Want to Successfully Publish? First, Are You a "Real" Writer?

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For many writers (me included), we don’t start off with the confidence to yell to the world, “I’m going to be a professional author!” Heck, I wrote a 178,000 word “novel” and still didn’t believe I was a writer. Later, I had over a year and a half of consistent blogging under my belt, multiple short stories, and newbie novels that had been at least good enough to win prestigious contests and yet….

I was not a “real writer.”

Schrödinger Writer? If you put a writer in an office at a keyboard, is the writer alive or dead (real or fake) until the book is published?

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We’ve Come a LONG Way, Baby

The literary landscape has shifted dramatically. More avenues of publishing have opened and become appealing, thus this silly question of, “Are we a real writer?” holds far less power. Believe it or not, when I began blogging, I dedicated countless posts to answering this very question. In retrospect, I did it for me as much as for others.

I’ve always asserted that we are what we do. What is our primary career focus (beyond a necessary day job)? The second we sit at a keyboard and write, we are writers. Yet, as my first “novel” glaringly illustrates, we might not yet be a “good writer.”

To read it, you MUST first recite the sacred words! Klatu! Verata! N…. N-Noun? Nunchuk? Nutmeg? Definitely an “N’ word. 

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Changing Times

What’s fascinating for me was how much this opinion of being a “real writer” varied from 2008 to as late as 2013. I’d post and assert, “If you write, you’re a writer.” This then would spawn a flurry of Kristen Lamb is an Idiot-Hack blogs asserting that we didn’t deserve the title until 1) we had an agent 2) had a contract 3) were traditionally published.

Or whatever.

I see this debate far less, or maybe I’ve just learned to ignore it and my naysayers are smart enough to no longer hyperlink to me.

***By the way, being called an idiot is usually a good sign we’re doing something right. When we challenge the status quo, most won’t throw us a parade. We’re doing what they don’t have the guts to try.

Maybe we fail. I’ve failed A LOT and am very proud of that. Why?

If we aren’t failing we aren’t doing anything interesting.

Thank the Mushroom-Eaters

Change is frightening, but thanks to the mushroom-eaters there are more ways to get our books to readers than ever before in human historyWriters have more freedom, more flexibility than ever. They’re also being PAID.

Mushroom eaters? Yes. Come on. Haven’t you ever seen someone eat a raw oyster and you wondered, “Who was the first?” I guarantee you it was a group of cavemen, and someone lost a bet. Who ate the first sea cucumber? Or determined that snails actually were quite tasty with some butter and garlic? Live squid? Are you serious?


Back to the mushrooms. There are 100,000 known species of mushrooms, and only 2000 of these are edible. In fact, many mushrooms are toxic, even deadly. How do we know which ones to eat? Risk. Someone, somewhere took a chance.

Mushroom-eaters are the ones brave enough to try a bite. Innovators are the ones who eat the poisonous mushroom and die, whereas early adopters are the ones who watch and learn. But, we must appreciate that someone had to be willing to take the first bite.

Perhaps we won’t die. Maybe, instead, we can take a bite, throw up and hallucinate and actually live to tell others…yeah, don’t eat the orange ones with the spots.

It’s great to be an early adopter, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, if there are no innovators (mushroom-eaters), then there is no one taking risks that pave the way for the early and late adopters to follow suit.

I was a mushroom-eater when it came to social media for authors. I did plenty of passing out and seeing spots, but continued to press no matter how often I was told social media was a fad. I was deeply convinced we were seeing a fundamental shift in human communication and society, one not seen since the invention of the Gutenberg Press.

***Great. Freaking Gutenberg. Now EVERYONE can be published *rolls eyes*.

Time redeemed me, though I had just as much chance of resembling the person who thought THIS was a great idea…

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Fortunately it all worked out *sigh of relief*. Now those agents who slayed me in comments won’t sign an author who doesn’t have a viable social media brand (no matter how good the book). Writers who believed social media was the Digital Pet Rock had good reason to believe that. Not everyone is an innovator/early adopter and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Even I waited for the third version if the X-Box 360 so they could work out the bugs.

How Are YOU a Mushroom-Eater?

This notion of whether or not we are “real” writers is intertwined with being a mushroom-eater. First, the decision to write and publish a book ALONE is mushroom-eating behavior. My father had a genius IQ (was FAR smarter than me), yet died working minimum wage at a bike shop. He’d always longed to be a writer, but that was “foolishness.” It wasn’t a real job.

Friends and family often offer the strongest resistance, partly because they love us and mean well. Don’t you want to learn medical billing? The pay is GREAT!

Writing professionally IS a tough job. We are entrepreneurs (authorpreneurs) and the failure rate is high. But no risk=no reward. Failing to at least try and give it all we have only leads to unanswered questions. Expect others will be jealous we had the guts to do what they could not.


All businesses should begin with a mission statement of what precisely that business IS and what it specifically offers. Goals, objectives, education, planning, execution will ALL be flawed if not first defined.

I’ve done a lot of business consulting over the years. Show me a failing business and I’ll show you a business with an identity crisis. They’ve failed to do that first critical step of claiming what they ARE, defining what they DO, and understanding and communicating why their good/service is RELEVANT and better than the competition.

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Writers who want to actually sell books are a small business. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s tough. But nothing worth having is easy. You guys can do this! Some of you are doing this. Doesn’t mean we don’t have moments of doubt. I do. All the time. But I no longer waste emotional energy wondering if I am a “real” writer and neither should any of you.

Write. That will answer the question 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Are you new and struggling with a writer-identity-crisis? Are you getting pushback from those close? Animosity from peers? For those who’ve been doing this a while, do you have days you wonder if you have what it takes? Are you reinventing a genre? Writing something outside the norm, but it scares you?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Well said, Kristen! Claiming the title of writer was a huge step for me and made what I did real even before I was published.

