What Makes a Writer

Clickety-clackety, clickety-clackety. No wonder writers are insane.

There are lots of people saying that in order to be a REAL writer, you have to do this, this, this, and this, and you have to do it every day, and you have to be published, and blah blah blah.

For one thing, you don’t have to be published to be a writer. You have to be published to be a professional writer – important distinction. But nothing is stopping anyone from being a writer. It’s one of those descriptions that you can give to yourself, like “artist,” even if you haven’t or won’t receive a cent from it. If you want to be a professional writer, well, that’s another animal, but all you need to do is have one piece of yours for which you were compensated. You’ve been paid and published, whether you’re a professional blogger, a ghostwriter, a copywriter, or a freelance journalist.

But if you’re just gunning to call yourself a writer, here’s what you do:

You write.

That’s it.

Now, I have a routine. I’ve found that forcing myself to write a certain amount every day only serves to stress me out and backfired, because the pressure only made me less productive. So I changed it to writing a certain amount every week when I’m tackling a novel, and that made a huge difference, because it meant that I had some flexibility. I mean, 9-5ers don’t work every day, so why should writers put aside a block of time 7 days a week to write? Unless that works for you, of course.

However, once I finish with the novels, I take breaks. At the beginning of the year, I’ll take at least a two-month break from writing. Sure, I’ll be editing at that point, and I may write a few things, but I won’t have my 10k/week quota going on. And between novels, I don’t write a thing.

So I don’t write every day. Does that make me not a writer?

I don’t think so.

Does not writing every day mean I can’t call myself a professional writer? Granted, it’s been awhile since my copywriting days. But I’ve written for money in the past, and I do hope that these novels I’ve tackled will eventually pay off in some form of financial compensation. Most fiction is spec work, unfortunately. 🙂

The way I see it, the only thing you have to do to call yourself a writer is: Write.

Revolutionary, huh?

All that it takes to be a writer is to make time to write. Many of us aren’t writers who pay the bills with our writing, so we have to do the stuff that pays the bills first. In our busy lives, it’s hard to find time to do anything.

But you make time for the things you want. If you want to write a novel, the important thing to do is stop wanting to write it and start writing it. Everyone has that story or novel that they’ve always wanted to write. The difference between a regular person and a writer is that a writer puts words on a page. That’s usually what’s so awesome about NaNoWriMo – you make crazy time in your life to write 50k words. Even if it’s 50k words of crap and you realize that story wasn’t as good on paper as you thought it was going to be. Real writers write crap, too. Believe me.

But you don’t need to write every day. Maybe the only time you can afford to set aside is fifteen minutes every Saturday. Maybe you rent a hotel room for a week once a year, bring your computer, and just pound away at the keys. Maybe all you have in you is that one story, so you make time to type, type, type away to get that story out of you, and then you never write again because your story is told.

All of those people are writers.

Telling myself to write three novels this year, giving myself the weekly quota to make sure I get them out in a few months, churning out the content … that works for me. That’s the time I make for it. It’s time I devote to writing that means that I can’t watch all the movies and TV shows I want. I means I don’t work at a real job while I’m going to school, which means that now that I’ve quit my part-time contract work, I can’t g to the mall all that often. So I sacrifice time to writing, and a lot of it. Because at the end of the year, I’m going to have three novels under my belt, and that’s pretty cool after a few years of not writing anything more than short stories.

But that’s what’s best for me. That works for me.

You don’t have to follow my lead to be a writer. You don’t have to do more than me to be a writer.

You do what works for you. As long as you write.

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