Aspiring writers. There are so many out there. MILLIONS! BILLIONS (if we count bots). I just returned home from the Idaho Writer’s Guild Conference, where there were rooms and rooms full of aspiring writers.
Since y’all weren’t there, now it is your turn. I want anyone who refers to themselves as an aspiring writer to raise their hands.
You are probably alone and only the pets can see you. Or, people around you already know you’re weird and won’t bat an eye.
Raise that hand! Aspiring writers? Anyone?
If you raised your hand, now I want you to take that hand and SLAP YOURSELF AND NEVER EVER REFER TO YOURSELF AS AN ASPIRING WRITER EVER AGAIN!
I’m watching you O_O.
I have people…everywhere…..
*cue creepy music*
Thing is, first of all, I would BET MONEY most of you already have a computer hard-drive FULL of short stories, poems, novels (finished, unfinished, good, bad, not fit to be let out among the human race for fear it might unleash the apocalypse). Point is y’all have written ZILLIONS of WORDS.
Meaning, writers write. You already ARE a writer. There is no try only DO. Aspiring is for wimps. This job is tough and it sure as
sh sprinkles isn’t for everyone.
No More Aspiring Writers
Today’s post is here to help y’all, recharge, reframe, regroup and hopefully have some laughs. Everything I mention, we will deep-dive…LATER.
Where was I? Ah yes…
QUIT being an aspiring writer. Feel free to refer to yourself as a pre-published author. If you have some moxie, go for pre-best-selling author. For those who have the ego of GOD like me? Pre-internationally-best-selling-global-dominating-mega-author.
That one can get long on a business card. So maybe an acronym PIBSGDMA?
The point is that if we aspire to be a writer, that presumes we are not already a writer. How we approach this business is critical because the odds are NOT in our favor. We have better odds of winning the lottery as we are struck by lightning than we do of being a mega-author.
Yes, I know. You feel super inspired.
One of the reasons the odds are SO stacked against us is simple. We can be our own worst enemies. Time to get out of our own way!
What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be?
First, the good news. This is a FABULOUS time to be a writer. In Ye Olde Publishing Days, there were essentially two ways to be published—traditional and vanity. Either you fought through gatekeepers or you paid to play.
You were constrained to what the market wanted. If you didn’t write that, or your first book was a stinker? NEXT! You were also limited in how many books you could produce. There was really no outlet for the I-write-a-book-a-month-
***Yes, my jealousy showing a little.
Today? If you write poetry, novellas, shorts, flash fiction, haiku, recipes, haiku-recipes…it DOES NOT MATTER. Why? Because you literally can publish anything you want. If you want to publish a book a week, you can.
If you write super LOOOOONG and only want to publish your 230,000 word tomes once a year? You can do that, too (and in like 17 different ways).
Now, the bad news.
Writers can publish anything they want and how often they want.
Herein Lies the Problem
With SO many changes in the market, have you taken time to decide what KIND of writer you want to be?
When I started writing, TWO choices. Then, as the digital age happened, we could go indie, then hybrid. So, FOUR choices.
Now? I literally cannot write out all the new ways there are to get our work in front of readers (and be PAID). Between so many avenues in self-pub and indie, then domestic and foreign markets, it is dizzying (and for other days and other posts).
There are some really successful writers out there, and not all of them *clutches pearls* write full-time. Why? Because the market is so oversaturated it is STOOPID.
It passed being STUPID in 2013 and is now STOOPID.
The odds of being to able to write full-time for a living and still sleep and, like, see the sun are not great…but not impossible. And if writing full-time as your sole income is your goal? Go for it!
But if publishing a rich, robust, deeply introspective novel once a year is your jam? Do it. If you love writing literary candy corn and can put out 3 or 5 or more books a year, do it!
Something in between? Do it. Until you can’t do it, then revisit the plan.
My point is, y’all need to get specific. Other than aspiring, what kind of writer are you? How do you define success?
Heck! I had to get specific. If you read my last post I wrote it while curled in the fetal position listening to DIDO. I was BURNED out. So burned out I couldn’t see the forest for the rose bushes (I was a bit lost)…which is why conferences are invaluable and for another post.
No More Aspiring
So, now you (hopefully) have read this far and you can stop calling yourself an aspiring writer. You already are a writer. OWN IT!
If you still aren’t convinced, I can tell you aspiring writers do exist. These are the people who say things like:
Yeah, I loved “Game of Thrones.” One day when I have enough time I’d like to write a fantasy novel.
Sure, because writing frigging GoT is just like whipping out an EMAIL! And time is the only thing separating them from being George R.R. Martin.