    • Sandra Hughes on September 15, 2014 at 9:05 am
    • Reply

    I am one of those who says I am not a real writer. This is because I am not doing the work. I need to sit down and write every day. A writer writes. A very interesting blog! I thank you for it.

  2. Thank you so much for this post!

  3. Thanks Kristen for this very interesting article. I have been writing since I was ten years old, and for the most part its been fan fiction … even before I knew what fan fiction is. In the last ten years though I have been working on at least one novel a year. So far I have not thought any of them at a level to submit [as in the olden days] for publication or to create as an ebook.

    Also I know very, very little about formatting a novel to create its digital version. I do believe the novel I’ve been working on this year has a lot of potential. I intend to push myself to the limit on this one and see it published. I’ve already done a lot of the research needed for the story itself and worked a great deal to improve my style and technique. I’ve gone through beta-editors as well. So naturally I am interested in a published author’s pov on my work in progress. I guess that was the difference in terms I learned years and years ago … if you wrote you’re a writer. If you get published you’re an author. But as I say that was an idea I learned quite a while ago.

    thanks again I am looking forward to reading more of your articles and stories.

    Ronni Caitlin Gabrielle Sacksteder

    • Rachel Thompson on September 15, 2014 at 9:27 am
    • Reply

    One who writes is a writer. A writer that understands the craft of writing and employs it well is a professional level writer. A pro level writer who get’s noticed by a Big 5 publisher is just damn lucky.

    • Diana on September 15, 2014 at 9:30 am
    • Reply

    Great post. I’m working on my first novel. Am I a writer? Well, I do write but at this point in time I think of it as a hobby like crocheting or sewing. I will call myself a crafter when I’m asked about my hobbies which now include writing. Writing is crafting, but I’ve never claimed the title “author” because I’ve always thought of that as a paid profession. It’s a title that I’m not worthy of unless I get paid for the work I do.

    1. The problem is that if you DON’T shift your thinking, you likely will remain a hobbyist. Feel free to call yourself a pre-published author, but OWN the title. People who are pre-med, PLAN on being PAID as doctors. They are owning what they plan to become.

  4. Again I say Thank you, Kristen for reminding me to keep at it. I have written 117 pages so far of a story (fiction) and I keep getting writers block because I think I lose confidence. Every time I read one of your articles, I am able to start up again!
    Thank You
    Frances Laskowski

  5. This post came at the perfect time for me this week. Thanks.

  6. I still hear people that differentiate between an author and a writer. “Anybody can be a writer. Not everybody can be an author.” Uh-huh. And didn’t I see that slide in Ace Ventura? Thanks for the post, Kristen!

    1. I hear that from people who need to put others down to feel superior. Who really CARES? Are you really threatened by what others call themselves? Really? I don’t have time for existentialism. I am too busy writing 😀 .

  7. Reblogged this on Stephen Andrew and commented:
    Am I a real writer? A question we all ask along the way.

  8. thanks for the great post! i am writing my second novel while querying the first. so far no “success” and sometimes it makes me feel like less of a “real” writer for it, but i keep on writing!

  9. Totally. Two books down, one made best seller on amazon, and plenty of pub’d shorts. Blogs for years including outside of “the writerish blog” and people still tell me, “Hey! You should be a writer!” LOL and I say, “Yeah. I totally should some day.” It’s not really settled quite yet. I had one lady in line in front of me at the coffee shop hearing my convo with my friend about my editor. She turned around and said, “Woah! A writer!” It was pretty much the first time I identified with it. (*climbs back into hole so as not to do that again) LOL

  10. I loved this, Kristen. It’s so funny that many of us feel this way. On my bio on Twitter, I had “author” as first descriptor and changed it to writer. I felt like a fraud claiming to be an author, even though I had a few short pieces published. I thought my reluctance was because I’m slowly edging my way into the pool, had no idea that many struggled with the identifier. I read everything you publish. You have awesome info to share!

  11. Thank you again. I know you hear it a lot, but I will say it again. You are a godsend. Even though I’ve written articles, poetry, been a featured writer and editor-in-chief for two indie newsprint magazines, blogger and (now) novelist, I never had the guts to call myself a writer.

    Now I do. And whenever I doubt I AM A WRITER, I look to you and mywana! It’s getting easier. I understand now that I can be a substitute teacher, swing dancer, mother, wife AND writer. And when people I meet ask me what I do, I say I AM A WRITER first and the other stuff after. It feels great. Thank you!

    I feel a bit like a mushroom eater as I have structured my blog in a unique way and am trying to create a niche genre. My short story collection is on its last edit, so we’ll see if I’ve created this “vintage” genre soon!

    You are AWESOME!

  12. I’ve always believed that if you’re willing to write and put the work in to polish your stories, then you are a writer. If you put in the effort and actually get published, then you can add the word ‘published’ to your title. Your post is interesting and has said a lot of the same things I’ve been thinking and feeling over the past two years. I am a full time writer (unpublished, but working towards it) and still I ask myself this question all the time. “Am I a real writer?” I’ve decided my answer is yes, but some days it still comes out no.

    Here’s a blog post I did where I linked to today’s post.


  13. Reblogged this on MALE DANIEL and commented:

    • Carrie Kwiatkowski on September 15, 2014 at 10:08 am
    • Reply

    Oh my. So many times I’ve wanted to say I’m a writer when people ask me what I do for a living. But yet, for fear of spontaneously combusting for a perceived outright lie, I say nothing. I write everyday but still I don’t believe it. Why? For all the reasons you’ve stated above. I think I will try something new and *gasp* tell someone I’m a writer when they ask. Eek. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. 🙂

    1. Carrie, I think my brain is connected to yours! You just said what I am always thinking, I may do the same as thing as you…and yes..I will also wait for the moment of silence when I *gasp* tell them I am a writer. Ill let you know the reaction! Ha ha you made my day.

  14. Yes to almost all those questions. I finally might be able to apply for a thick skin or maybe that’s pushing it 😉 Luckily I am very grounded with impossibly hard technical things to do since I thought it would be a good idea to go self-hosting. What was I thinking?

