Recently, I was coaching a non-fiction writer about how he could focus on his work and write 1,000 words a day.
We talked about how he could use a productivity strategy to eliminate distractions and increase his daily word count.
And we discussed why separating writing and research makes sense for anyone who wants to finish writing what they started.
I think the writer was happy with how our coaching call went because afterwards he emailed me to say thanks.
At the bottom of his email he wrote:
“The other helpful thing was the sense of legitimacy as a writer I got from talking with you.”
I was happy to get positive feedback like this (I’m human after all!) and to know I was able to help him in some small way.
But, something didn’t sit right with me.
The more I thought about our conversation, the more I realised I’d missed an important point.
This writer was already doing his most important work before he had ever talked to me.
He is well on his way.
If you wrote today, you are too.
Whatever type of writer you are, you don’t need validation from me or anyone else to call yourself a writer or to feel like what you are doing is worthwhile.
If you have the guts to turn up every day, to sit down in the chair and do the hard work of putting one word after another onto the blank page even when you know what you’re saying may not be any good, then you are a writer.
Don’t ask for permission.
Don’t wait for someone to tell you what you’re doing is worthwhile.
And don’t do it for the money (but always make sure you get paid).
I spent most of my early twenties looking for validation from accomplished writers and professional editors.
I paid for writing courses and I made a point of getting closer to editors who I knew were better than I.
Sometimes I got the validation I was after, but more often than not I didn’t.
Either way, I still had to sit down in front of the blank page alone, get the words down and figure out a way to get better.
Every day, I try to do what writers like Natalie Goldberg recommend:
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”
I still feel like giving up some days.
I almost gave up last week.
I’m still trying to figure out this strange job of ours.
Writing is often a lonely craft and it sometimes helps to talk to other writers about a problem you’re having on the blank page.
Yes, it’s great to be recognised and for someone to say your work is good.
We all need feedback and help to overcome our problems from time to time. This is why writers have editors!
I love getting comments and emails from readers who have opinions and even nice things to say about my work.
I keep them in a file in my computer and re-read them when I feel like quitting.
I’d like to tell you I don’t feel like quitting very often, but I’d be lying.
These comments and emails keep me going when I want to stop. And I must keep on putting one word after another, because this is the work.
If you take one idea away from this article or from this entire site, it’s this:
To become a writer, turn up for, write and go after what you want day after day.
Even if you win the lotto tomorrow and your money worries disappear, even if you’re the lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust, sit down and do your most important work.
Do it because there’s an ache inside you that only writing can soothe.
Do it because you can’t imagine doing anything else.
Do it because to write is to create and to create is to live.
Anything else isn’t an option.