For the record, writing does not work like evolution.
We cannot type a couple sentences then wait thirty million years and magically have a series. Or maybe we can, but we won’t be around to see the fruit of our labors. But, I am still betting on NO.
In writing there is a DIVINE CREATOR—US–and intelligent design (if we do our jobs well).
What is a
Aspiring REAL Writer?
I have no idea why we writers get all existential with their careers. Can you image how weird it would be if dentists wandered around wondering if they were a real dentist?
Where was I?
Look it up. Writers write. It is literally the definition. But what is YOUR definition of a “real writer”?
If the definition of a real writer only included those who solely write novels for a living, then we just excluded Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain (to name a couple). Many of the greatest writers in history (and even today) still have a day job for a number of reasons.
Maybe they love the stability that goes with having a job and benefits. Because they aren’t HYSTERICAL they won’t be able to—I dunno—pay the power bill, they’re able to write and publish because of things like…they can SEE better when the lights work.
Some of us also keep a day job because we like doing OTHER things that are not writing. We need to be able to get out of our own heads because it’s dark and spooky in there. Other writers DO have the ability to write full-time (maybe your partner works) and so go you!
What Works? What Doesn’t?
When we shift our mindset from aspiring, our goals shift from passive to active. So long as I was aspiring I floated along, believing there was only one way (my way) even though it wasn’t working.
Because I pivoted in my mindset and profession, this gave me permission to try new things, I could incorporate what worked, what didn’t and at least I gave it a shot.
Just like I’m asking you to quit calling yourselves aspiring writers, I also want you to quit believing there is only ONE way.
Unless you’re already happily writing a book a month, Netflix is making them ALL into movies, and you like to relax in a bathtub full of royalty money.
***If this is you, um. Please
On the other hand? If you aren’t finishing? You’re burning out? Your books are good but aren’t selling? Your way used to work but isn’t working now?
Try something different.
Possibly reframe how you are thinking and question it. Perhaps your definitions, goals, or expectations need to be dusted off and revised.
I also want to send you over to Becca Syme’s Better-Faster Academy. Do yourself a favor and buy HER book, Dear Writer, You Need to Quit. Then READ IT. Buy ALL of them, but at least start there.
This is Me Post-Becca…
When I went to this conference, my head was so far up my tail, doctors could have performed a colonoscopy and an eye exam at the same time. I was overburdened, helpless and hopeless. On the flight home, I
read snorted Becca’s book like a line of cocaine.
SOOOO many answers.
I have many more incredible resources to share with you guys, experts who are NOT ME. That is what’s fabulous about our industry. Books are not so cost-prohibitive we can only buy ONE. Also, not all experts have all answers so you have a TEAM of us out there to help you.
to drink from a firehose more in coming posts. And, since y’all are all now pre-published writers, you will need the best team you can get.
What Are Your Thoughts?
I LOVE hearing from you. Are you calling yourself a pre-published writer now? Were you “today-years-old” when you realized there were more than, like THREE, paths to publish? Are you relieved that you are still a REAL writer even if you always have a day job?
Were you losing hope that there wasn’t a home for your writing? Did you think you had failed because you’d never revised your definition of what a REAL writer was?
I love hearing from you in the comments! It helps fuel me to keep on going. After seventeen years, I’m apparently powered by caffeine and compliments.
I REWARD Initiative!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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 (and maybe even time with an agent).
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). People with superlative writing, I (with your permission) have been known to pass you onto an agent.
I actually have landed agents for people who’ve won this contest. Agents like me because I make their lives easier.
Anyway, I look forward to reading your comments and your writing!
This is perfect timing! I just finished the first draft of my novel and I’m in the it’s total…sprinkles stage. Maybe I’ll try calling myself a writer and see how it goes.
Patti, we don’t know each other, but I’m willing to but money on the fact that your manuscript isn’t *sprinkles*. It may not be a bestseller (yet,) but it IS on the page and that’s what counts for now. You can always revise a manuscript and make it better. You can’t do anything with a blank page.
Keep at it! You finished a full draft of your novel — you absolutely ARE a writer!
Thank you so much for the encouragement!
Great post. I believe I was in the ‘aspiring writer’ for a long time. I moved myself up to ‘writer’ at a certain point, and then decided much later, though I wasn’t published, that I’d worked so long on book one I needed to call myself ‘author.’ Kicked me into high gear. If I wanted to broadcast to the world (as in when someone asked what did I do for a ‘living,’) I needed to make authorship my goal, over and above my day job. Meaning I needed to work harder, longer, and super super intense to get there. I needed to blog about my novel, get a website, share it on social media, pitch/query agents & publishers. I needed to make sure I had at least 3 chapters professionally edited when I sent out those first 3 with my query. And learn from each rejection. Rejections spurred me on. I did something wrong, but it doesn’t make me less of an ‘author.’ It meant, more work. Then it happened. Published. And now I am an author.
