Are You Really A Writer?


We are our own worst enemies when it comes to taking ourselves seriously.

We want to be writers. We want to share with people that we're writers. We want to sell a gazillion copies of our books and be lauded for our efforts. But when it comes down to it, to that butt in chair, time to get to work, we ... fall away.

Ooh, look at that! Shiny objects! Magpies! RSS Feeds! So many people out there saying so many things and I might miss something if I don't pay attention to everything all at once and what happens if I really try this and what if no one likes it is that a reflection on me do they hate me why won't anyone take me seriously I better go eat some worms.

Yeah. The writer's mind is an ugly place sometimes. We writers are damn good at finding ways to talk ourselves OUT of success.

So I'll say it again. No one will take you seriously if you don't take yourself seriously.

I read this great essay last week on the Writerly Life blog called Be Proud of Your Writing. It's about the bizarre self-deprecation we do when we share about out art. We talk around it, like our passion for it is a bad thing. But without passion, what else do we have? Passion equals drive equals success.

I think the difference between the one-offs and the glory seekers and real writers is our unique brand of passion. For literature. For books and bookstores and readers. For creativity. For living on the soul-sucking edge of the pit of despair and dancing with fairies on the tips of the Himalayas - which is basically how we spend all of our days, teetering between the two. For the words, man. The words.

I've been on a Hemingway kick lately, and one thing you can NEVER accuse that man of is lacking passion. He lived for his words. His words made his life bearable. Even through the alcohol and the women and the eventual pain that chased him into the grave, the words were what made him complete. And tore him apart.

Done by twelve, drunk by three.

It might not be healthy, but it's a schedule. Find a schedule, and stick to it, no matter what. Schedules become habits. Habits create consistent output. And consistent output allows you to have a successful career. No one can buy your brilliant novel if you don't sit down and write the thing.

I realize this is sort of two topics in one - but I think the two issues are inextricably linked. Passion in and of itself isn't enough. You have to have skills too. And skills are born of good, healthy habits, habits that include believing in your work. Believeing in yourself. Not allowing the brown noise that oozes through the internet to leak into your delicate ears. Tune it out. Tune out the naysayers, and the shouters and the chestbeaters. Don't let them influence you. Write for you, not for the market. Write what you're passionate about. Do it well, and it will find a home.

The next time you catch that urge to demean your writing, or your writing life, or distract yourself because you're scared, stop. Remember the passion that drove you to write in the first place. Embrace it. Give thanks for it. Take it out for dinner. Maybe even buy it a new pair of shoes. Never, ever, EVER, put yourself and your writing down.

Because if you don't take yourself seriously, then who will?