Even though it took me a while to call myself a writer, I’ve been writing most of my life. In high school, I learned I had a knack for it, and it’s been part of almost every job I’ve had. Although I’ve had some great jobs, my work as a full-time writer is the most rewarding of anything I’ve ever done.
Using words to educate and entertain others is an art form that I cherish. Being an author and writing every day is a job so wonderful that it doesn’t even feel like work. I get to influence and encourage others with my words. How amazing is that?
I don’t plan on ever retiring. I like writing too much to stop. My prayer is that I will be able to write—and write well—until the day I die, which I hope is a long way off.
Until then, I will persist in my goal to change the world one word at a time.
First, if writing were easy, everyone would do it. Though anyone who knows how to read can write, few people can write well. That’s what being a writer is: exercising our ability to string words together with excellence.
As with any worthwhile endeavor, it takes time to develop skill as a writer. As writers, we’re always learning and always growing. Each piece we write has the potential to be better than the piece before it. And each year our ability can surpass last year. Writing is a journey of discovery that lasts a lifetime.
Second, if you have a passion to write, then pursue it with full-out abandon. Don’t dismiss writing for a more profitable pursuit. If you do, you’ll always regret it. But that doesn’t mean being a full-time writer. Most authors write and do something else. They may have a full-time job and write on the side. Or they may focus on writing but have a “side hustle” or two to help pay the bills.
Writing is art, and it is science. Embrace both. Pursue both. Merge both to produce words that sing or words that sell. What joy we realize as we learn to write like that.
Third, writing is a smart way to avoid job obsolescence. In the ever-evolving job market—which changes faster every year—the career most people start with is seldom the career they end with. Writing, along with a few other skills, sidesteps the threat of obsolescence. Yes, the form of our publication will change—it already has and will continue to do so—but the skill to arrange the underlying words will persist.
People who have mastered the art of writing will always have something to do—even if we can’t now imagine what that might look like.
Fourth, writing embraces a new way to earn a living. As forty-hour-a-week jobs become less available and less desirable, twenty-first-century workers piece together a variety of pursuits to produce income, achieve better work-life balance, and find vocational fulfillment.
This approach includes freelancing, contract work, and subcontracting, with many writers leading the charge in these areas. With this mindset to guide us, today’s writers can forge ahead to produce a life with variety, purpose, and fulfillment. And you can join them in this quest.
How amazing is that?
Yes, without a doubt, pursuing a career in writing is worth the effort.
Discover What Type of Writer You Are and Then Embrace
There are different types of writers. They have different motivations, are at different places in their writing journey, and have different goals. Here’s how the different types of writers break down:
1. The Aspiring Writer
I’ve heard many people refer to themselves
as aspiring writers. But they’re misusing that label. They say aspiring
because at this point in their journey they lack the confidence to say they’re a
writer, so they qualify it by tacking on aspiring. If this is you, I
encourage you to take a deep breath, drop aspiring, and boldly say, “I
am a writer.” It will take practice to say with confidence, but you can do it.
You are a writer.
In truth, an aspiring writer is someone who doesn’t actually write; they merely aspire to write—someday. But they’ll never get around to it. Yes, they act as a writer. They read books on writing, go to writing conferences, and hang out with other writers. They talk a good game, but that’s all it is: talk.
They want to have written, but they
don’t want to put in the hard work, to actually sit down and write. They aspire
to write, and that’s where it ends.
Don’t be someone who aspires to
write. Just write.
2. The Hobbyist Writer
Next, we have people who write for
fun, write for therapy, or write for family and friends. They’re hobbyists. There’s
nothing wrong with that.
So, if a hobbyist writer describes you, accept it. As a hobbyist, you may not publish much and certainly won’t make much money from your work, but you are writing. And that’s what’s important. Own that label, and celebrate it.
However, if you want to realize more
from your writing, consider moving beyond the hobbyist phase.
3. The Passion Project Writer
Some writers have a book they must
write. It’s a compulsion, a calling. They work hard to produce the best book they
can. They self-publish it. Then they spend years promoting and marketing their
It’s their passion.
But it may be the only book they
ever write. Or if they do write other books, these may fall short because the
passion isn’t there. And it shows.
There’s nothing wrong with having a
passion project. I know many people who write one book, and that’s it. That’s
okay. But if you want more, consider the next two categories of writers.
4. The Artist Writer
I know many writers who view themselves as artists. They produce wonderful work and produce it with some degree of regularity. But they write when the muse hits, and they write when they have a deadline. However, if they don’t feel like writing, they don’t. They’re often discovery writers (pancers: they write by the seat of their pants). Writing speed and output frequency doesn’t matter. They’re artists, and that’s what they care about.
If you’re thinking of the phrase starving artist, that fits this category of writer. They may not make much from their art, and they certainly won’t earn enough to support themselves. That’s why the artist-writer needs another source of income. This could be a day job or a side hustle. It may be a spouse, an inheritance, or a generous patron.
5. The Career Author
The final category is a career
author. Although their words may flow from many different motivations, they
have one thing in common: writing is their job, and they strive to make money
from it, either full-time or part-time.
They haven’t sold out. They’re just being intentional. They value the craft and may even view it as art. They also write with passion. But, in addition to that, they write with purpose. They want to share their words with others and earn money as they do. They have an entrepreneurial mindset. They are an authorpreneur.