BUT I agree, I tell everyone who says they are an aspiring writer to call themselves a writer, because those words are being assembled. Love the ‘intelligent design’ concept.
I’m not a ‘pre-published author’ as I have 12 books published, but your words are still valuable.
Although I have these books out in the wild, I still find it impossible to introduce myself as a writer. I am a retired teacher, and introduce myself as that. Why do I, and many others, find it so hard to admit to being a writer? It’s not like we’re serial killers! (Except in our books, of course!)
I love your firecracker tone! Keep it coming!
Loved your post. You are a breath of fresh air. Thank you for the straight forward advice. You are the best.
An agented writer (almost)!
Thank you, Kristen, for highlighting this. I believe the same thing, and it’s always sounded so cringy to me when writers call themselves “aspiring.” If you write, you’re a writer. Simple as that.
(Also…I would probably read the book your cat wrote. :D)
Thank you for keeping it real!
My thoughts – no aspirating writer here- and yes there are novel- short stories – three page ideas – I will not refer to them as synopsis- there you have it and one more way of procrastination will disappear June 30th as I will retire from my job of 37 years.
Glad you’re feeling better
Ruth Kenjura- Houston
LOVE the inspirational posts and I’m not even sure why it feels even better reading something like this now that I AM a writer than when I actually did consider myself “aspiring”. Maybe the removal of Imposter Syndrome has brought it home. Either way thanks for that!
Link inbound (for two hat spots) from: https://www.juddexley.com/writing-3/the-number-nine/i-used-to-be-aspiring-but-id-limited-myself/
I always feel inspired by your blog. In order to be a writer, I need to commit to writing more of my creative work. And your blog always gives me a kick up the a** to do just that. I think I started calling myself a writer when I published blog posts on my website. It gave me a sense of credibility, having a platform to publish my work on. Publishing my first novel on Amazon also helped with that.
I lived in Miami, Florida for six decades. I was a perspiring writer.
Thank you for the inspiration! I missed your blogs while you were sick. So glad you are feeling better. I have self-published two novels, so stopped calling myself a writer – I use the phrase author, no idea why the terms feel so different lol
Wow. Thanks for the timely a**-kicking. I am already self-pubbed, but have been essentially dormant for years due to a chain of serious family crises. The writer in my head never stopped, though, and its patience is about at an end. This article provided a definite jump-start. You rock.
As always, Kristen, you are brutally honest! And in this crazy industry, we need honesty, not sugar-coating. You critiqued the first 20 of my latest WIP, and your feedback was invaluable! So, anyone who wants honest feedback, I say go for it because that’s what they’ll get from you. Thank you for keeping it real!
I do have 200k words written, including shorts stories and a partial novel. I have trouble calling myself a writer, more of a hobbyist. My current project is cleaning up three short stories for submission. It’s amazing how passages I thought well written six months ago sound clumsy now.
Brilliant as always, Kristen!
My “day job” life completely changed in the last year, and I was about ready to hang up the writing hat because the old way wasn’t sustainable anymore. Thanks for this post- it’s a good encouragement for me to reexamine and see if I can find a new way. 🙂
LOVE this post, Kristen! I am definitely not aspiring anymore either—I am a pre-published author who will have several bestselling books! Seriously, I’ve written 7 or 8 novels at this point… if that doesn’t make me a writer, what does?! LOL.
Thank you for your candidness, humor, and wisdom. I always enjoy your posts! I just finished my novel after two years of drastic life changes. Even though it was one of the toughest times in my life, I never stopped writing or plotting my story if I couldn’t write. It took me six months to even make the decision to write this book (because of all the stress and tragedy and everything going on), but once I made the commitment, I was ALL IN. And I made it to the finish line. I never thought of myself as “aspiring” because I was working hard! Writing hard! And it was worth it. What happens from here, only God knows. I have one hook in the water …
I am SO PROUD of you. You just accomplished what 75% of Americans claim to have as a life goal but only maybe 5% ever actually do! You have so many reasons to celebrate. And this is excellent proof you are made of strong stuff. To keep going when life is tough? That is FANTASTIC!
Thank you so much! I appreciate your praise more than I can say.
Great post. I’ve one clicked Becca’s book. Thank you!