Earlier this week I wrote about the skills it takes to succeed as a writer—and the ability to take yourself seriously as a writer was #1 on the list. It’s the foundation on which everything else rests. If you don’t take your writing career seriously, it’s darned hard to justify spending the time and energy you’ll need to grow as a writer.
When I first returned to writing, I had a high-energy toddler in the house, a husband working at a startup company, and zero money for childcare. Writing was what kept me sane, the thing that make me feel like a competent human being (yep, I had serious stay-at-home mommy syndrome) but it seemed impossible to find the time for it.
I took my first step toward treating myself like a “real writer” when I enrolled my oldest in a cooperative (and low-cost) preschool one morning a week. I’d drop him off and drive a few blocks to the public library, where I’d plant myself in a chair and write nonstop until time to pick him up. By giving myself permission to spend time and money on writing—not much, but more than before—I could start to take this writing thing seriously. Those hours gave me the confidence needed to attend my first conference, to take my first class, to join my first critique group…I was on my way.
When Are You a “Real Writer”?
Years later, I’ve been published in several magazines, won a few contests, gained an agent, and am making slow progress toward breaking into the book market. You’d think I’d take myself seriously now, right? And yet, it’s still a struggle.
I realized this when I started working part time as a medical writer—and discovered that when I was working for someone else, I always found the hours to complete a project; but when I worked on my own projects, the time always seemed to disappear. Somehow, a hundred other tasks were higher priority when it came to “my” writing.
Give Yourself Credit
When we don’t think of ourselves as “real writers”—because we haven’t been published or haven’t been published in a paying market, or haven’t been published enough or aren’t on the bestseller list—we aren’t giving ourselves enough credit. When I was in grad school, training to be a molecular biologist, no one asked whether I was a “real scientist.” I was a student, but I was still a scientist. Writing is the same: we begin as students, perhaps, but we are still writers.
How to Take Yourself Seriously
If you want to do this writing thing—if you want to be a real writer—then start by calling yourself one. Follow by treating yourself like one.
- Plan time to write, read, and grow in your craft
- Protect your writing time
- Know that just because you’re working at home (or self-employed or unpublished or __________) doesn’t mean your work is unimportant
- Invest financially in your careers by going to conferences and retreats, taking classes, and purchasing needed equipment
Are you a real writer? Why or why not?