  15. Thanks for your article, Kristen. We all have moments of self-doubt. It’s the natural human condition. After I lost my long-held, evil day job as a commercial real estate paralegal when the real estate market tanked, I was commuting to Miami for a couple of temp jobs. My daughter bought me a Kindle for my birthday and opened a whole new world. Really. I had no idea what was out there. After doing technical legal writing for thirty years, and having read some of those delicious naughty erotic books, I said: I CAN DO THIS. So I read more, studied the genre (what words do they use, how far do they go), and started my first book. I submitted it to Siren Publishing which publishes several of the authors I personally really enjoyed. I immediately started a second book while I was waiting to hear. Siren’s Submissions tab said I would hear back within three weeks. I was on pins and needles. Nothing. Self-doubt. What made me think I could do this? Checking e-mail every hour. Nothing. Day No. 22, at last an email from Siren. I was afraid to open it. “Dear Ms. Mikula, we are happy to say that SIren would like to publish…..” Much screaming and dancing around and frantic calls to friends and family. No, I’m not published by Random House—but, I am published. I’ve written twenty books, all of them either out there or about to be released, and I am working on No. 21. People read my books and actually BUY them. I can’t tell you what a sense of accomplishment that gives a person. My advice to would-be writers is TO WRITE. Try. Get out there. Don’t let self-doubt hold you back. If you have a story in your head start by making notes on your computer, character sketches, location ideas, snippets of dialog. DO SOMETHING. I did. And now I’m an Author, a Writer, a purveyor of naughty love stories with happy endings–for my characters as well as for me. I am published by Siren Publishing, and my books are available on Bookstrand.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other e-book retailers. Visit my Facebook fan page, Skye Michaels Books, to see covers and first chapters. – Skye Michaels, Erotic Romance with a Dark Edge.

  16. Thanks for this encouragement, Kristen.
    I have reached the ugly stage where I quit “this writing thing” the last two times I decided to pursue my dream. I have tons of first drafts. I have a finished novel in an agent’s hands – awaiting a verdict. I have two more projects in process in a different genre – one is even NF – and I’m wavering. I’m reading the want ads and wondering if a year is long enough to “try this thing.”
    And I know it is NOT long enough. I have told everyone I know (meaning Facebook) that I am writing until I die or find a publisher. I’m hoping this will keep me accountable. “You told everyone you’re writing. If you stop now, everyone’s going to question their own dreams.” Or think you’re a flake. And you’ll have to answer the big “why?” Question. People will bring up Rowling’s 1000 rejections.
    I am a professional writer (I have business cards that prove it). I am a pre-published author. I will keep on keeping on. Thanks to encouragement from Kristen and other WANAs.

    1. Sharon, I wanted to encourage you to keep at it. I went through almost 80 rejections before a publisher picked me up. Use this wonderful time that you have to improve your craft. Once you’re published, you’ll never have it again. And being published is nice, but it’s just a job. I love writing and will keep at it until I die. But being at church is so much better, being with friends is also better than being published, so don’t long to be published b/c you think it will make you into something. It won’t. Being kind to others, being with friends and family and doing what makes you you is what makes you into something.

      1. Kim-
        Thanks for your kind words. I know being published isn’t the be all to end all. It is my dream and my goal, though. The realistic side of me knows to expect tons of rejections before I get a sale. It’s the die hard perfectionist inside wanting to see “results” that stirs up the negative vibes.
        Time to get the duct tape for that naysayer.

      2. Great advice.

  17. Even if your manuscript, your story, your book, your poem never leaves your desk, you’re a writer. Deal with it. Own the title and step up to the plate. You. Are. A.Writer.
    Welcome to the club

  18. Actually, I quite like the slide 😀

  19. Great post, as usual. Having self-published my first book and been fortunate enough to have the first publisher I sent the manuscript to picked up my second, (And yes, I do know I’m extremely fortunate and blessed with that one.) I do actually consider myself a real writer now. Of course, that’s in the bright of day… in the middle of the night, I still have anxieties about whether or not what I’ve written is actually worth someone reading and wonder if there’s been a mistake.

    I’ve been involved in the business of writing since 2010 when I decided I was done pretending it just wasn’t for me. It isn’t easy – the arranging of speaking engagements, attending book fairs, actually standing up in front of crowds and SPEAKING – but I do it as do any of us who take this whole thing seriously. And I have to tell you, standing in front of a little table in my hometown Barnes & Noble was really, really cool and so worth all of the late nights, chewed fingernails and reams of paper!

    One of the most enjoyable parts of any of my talks is the part where I get to encourage everyone there to start scribbling their story. Whether for publication or for family history purposes, I push them all. The main difference between any of us who are published and those who are not is that we didn’t throw in the towel too soon. Keep at it!

    1. Ok… that was “pick up my second” not “picked up.” Sigh…

    • joiedemidvivre on September 15, 2014 at 10:38 am
    • Reply

    With one novel self-published and another coming out November 2nd, I definitely identify myself as a writer and author. Actually, I think your word, “Authorpreneur” is fantastic. I write but I am also building my social media platform and always thinking of ways to promote my work. It’s fun! I love not having any constraints put on me by a publishing house.
    I have always been extremely independent (possibly to a fault) and never put much stock in allowing others to define me. In school I used to consider my grades the “opinions” of my teachers, not a factual reflection of my skills and knowledge.
    Defining yourself, giving yourself the title ‘author’, announces that you believe in your own dreams. Scary stuff. Wide open for ridicule. In addition to connecting with readers, I have been consciously trying to connect with other authors because it is crucial for me to have a support group when I am putting myself out there. In fact, I will definitely tweet this link to all my #amwriting buddies.
    I don’t consider myself a mushroom-eater. I am the next group, reaping the rewards of the mushroom-eaters before me and I truly appreciate their bravery. Thank you for this post and your blog – sharing your mushroom-eating wisdom.