A Final Thought about the Types of Writers
At various times in my writing journey, I have been each of these types of writers. Some of my stops have been brief, and others longer, but where I am now—and where I want to remain—is as a career author.
Right now, I make some of my income as an author, and my goal is to one day earn all my income through writing. But money is not my motivator; it’s the outcome. My desire is to share my words with others. As I often say, my goal is to “change the world one word at a time.” And making money from doing so is a sweet result.
Discover what type of writer you are and embrace it. Don’t let anyone tell you your path is wrong or inconsequential. You are a writer.
The list of advice for writers is long, seemingly more than is humanly possible to accomplish
Advice for writers is never is a short supply. Just when we regularly carve out time to write, another requirement piles on our plate and then a third and a fourth. Before long we grow overwhelmed and want to give up.
I struggled for years to find time to write on a regular basis. Just as that skill began to solidify, someone dropped a bomb on my writing world. That missive said, “You need to read as much as you write.”
Now I have to take not enough time and cut it in two.
The next bomb, the most devastating of them all, demanded I build a platform. More requirements soon piled high on my list of impossible tasks.
Here are the main ones:
As a writer, we need to write every day. Or at least we must write on a regular basis. For some people that means only a few minutes a day or maybe a couple of times a week.
If we claim the title of the writer and aren’t writing, something’s wrong. Writing is the first requirement of being a writer.
To write well, we need to be informed. This means we must-read. We need to read in our genre and outside our genre. Through reading, we see what works and what doesn’t. We discover the techniques we like and the ones we don’t.
By reading widely, we cultivate our voice, develop our style, and feed our muse. Reading fuels our writing. But while the goal of spending as much time reading as writing makes for a compelling quip, it makes for better rhetoric than reality.
Still, as writers, we must-read.
Build a Platform
I’ll never forget the day an agent turned me down, not because of my writing or my ideas or my ability, but over the lack of a platform. Ouch. That hurt.
It seems writing and reading was not enough. I needed to build and then grow a platform, too. How much time should I invest in platform building? One piece of advice was as much time as I spend writing.
If you’re good at math, you’re seeing the rub: 50 percent of my time writing, 50 percent reading, and 50 percent on the platform. If that seems impossible, it is.
The next question is when should we start building our platform. Unfortunately, if we’re asking that question, we’re already behind.
While writing is a good practice to help us improve, we improve faster if we study about writing. That doesn’t mean going back to college or enrolling in an MFA program, but it does mean taking intentional steps to improve. For me, that includes reading books and magazines about writing, listening to podcasts, and taking relevant online classes. These things take time.
Next we must network. We need to know other writers. We need to meet agents, editors, and publishers. It’s good to have these contacts before we need them.
Last is marketing. While this mostly takes place as our book nears publication, we must also market ourselves beforehand. We need a professional writer website, an active presence on some social media platforms, and the accouterments of being a writer, such as a headshot, business cards, an author bio, and so forth.
Does all this seem overwhelming? It is? Does it seem impossible to give everything its due? It is.
Somehow as writers, we need to juggle these expectations. We need to prioritize and squeeze things in and make sacrifices.
A few weeks ago, I ended the day with the irrational assessment that I can actually balance all these things. My satisfaction lasted for all but one day. I usually reach this place a couple of times a year, which means for the other 364 days of the year, I’m pulling my hair, screaming, and crying that I just can’t do it.
And you know what. I can’t, no one can.
But as we try to negotiate this list of impossible requirements, there’s one thing we must never forget.
The more I focused on platform building, the less I enjoyed writing. I almost quit.
A few years ago, when I was still looking for an agent, I received some unexpected feedback. The agent liked me and my writing. He thought my book had merit. But despite all that he chose not to represent me. His reason was direct: “You have no platform.” Ouch!
He didn’t say, “Your platform isn’t big enough,” “We want to see a bigger following,” or even “Your platform is too small.” Each would have been a true statement, and I could have accepted that. But no. He said, “You have no platform.” His words smacked at the core of my being. It’s as if he stuck a knife in my heart and twisted it.
I doubt he meant to cause me pain, but he did. Words have an impact. I know. I write for a living.
So with renewed focus, I dove into growing my platform. I studied books, took online classes, and listened to podcasts about platform and branding. I followed blogs and copied what the big-platform people did. I put greater effort into blogging, looked at each social media platform I used to make it better and developed a consistent message across them all. I sought to engage with people online and build community.
I followed the steps of the gurus, the holders of grand, successful, platform-building outcomes. Eventually, I realized the truth of the oft-spoken disclaimer: “Individual results may vary.” Indeed few of their followers ever achieved their if-I-can-do-it-anyone-can-do-it results. That included me.
With so much emphasis on the platform, I had little time to write. I wrote infrequently and enjoyed it less. My fixation on the platform drained me of my passion for words. The size of my following became a burden, one harder to bear as time moved on.
Then one day I’d had enough. “If this is what it means to be a writer, I quit!” I gave up. But instead of relief, I grew even more miserable.
That was when I realized I could not write.
I scaled back my mostly unsuccessful platform efforts to what was doable without being overwhelming. I cleansed the evil of platform fixation from my soul and reclaimed my joy of writing.
I suspect I will always consider platform building and self-promotion as the dark side of writing, but as long as I keep the former in check, I can continue with the latter—and thoroughly enjoy it.
Frustration with my platform almost caused me to stop writing. But it didn’t. I’m still here, and I’m still writing—regardless of the size of my platform.