Yesterday, I said I wouldn’t post much advice about writing, but a reader’s comment made me reconsider, at least in this case, because it’s that important to dispel a common misperception all aspiring writers have.
It’s that aspiring part. Aspiring means directing one’s hopes or ambitions toward becoming a specified type of person.
For along time I bought into this notion that I was an aspiring writer.
I wrote stories when I was 7 years old. They were about robots/Transformers. In one story they explored a mysterious cave. In middle and high school I tried my hand at writing fantasy stories. In my senior year I tried writing my first novel. In early college I wrote an essay and won a scholarship.
So why did I think I was an aspiring writer?
Maybe its because I bought into the following fallacies. Perhaps you’ve heard them before?
- You have to write a million words to consider yourself a writer.
- You have to be published to be considered a writer.
- To become a writer, you need to discover your voice.
- To be a writer, you have to be crazy, suicidal, or a drug addict/alcoholic.
- You have to write 2000 words everyday if you’re a serious writer.
The first two, in my opinion, are the means to separate the amateurs from the professionals. To discover your voice is important, but how can you do that without writing? And while there are crazy drug-addled writers out there, there are also those who are completely sane. Your choice.
The only one with a lick of truth is the last one. You do have to practice regularly, maybe not daily, but often, to improve your craft. Some writers don’t have that much time. Maybe they can only do 500 words a day, or they can only write an hour a day at most.
But guess what?
The real question is: what kind of writer do you aspire to be and how far do you want to go?
Historians research and write history. Economists publish papers about the nation’s GDP and economic trends. Quantum physicists devise their latest theories on quantum entanglement. Journalists write and publish newspaper articles.
Novelists write novels.
You can aspire to any of these professions, but chances are you’ll have to do a lot of writing to get there. Thus, you’re a writer.
You can aspire to be a novelist, but the moment you finish that first novel, you are one. The novel might not sell a single copy. You might have to prove to your friends and family you’re serious and start another novel. All of that doesn’t matter, you’re still a novelist. You’re still novelist as long as you want.
If you’re writing on a fairly regular basis then you’re not an aspiring writer; you’re a writer.
The rest depends on what you define as success.