  20. Hey Kristen….first of all thank you for this timely write up as I was going through one of my speculative dilemma phase…it was like a beacon of light which has shown me hope to continue doing what I am. And I am sure hopefully my persistence and hard work will pay off..I am glad to follow you….somewhere we all know in our sub conscious that do we have what it is to be a writer or not but the game doesn’t end there…it rather starts there now to make an impression among plenty….I truly agree with what you said…my best wishes for your future endeavours….

  21. Great post as always. I write, therefore I am ( a writer).

  22. Great piece. I love the mushroom eater analogy too!

  23. Hi Kristen. Isn’t another part of the question about whether we are story tellers? I think I can write (I’m actually doing it now), but can I tell a story? And would it interest a reader? Someday, I will find out. Silent

  24. To tie this in with one of your recent posts, writers are finishers. 😉
    And you always have to be open to Plan B!

  25. For the past few weeks this is a topic I’ve went round and round with in my life, on my blog. I try to think of myself as a “real” writer, my husband says “you’re a writer,” and on my blog I say, “I’m a writer,” but in the back of my mind I won’t be a real writer until I get the formal “you’re going to be published” thing. I really need to change my mindset. Thank you so much for your post.

  26. Reblogged this on Burgess Taylor and commented:
    I’ve been struggling with this very same question for the past year, talking about it a lot more the past few weeks. Am I a “real” writer? A writer writes. I write, therefore I am a writer. But I don’t get paid to write. I don’t have a published book. So am I really a writer? Kristen Lamb says ” If you put a writer in an office at a keyboard, is the writer alive or dead (real or fake) until the book is published?” I’m definitely alive, real not fake.
    She goes on to say, ” The second we sit at a keyboard and write, we are writers. Yet, as my first “novel” glaringly illustrates, we might not yet be a “good writer.” ” So true. If you’ve struggled over the question of whether to call yourself a writer or not please read her post.

  27. Loved the way you put it and I’m definitely going to check out your new book. Thanks for the inspiration and for the advice!

  28. Reblogged this on Lisen Minetti: A work in progress and commented:
    I love this post. Actually I love most everything that Kristen Lamb posts. But this one in particular as it deals with something that non-published writers deal with all the time: If we aren’t getting paid to write, are we writers? But my favorite line from the whole piece?

    “Schrödinger Writer? If you put a writer in an office at a keyboard, is the writer alive or dead (real or fake) until the book is published?”

  29. I love your posts! I have seen several on this topic, but this is probably my favorite. When I first started tweeting and had 160 characters to put up as a bio I struggled hard to figure out the correct terminology. Aspiring author? Novice Novelist? Then I thought about it. I write nearly every day. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about blog posts, or plot twists. I was making it too hard on myself. I am a writer. And my favorite line from the post?

    Schrödinger Writer? If you put a writer in an office at a keyboard, is the writer alive or dead (real or fake) until the book is published?

  30. My new mantra (alongside, “I think I can. I think I can.”) will now be, “A writer writes.”
    Thank you.

  31. I actually wrote my novels years ago, but my ignorance led me to being cheated by an agent. Personally, I am very glad I have option to publish my books myself. Whether I am a real writer or not can easily be debated. Sure, anybody can write and publish. But if we’re not good writers (and/or not good at marketing), people won’t buy from us. So it all works out in the end.

  32. Reblogged this on To Write With a Broken Pencil is Pointless and commented:
    Seriously – the timing on when I read certain blogs is absolutely mind boggling! This came at just the right time! KISMET!

    Writer’s almost always have some reason they tell themselves on why they’re not a “real” writer. And whether that reason came from outside influences, inside our own brains, or a combination of both it’s still there. And it’s what we use to explain why we fail or we rejected or why we won’t even bother trying!

  33. I HATE mushrooms. But I love this article. Ready to take a bite.

  34. Reblogged this on Edits by Jade and commented:
    Are you a “real” writer? Food for thought…

    • L. E. Carmichael on September 15, 2014 at 2:47 pm
    • Reply

    Despite the 12 kids’ science books I’ve published with traditional houses, the “real writer” question smacked me in the face this month. I was told that I didn’t qualify for a major grant because my books weren’t literary, and therefore, in the eyes of the granting agency, I was not a professional writer.

    Stuff like this is why we have chocolate.

    I felt much better three days later when I signed a new contract. 🙂

    1. WHAT??!?!?!?!
      Just … WHAT?!
      That’s like saying something isn’t art if it’s not a portrait or that it isn’t creative if it looks like reality or that your story doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t fit perfectly a certain schedule.
      Literary? PFFFF. And what makes that genre so much better than others? My life has been much more changed by “genre fiction” than by literary fiction.
      Ask those people: “How about Jane Austen? Was she not an author? Shakespeare? Alexandre Dumas? All three were genre writers, NOT literary ones.”

        • L. E. Carmichael on September 17, 2014 at 9:33 am
        • Reply

        I’m still rolling my eyes a bit, but have mostly gotten over it. It helped a lot when a mom told me this week how much her kid loves my book Fox Talk. 🙂

        1. That’s good to hear! 🙂

  35. Yes to all of this! I love hearing your thoughts on writer identity. Thanks for sharing! I hope to come to think of myself as a “real” writer.

    1. Think “pre-published writer” ;).

  36. Excellent article! I too struggled with defining myself as a “real writer” because I thought there was some magical number of hurdles one had to clear before earning the trophy. The mindset-shift is SO crucial to actualizing the path, as well. Once I began to OWN the title of ‘writer’, successes started showing up at my door. It was because I started taking myself seriously. It wasn’t just ‘the side gig’ anymore, something I could brush off. Writing IS what I do — and I finally tell people I’m a writer without feeling the need to justify or disclaim somehow.

