CONVINCE YOURSELF YOU’RE A WRITER
This is the hard partYou’ve started writing and put it places people can read. You have a stable of writers to look up to and be inspired by. Now’s the real work - believing you are, in fact, a writer.
There are a lot of reasons why this could be quite hard. (If this isn’t hard for you perhaps you’re very lucky, or some kind of asshole.)
The problem is there’s a gap between what you want to be...
... and where you currently are. Ira Glass talks about this gap.
Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.
Glass is the host of NPR’s This American Life. This quote is from a two minute talk he gave on being creative, which was made into this excellent video you should watch.
Any kind of writing is a creative actNo matter what kind of writing you’re doing, you’re being creative. And when you’re being creative you’re struggling against a host of factors pushing back at you.
Why should anyone want to read this?
Why am I the one who should write it?
Who even reads anymore?
The average person’s attention span is 30 seconds and this is already 12 pages long.
I should have been a lawyer.
I should have been a doctor.
I should have launched a startup.
Oh god I can’t see. I’m 24 and going blind!
And on and on and on. Your internal editor will be working overtime, throttling your words before they even have time to breathe.
You’re going to have to find a way to shut that little shit up.
Unpack what it means for you to call yourself a writerAnd here I mean, to yourself. Why does the idea fill you with dread? Don’t ask me how I know it does. It does. Is it imposter syndrome? Social conditioning? Self-effacement? Is it because people who call themselves writers are usually terrible, and you’d sooner say you’re a social influencer or dog butt sniffer?
Understand that these are your mental hangups. To be paid to do a thing you must become that thing.
A common truism in relationships is if you want something you must ask for it. You can’t expect someone to read your mind. The same is true of occupations. Before anyone can even conceive of hiring you as a writer, they must first understand that you are a writer.
Have you done steps 1 and 2? Have you written and is that writing accessible beyond the notes buried in your garden? Have you found some heroes, some kindred souls who are paid for their words?
Then by the power vested in me by absolutely no one, I declare that you are a writer.
Which means it’s time to put yourself out there.