Priority. Necessity. Practice.
If you don't take your writing seriously, nobody else will
About once a year, I find myself having to rewatch this video from Family Guy, where Stewie gives Brian a bit of grief about his novel, that has been in progress for three years.
The first time I saw this video, my reaction was “OUCH.” Since then, I’ve come to realize that maybe Brian isn’t really that serious about being a writer.
Let’s face it—unless you’re a bestselling author, or writing a novel a year, writing is not a lucrative profession. In a capitalist society, that means writing can feel extremely self-indulgent to the point of decadence. So it’s not unusual for people to assume it’s a hobby, at most.
The topic of how seriously we take professions based on their monetary value rather than their value to society is one for another day. For today, I’ll focus on the lies we tell ourselves when we think we want to be writers but aren’t actually serious about it.
Lie #1: I don’t have time to be creative.
What do you have time for? Everything you do that isn’t writing is, at least on a subconscious level, more important to you than writing. If you’re working 100-hour weeks at your ‘real’ job, you value the money you make from it more than you do the satisfaction you get from writing. If you’re busy parenting, your kids come first (and should). These are prioritization decisions you’re making about how you want to live your life. If writing is important enough, you’ll find the time to make it work. You can write a novel in 15-minutes each morning, or in a few snatched hours every weekend. If you’re serious about it.
Lie #2: Publishers are stuck in the past and won’t accept my non-traditional story.
I’ll believe that one if it’s coming from an agent after a round of submissions, but most often it’s coming from people who haven’t even finished the first draft of their story, never mind tried querying it. And even if it were really true, most writers these days (even the traditionally published ones) need to work to find their audience. A publisher doesn’t guarantee you a readership. If the only thing standing between you and your readers is a traditional publisher, you can always self-publish. I put The Divine Comedy of the Tech Sisterhood on Medium because it’s a novella. Too short for traditional publications. I wrote and shared it because I needed to get that message out, there was no real choice. It is still my most successful story to date.
Lie #3: Unless it’s my primary source of income, I’m not a real writer.
Every profession has gatekeepers, people who find ways to validate themselves by putting down others with fewer credentials. This feeling, that opportunity is scarce, and they have to differentiate themselves somehow, is extreme in tech and writing, both my professions. But I learned something from years of people questioning my engineering credentials, and, more to the point, from the many, many people who did not have my credentials and were much better engineers. It’s that qualification is theory; application is reality. A writer isn’t determined by an MFA, but by whether they write.
Do you write? As a practice, as a necessity, as a priority? Congratulations, you’re a writer.