  37. Very informative and insightful post. I think once the decision to actually write has been made you embark on a journey that can be a story all of it’s own. From what to write about, to how do you want to be received as an author/writer, to the very success you see yourself enjoying from finally forging ahead with the decision to put fingertips to keyboards. Don’t kid yourself it’s work, but I never say hard work; because once a person that’s new to something hears the term ‘hard work’, more often than not they sit on the fence indecisively. Unlike like a row of alley cats who decisively sit on that same fence; decidedly ‘meowing’ into the night and not in unison either. The huge difference is they made a decision to ACT, no matter how unpopular that decision to act was.

    Rule of thumb 1: If You can write a paragraph YOU CAN WRITE A BOOK. (most won’t agree, but it’s all about your perspective)

    Rule of thumb 2: NO Matter the genre; ALWAYS WRITE FROM AN HONEST VEIN!!! Write your truth (even if it’s fiction), from your perspective on how you see things no matter how jaded life glass’ are. We all have favorite authors and love the way they write, but the best way to become your target market’s favorite author if it’s only in your authentic voice.

    Rule of thumb 3: Everyday you live is a day added to a chapter of your life. In other words life itself and the way you live it can be the greatest story ever told, now if you ever decide to tell it is another story. In other words as long as you are alive you will have entertaining material to share.

    Two actual thumbs and three rules of thumb means I’ll stop while I’m ahead. Kristen believes that ‘The second we sit at a keyboard and write, you are writer.’ I believe that since thoughts are things, as soon as what you think; you are…

    Now pardon me while I find a bowl of wild mushrooms to eat and if I don’t make it through the experience to write about it at least the experience will be colorfully grand.

  38. Kristen – I just LOVE this blog post!! I’m still asking myself whether or not I am a writer… I just published the cover of Dragonbride, my first book, and the one you read a few pages of. 🙂 It should be published by September 25 if everything goes all right – and I figure, if that works out – and even though it’s not published the “traditional” way, it still has words inside, a cover outside, a title and I’ve got the copyright – I would say… yes, by end of this month I will be a writer. 🙂
    Thanks for your post!! It’s amazing!!

  39. All mushrooms are edible… but some of them are only edible once. 😉

    1. YOLO!

  40. I just loved how you used Schrodinger’s cat as a metaphor, it made me laugh as well as nod knowingly, recognising exactly what you meant. And even if the risks of writing are hard and scary at times I do not believe you should ever give up. This much I have learnt from my own experiences. Nor do I believe that anyone who has never wanted to write can truly understand the motivations of those who do want to. So for anyone who’s been given some eyewateringly bad advice, try not to take it too personally.

    • Sagar Daniel. on September 15, 2014 at 5:28 pm
    • Reply

    Dear Kristen,
    It is more than just interesting, when it becomes amazingly amusing. I read your blog again, and again. Maybe i will read it a number of times again. The art of true magnetic writing is the same as listening to good music. Each time it touches you, each time it appeals your mind differently.

    You wrote it with your entire self, that is the reason it will help many, in different ways.
    I was seeking help, and you appeared as a good samaritan.

    Thank you,
    Sagar Daniel.
    I hope someday, i may also help many with my writing…….

  41. I have this theory that traditional foods are the direct result of peasant near-starvation. Think about it: haggis, snails, chicken feet… These are the things you try when all other food avenues have been exhausted.

    I am happy to say that I am a writer! Unless the question is “what do you do for a living” in which case I shuffle and mumble and say something about “kept woman” 😉 Even the electoral roll has me down as a writer (it felt so good!) although I may regret it when they start rounding us up!

    Scribo, ergo scriptor sum – so I’d better get on with it!

    1. Fun fact: Archeological investigations show that snails were some of the first animals kept for breeding/eating. I don’t remember what it’s called when you have a farm with an animal. Jesus, I don’t even remember the word in my own language. This is not good.
      Anyway, you know, when you keep animals in captivity and feed them and eat them in the end.
      Snails were some of the first things.
      Damn it why do I not remember that word!!

      1. Well, I guess when farming snails you wouldn’t have to worry about them breaking out in the night and stampeding over the horizon 🙂
        Still, it supports my theory that people ate snails when there were no other options on the menu…

        1. Technically meat would be the same. The easiest thing in the world to eat would be fruits hanging from the trees :p

          1. Actually, the easiest thing in the world to eat would be fruit that has already fallen off the tree, but people insist on raising their sights 🙂

          2. Well, except to eat those you’d have to look out for rotten fruit and be more careful with washing and checking for critters 😛
            AAARGH! WASPS! 😉

  42. Reblogged this on West Coast Review.

  43. I needed this.

  44. Hello Kristen
    My book was put together from short stories I wrote with a group of friends in a monthly writing workshop. Over the years I made friends within our group, and as we commented on our stories and the other stories the group presented we all learnt a little or a lot depending on our interest.
    So I suppose we all can be called writers as many hours were spend getting our next story ready for the next monthly meeting.
    The book I put together from the short stories I considered as an ego trip for a grandpa to show my family how I remembered my life to date.

  45. you don’t need to put my name in a hat, maybe give it to the next person who posts or someone who posts below my post. Or pick someone. Surprise me.

    Before a publisher picked up my novel, I used to think a REAL writer was a traditionally published writer, but boy did I get kicked off that pedestal. I’ve led a writers’ group for about 6ish years and teach writing techniques and it’s taught me a lot about writers of all kinds, no matter their published history or non-history. The writer can be published, self published, blogger or non published, it doesn’t matter.

    I’ve learned that a real writer is anyone who can write more than their name and doesn’t want to pluck out their nose hairs one by one. You’d be surprised as to who loves to write and who loathes it. (I had a friend of mine who had to write eight pages for a class and it took her eight weeks to write it. Eight weeks???) A real writer can talk to someone in detail and still be able to plot their next book in their heads at the same time. They are the ones who cry over their characters, root for them and pray everything will be ok. And when the story ends, it’s like saying good bye to an old friend.

