer before we can do the writing, before we can have the writing career we want. Thanks for keep us on the right path!

  50. Tough love for sure. I have experienced and/or expected all the others, but the tough love thing I’m still learning. When I got in a fight with Hubs over a crit group meeting this weekend I eventually had to just stop and ignore him. When he noticed I wasn’t fighting back he said “well, aren’t you going to say anything?” and I said “nope”. That was the end of it. He realized right away that there was no room for discussion anymore and that I was going to the meeting even though it messed with his dinner plans (dinner at home, just us, like always).

    So yeah, tough to break his heart like that, but it needed to be done.

  51. Writing is totally my unpaid first job. And while schools out and nothing new is coming down the pipe, I’m working my butt off on my writing.

  52. If you tell someone you are a writer, then their response back might be ‘but what is your real job?’

    I got into blogging because I thought it was what you were supposed to do in ‘social’. However, I have found I really enjoy it and like the engagement it allows. For now, I will continue on this journey and see where it takes me.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your ‘suggestions’ on where and how to develop as a writer; thanks for sharing.

  53. I love this post, I’ve read it three times today! I’m so glad I found you. There are so many blogs out there offering lukewarm rehashed advice. This was fresh, engaging and honest. Did I mention I love it? Because I love it!

    • Debra Eve on December 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm
    • Reply

    I completely agree that it’s so important to make that mental shift. I work as a paralegal at night, a job that’s easy, well-paid and has great benefits. I switched to nights in order to write during the day. Recently (since taking your class), when my colleagues ask what I do before coming to work, I say “I’m a writer.” It’s changed their view of me, and my view of myself.

  54. I write a blog full of essays I’m really proud of, and I have well over 250 pages of my first novel completed. And yet I still NEVER introduce myself as a writer.

    I will consider your advice. Perhaps it’s time to change this practice.

  55. I really wish I’d had this post the day I graduated. Maybe I’d have had the guts to claim my dream sooner. As it is, it’s been more difficult to get back into after years of not writing. I have so much doubt. Your words always inspire and give enough kick in the pants to jump start the DOING of writing and know that the simple act of writing is making progress. One of the Life Listers just wrote “You can fix a bad page, but you can’t fix a blank one.” THAT is going to stick with me.

  56. Love it. Just Tweeted “Aspiring is for pansies.” I don’t know how many people have come up to me at an event and said they always wanted to be a writer. I’m thinking, obviously not enough to actually do something about it. You are so right that the business of being a writer is demanding, tiring, and requires a great deal of discipline and self-motivation. There is no excuse for not turning out pages – even if it is only one a day – if you really want to be a writer.

  57. Great post. I have a remarkably supportive bunch of friends and family. That said, I think they do still believe I am crazy, but that resonates with them, so it works. I think the hardest part when you are doing this is taking yourself seriously. One must remember, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

    Happy Writing and Happy Holidays!

  58. Kristen, you have such a handle on all things writerly. Then with wisdom and wit, as well as some laugh out loud moments balanced by poignant hand-wringing, you help us see the truth of what you are saying. Lucky us. Thank you.

    • vanillamom on December 21, 2011 at 9:06 am
    • Reply

    I am a writer.

    Whoa…that was easier than I thought it would be. *grin* First, great blog, my first post, sent by a friend.

    I’ve been a blog-writer for just over two years, and I write erotica (with a BDSM theme). I write a new story almost every day (occasionally my blogposts are about some of my real-life antics…but it’s still writing…)

    You’ve given me much to think about. I wrote a novella during NaNoWriMo…and you are correct. I need to ‘nail my can to the chair’ and start working on editing the sucker.

    And then send it. (that’s the part that gives me the willies. Seriously, scares the poop outta me…)

    Thanks for the head-slap…it helped!


    • lynnkelleyauthor on December 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm
    • Reply

    You are always right on. My husband and parents thought I was nuts when I decided to be a writer. They still don’t take me completely serious. Most of my writer friends get the same attitude from their families. Your blogs are full of wisdom. And the humor rocks!

    Good for you taking most of next week off. Have a great time with your family, Kristen.

  59. Connect with other writers because they’re the only people who really understand the insane motivations that drive us. They’ll also tell you when you’ve gone completely over the edge and need a time-out.

  60. I was feeling guilty for watching movies and connecting it to my writing but I just had to do it. It really helps me see things better. You’ve, once again given me permission to follow my gut and move on. Thanks.

    • Sophia Chang on December 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm
    • Reply

    Raised in NY with Asian parents – no problem with tough love here. Heck I can even take the tough without the love…

    Have a great holiday, Kristen!

    • Allyson Langley on December 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm
    • Reply

    Interesting blog, just found it. And I will continue to read it. And I think I am going to start a blog of my own!

  61. Thanks for the refresher on why I’m a writer and what to expect. As I begin my second serious year of writing, I realize I introduce myself as a writer (and sometimes also mention my dayjob as an afterthought). Because I am. I may not be published yet, but I’m on track with my writing goals. Thanks to your course last spring, I’ve begun building my author platform and enjoy social media to network with other writers and readers.

    I highly recommend new authors to take your course and read your books. Love the ferret-idea. I may have to get one, since my family seems to think cranking out a second novel is easy now that I finished the first one. 🙂

  62. Thanks for the advice, Kristen!

    I featured you in my picks for the Versatile Blogger Award, if you wanted to take a look. Thanks for setting up such an excellent blog.

  63. Thank you internet for blogs like this. Now, off to read some more posts!

  64. For some reason I broke out in smiles as I read this post. I am actually laughing as I write this. You are so right. Oh my goodness, I find it so hard to say am a writer. No one understands for some reason. It feels so good to know that am not alone. Next time someone asks me what I do, guess what? I will say, “I am a writer” with a knowing smile and a twinkle in my eyes. Thanks Kristen for this.

    1. It is the biggest step and often the hardest, but everything hinges on that fundamental mental transition. So happy you like the blog and very happy to have you here :D.

  1. […] Aspiring Is For Pansies – Tough Love and Being a Writer by Kristen Lamb. Truth ya’ll! […]

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  12. […] and I’m not exaggerating when I say that her WANA program has opened my eyes and made me a better writer. I can’t thank you enough, […]

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