    They (I) are the ones (am the one) who watches TV shows and sees a great plot twist but alas, the script writers didn’t see it. And the TV writers can’t hear you (me) yell at the TV. And your (my) friends don’t seem to understand why you (I am) so upset. (Sigh … mine was over the old A team shows in which several episodes could have been written revolving Murdock’s WWII jacket. The character was so important to him that he wore it all the time. So much was THERE. But the writers never touched it. Never!! Alas, my poor friend Megan had to listen to my 3 week rant involving emails, fb posts and texts around one stupid jacket . Thankfully, the fb fan page was a bit more understanding.) A bit. The writer, no matter who she or he is, weeps over badly written scripts and longs to just take over Hollywood, b/c Oh. Dear. God!!! Breath, just breath. Chant a mantra. It will be ok, it will be ok. It’s like seeing a boy beat a kitten with a very big bat. Please, just step away from the computer!!!

    They (I) sit in the aisle seat b/c the light is better for taking plot notes. Your (my) friends just look at me (you) and shake their heads. These are the ones who take notes for their WIP at lunch while on the job. and sometimes they do it when they are suppose to be working. Um … They are the ones who would rather write than date except if the guy is Tom Hiddleston, then well, that’s a given, Tom comes first.

    The one who writes is one who forgets to eat, sleep, or acknowledge loved ones. All that matters is the story, the plot and the characters. THe story hinges on improving it. Writing is in their bones, blood and soul and to ignore its call is like ignoring to breath.

    So a writer is anyone despite publication who longs to write a story and the only way they can release it is to start writing. And yes, I’m kinda over the Jacket Incident, but STILL!! I mean it could have represented his pain from the war and seeing loved ones die. I mean, come on!! I need to call Megan.

    1. I”m sorry ,I meant to say, it took her 2 weeks to write 8 pages.

      1. And I meant to say the jacket was so important to him. See?? I’m still upset!!!

    2. Ha ha ha ha You made me laugh! And, I believe you hit a note with what you said about some of the story plots on TV shows, I don’t understand why they can’t see the story that could have evolved from one item! and it would be so interesting.

      1. I was watching The Black List and I kept thinking, Lizie should be pregnant by the guy who was her husband, but now I guess isn’t. And Red wants that baby as does the husband guy b/c it’s his kid, but she’s wanting to keep it and figure out who is good and bad. A baby is now at stake. But alas, NO ONE LISTENS!! Sigh. I’m still upset over the jacket. :))

      2. OH and Kristen, toss Ffflip2014’s name into the hat instead of mine. Thanks. Now F, you’ve got two chances to win. :)))

        1. Why, that is so nice of you Kim! Thank You. I am smiling about your comments. I also like the part about talking about writing, I completely stopped. My husband thinks is is a waste of good time to do anything hobby like, like my writing. Believe it or not., I used to have to sneak and write, or he would moan and groan that I was such a time waster. But, since I retired, I ‘find’ much more time to waste than ever, and I use to write down my stories.
          Thanks again!

          1. You keep writing, girl, and one day, the money will flow in and you can say to your husband, I think I’ll take this money and go waste my time. tee hee. Keep going, you’ll make it.

    3. I’m so sorry, I also meant to say, you sit in the aisle of the theaters. Ok, I”m done now.

  46. I never looked at writing like a small business, it really puts it into perspective. Great post!

  47. So many great responses here and they inspire me to share one more. I grew up surrounded by very, very intelligent people who knew it and who were lauded for that, whereas anyone who acted ‘dumb’ or said something ‘dumb’ was unworthy to live in the same world. Sigh.

    These same relatives, siblings and cousins mostly had a very 50s attitude [and some still do] which said if want you want to do with your life is not blatantly practical and makes a lot of money you [the would be creative artist/writer] should back away from it as if it was a new type of plague. Doing something as a career that was not pragmatic was a crime, maybe even a sin.
    Doing anything that looked to them like a hobby or a way of using up old construction paper, or using the back side of mailers in an old, old black metal typewriter [my grandmother’s] was a waste of time once the person doing it was over the age of 10. And wasting time was a sin if not a major felony.

    So I stopped talking to most of my relations about my writing. I only talked about it and shared in it and worked on it with friends. And I tried to ignore the older message… Creative pursuits are a waste of time and wasting time once you are ‘all grown up’ is reprehensible. Still, I had a lot to learn and I’m learning all the time about means and methods, techniques and style points and G-d help us some elements of grammar!

    Can I still get tripped up by that old message? Sure. Do I think it’s a healthy attitude for one human being to impose on another, heck no! I am a writer and I have been since I was ten years old pounding on my grandmother’s heavy black metal typewriter. The next step for me is still to be published in a venue other than a fanzine or a fanfiction website or a website for fanfiction writers… in a form that is not derivative… [i.e. fanfiction] I write original novels in a loosely knit genre I call historical-adventure-fantasy. I am working on the most recent one every day as I have been for about a year, give or take.

    I think this newest one could be the ‘break out’ … Then there will be a lot more people who know that I am a writer… even better they may enjoy my stories too.

    1. Wow, how didn’t I notice you at our house? O_o Spooky.

  48. Thanks for the motivation, Kristen! I was languishing in the corner of the ring and this post was the proverbial water-bottle-squirt-over-the-head/shoulder squeeze that I needed to keep going. I am very new at this writing thing, though I’ve dreamed of it for as long as I can remember. I started writing my first novel in March, after the death of a sorority sister. She had just graduated law school and was a newlywed of only three months. Her sun was only just beginning to rise, and the tragedy of her untapped potential hit me in a profound way. I used to be afraid of trying and failing; now I know that the real failure would be in not trying at all. I’ve had to push my perfectionist, Type-A tendencies aside to acknowledge that the disappointment of producing a novel that doesn’t match my intentions cannot eclipse the regret I would feel on my deathbed if I was haunted by questions of what might have been, had I only stepped up. I have a manic-depressive relationship with my manuscript. Some days I skim through it and feel full of promise; other times I chuck it away and vow that it shall never be seen by another pair of eyes. Still, I keep going, because I have to answer the question. I have no idea if this vacillation between love and hate, confidence and self-doubt is a natural part of the process or not; but your post reminded me that the venerated title of “writer” that I’ve been chasing cannot be awarded through acclaim and has more to do with conquering my own disquietude to simply write. Thanks for the reminder!

  49. The most push back I get is from myself. I am the one telling myself that it isn’t practical. Funny thing, my heart and my head are (once again) not on the same page. My head says “medical billing” but my heart says writing. I cannot find contentment with anything but. So I push through the internal conflict, hoping against hope to reach that goal of publication. Thanks for the.constant encouragement! I take your posts personally, though I know I’m not the only one.

  50. My book was taken on by a new publisher who require that the author pays a bit and in return they get 70% of the profit.
    Though they turn away 90% of the scripts they get and 5% of the ones they do get need a LOT of editing before they can be taken on I still felt like it was wrong. it wasn’t TRADITIONAL.
    But screw traditional. Publishing my book first as e-book is far safer and I feel like my rights are respected by my publisher.
    There’s very little respect in the old paradigm so more power to the new one!
    And young people are reading more, so yay!

  51. Reblogged this on April Zyon Books and commented:
    I love this lady’s blog. She always has such amazing advice that’s right there in your face.

  52. Great post! My sister-in-law and I self published a book of short stories, and still I think that I’m not a writer. I’ve been writing since I was 12 so it’s ridiculous to think that I’m not. A writer writes. Who cares if you even make money at it? I had the same problem when I started running. I got up to 5 miles and still wouldn’t say I was a runner. I’m grateful to have read this post because self-doubt is a b***h and having other people fuel those doubts is terrible. It’s easy to put yourself down and fall into the same thinking habits but nothing will change unless you change it. If you call yourself a writer, then you are a writer. It opens up a lot of opportunity.

  53. I grew up in a small cove in northern Newfoundland, no roads, cars, electricity, tv’s or much else; but oh the safety and wonderful isolation. I have long sense left, and the cove has come of age. Still, it is very much engrained in my being; so much so that I wrote a postapocalyptic novel using it as the ideal setting to wait out the world’s devastation. That setting cooked in a recipe of some futuristic devices allowed me a unique combination of a natural way of life that embraces the best of technology.
    I have no way of knowing how readers will take to it; but, I am resolves to make it a four book saga, each having its own story, each book will also be linked to the next.
    Sorry for being so long winded. I found great favor in your message about writing outside the box. I would be hard pressed to find a genre fit – try I will.

  54. Reblogged this on Mandy's space to space and commented:
    So very encouraging!! Just what I needed to hear to help me stop doubting and start typing.
    I have a quote written on a post-it note that I keep in my writing journal that reads, ‘A professional writer is an amateur that didn’t quit’. It is my constant reminder to persevere no matter how many times I think I should toss in the towel.

  55. I love this new term, “mushroom-eater”. Yep, that’s what I am. I have yet to publish a book but I’m working on it.

  56. I wrote a similar post about when a writer is crowned with the title “author”. What I received in comments showed me that once you’ve written one, two, three novels, or even short stories you are an author. No one can take that away from you, me, or anyone else. Great post!

  57. Great post, Kristen!

    My favourite line is, “no risk = no reward”, quickly followed by, “Failing to at least try and give it all we have only leads to unanswered questions. Expect others will be jealous we had the guts to do what they could not.”

    Excellent advice. Now, let’s keep on writing. 🙂


  58. What?

  59. Whenever I tell anyone I am a writer, they always ask, “So are you published?” That seems to be the first hurdle; if you are published then you are a “real” writer. I say, “Yes.” The next question is always a suspicious, “But did you self-publish?” I say, “No, I have a publisher.” Suddenly I am taken much more seriously. In these days of self-publishing everyone is a writer, but you are only a “real” writer if a publisher takes you on. (This is NOT my opinion, but it seems to be most peoples’ opinion.)

    I’ve been writer since I was a kid but was always afraid to call myself a writer. After I sold my first book I asked a writer friend, “How many books do I have to publish before I can say I am a writer?” She looked at my as if I was nuts and said, “One.” I think I had three books out before I had the courage to call myself a writer. Are all writers this insecure or is it just me?

    1. Nah, we all get it. And it’s funny. The second someone passes the bar, they are a lawyer. No one asks how much they make, if they are a partner yet or how many bad guys they’ve convicted or cases they’ve won. *rolls eyes* It just goes with what we do.

  60. Nice article. I used to spend a lot of time handwringing over this topic. And there are lots of writers out there who are only too willing to undermine your confidence and put you in your place if you don’t meet their arbitrary criteria. I wonder, do doctors and mechanics do this to each other?

    I recently earned a creative writing certificate from a local college – is that good enough? I’ve had two articles published – does that count? I’ve been blogging for 10 years – does that prove it?

    I finally realized that no one else can give me permission to call myself a writer. I am a writer. I have been one since I was 16 years old. I may not shout it from the rooftops but I am working on a novel and short stories with the goal to be published. That is good enough for me.

  61. Great post. Gave me the confidence to say I am a writer, thank you

    • Nan Sampson on September 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm
    • Reply

    Brilliant as always. And your timing is magical. I was at my dentist’s office yesterday for the bi-annual cleaning. Last time I was there I was in the process of publishing my first novel and I had started self-identifying as a writer for the first time. This time, they had a new hygienist and my dentist comes in to introduce her and says “This is Nan, she’s a writer.” I nearly fell out of the chair. It’s one thing to introduce yourself as a writer, but I don’t even think I completely believed it was real until someone else introduced me that way. Could NOT have done this without you and MyWANA. Thanks, Kristen!

  62. Ah, medical billing! That was my mothers’ big push during my sophomore year of high school, followed by radiography, phlebotomy, and medical assisting. Thankfully, she’s on-board now, but more importantly I’M on-board now. Great post! Your blog is always a pleasure.

  63. I still don’t believe it sometimes. But I tell people.
    They ask; “What do you do?”
    I used to say “Mother.” “Walking milk machine.”
    NOW I say “Writer.”
    They look at me in stunned wonderment, but they believe me. Which means I have to believe it too.

  64. Great post!

  65. Brilliant post. I really enjoyed reading this and sat nodding in agreement with it. My personal experience can be summed up as:
    When I was 11, I was going to be a writer. Heck, I was practically a writer already – I had written at least 50 pages and had ideas for much more.
    Now, two decades later, I find it hard to tell people that I’m writer. I mean, yes, I’ve completed a number of first drafts, I’m in a critique group, I’ve had a few short stories published and am currently publishing a serial novel online. But it’s not like I can quit my dayjob, it’s not like I’m a household name …
    Thanks for this post. It did give me a boost in the right direction, I think.

  66. This is a good write up. I never really seriously thought of myself as a writer which is why it’s weird when people make a big deal that I wrote 6 novels and published one. The novel was met with glowing reviews yet agents/publishers refuse to take it. I have a social media presence but I’m not the best at communicating with others or forming bonds via social media. Hopefully someday I can see myself as a “real” writer.

  67. Thank you for this post. I have been writing for years, and, after being told “you should write a book” over and over, I finally decided to start blogging. It’s an unbelievable feeling when you put something out there, and people enjoy it and share it with their circles. That is how it starts. Now I am hooked.

    And now that I found your blog and your books, I am going to take the next step to be a writer. Your experience and guidance will continue to provide a blueprint for becoming an “authorpreneur”, and your success definitely provides inspiration and hope that it can be done.

    Thinking like a business is an important factor that most probably don’t even consider. Have a plan, take risks, don’t be afraid to fail, and when you do, get up and try again. Very rarely do we find our way on the first try. And the travels, complete with all the ups and downs, make reaching the destination that much sweeter.

    Looking forward to being a part of your community.

    • Liz on September 20, 2014 at 9:28 pm
    • Reply

    Here’s to eating mushrooms. Thanks! Very encouraging.

  68. I spend hours a day writing. (And my house looks like I do, too!). No doubt in my mind that I’m a writer, and have been since I was 7 and made a book to deal with the murder of a girl in my grade.

    My “risky” writing is Star Trek fan fiction. Started writing that at 13; at 45, it’s still a passion. For decades I hid it away, pretended it wasn’t as important to me – and that held me back, because, until I gave myself permission to embrace it and stand up for it, I was stuck.

    Now I’ve got eight WIPs in progress (uh, I didn’t know I was taking myself seriously, or writing a series!), and more coming, for a duology series. One half will be Enterprise/TOS crossover fanfiction (because Trip and T’Pol!); and the other half original, interwoven fantasy.

    The Trek elements will always be free, and either series can be read alone.

    Taking the first bite of this particular mushroom buffet is a little scary, and I’m a little shaky and sweaty…

    And having the time of my life! =D

    Excellent post. You are most assuredly a writer! =D

  69. I linked your blog to mine. This is my second chit for September. Hope my name is drawn 🙂

    1. Thank you Dennis! I have found the people who comment most often and hyperlink do win more often but that’s fundamental statistics, LOL. I super appreciate your efforts.

  70. I have debated this many times over the last couple months as I have ventured through my first manuscript. Even with published articles on a travel magazine site, I have had trouble calling myself a writer. Trying not to go too far into a philosophical debate with myself, I always wondered what makes a writer a writer, is it having your first book published or is it a title someone else gives you? My partner in life finally drove home the point that we already are writers, whether we are just journaling for our personal records or writing for others to read. It’s the one thing I can’t not do, it’s just who I am.
    I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. 😉

    • lbegallie on September 25, 2014 at 1:21 am
    • Reply

    Excellent post!
    I used to call myself an aspiring writer until I realized that if I am writing than I am a writer! Now I call myself an aspiring author (which I still think isn’t quite right) and I will change that to just author as soon as I have published my first novel 😀

  71. Kristen,

    I am finally getting to some of your older posts. I want to thank you for being both Yoda and Weird-Al to me. I love coming to your posts to glean pearls of wisdom from one who has walked the bizarre path of an author. Not only do your posts enlighten and inspire, but they make me laugh out loud. This post is especially inspiring, because I have recently self-published my first children’s picture book. I am biting into the G-rated mushrooms and discovering new ways to get my book into the laps kids and families. I don’t have magnets, but I did make some pretty snazzy bookmarks.

    Thank you,

    1. I LOVE that. Yoda-Weird Al. I can tool with that. So happy you are here!

      1. Thank you!

  72. Kristen,

    I am finally getting to some of your older posts. I want to thank you for being both Yoda and Weird-Al to me. I love coming to your posts to glean pearls of wisdom from one who has walked the bizarre path of an author. Not only do your posts enlighten and inspire, but they make me laugh out loud. This post is especially inspiring, because I have recently self-published my first children’s picture book. I am biting into the G-rated mushrooms and discovering new ways to get my book into the laps kids and families. I don’t have magnets, but I did make some pretty snazzy bookmarks.

    Thank you,

  1. […] wrestle with doubts: am I a “real” writer? Is what I write “worthy”? Kristen Lamb says that it’s time to stop worrying about defining a “real” writer, while Daphne Shadows dissects the attitude that genre fiction is the scum of the literary world. […]

  2. […] By the way, for another really insightful blog on publishing, go to Kristen Lamb’s blog. […]

  3. […] Sigh. Maybe you decide it’s time to get an MFA, MBA, or a DOA. Clearly you’re just destined to fail. You aren’t a ‘real’ writer after all. […]

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