Seriously? You Want to be a Writer?

Photo by Simon Howden; Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Simon Howden; Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

You’ve decided to tell your friends and family that you want to be a writer.  You expect applause, or at the very least admiration.  Instead, you get crickets, or a sarcastic, “That’s great.”

One of the biggest challenges new writers face is getting people to understand that writing is more than a casual interest.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your distant friends support you or not, but when you get serious about writing, it becomes a big part of your life.  You’ll be spending hours alone, and a lot of times that means choosing isolation over time with important people in your life.  They probably won’t try to be mean about it, but they probably won’t understand that you’re serious.

Why don’t they take you seriously?

For starters, when a lot of people think about writers, they think of classic authors, and, frankly, they probably don’t think you have that much talent.  They don’t realize that writing is a process.  They don’t see that those published words were editing and didn’t just magically spring from a pen.  You’re probably new to this too, so you haven’t practiced as much as those writers have.  Any writing they see won’t be as good as they expect to see from a published author.

Besides that, there is plenty of evidence to support the fact that most writers don’t make it.  Many people say they want to be a writer, and a week later they have completely given up on the idea, never finishing a draft.  Others do and are never successful at publishing, so they give up.  What most people unfortunately do realize is that reading and book sales are trending downward.  Your friends are probably wondering why anyone would want to get into a field with such a bleak outlook, and it’s simple: passion.

But how do you convince someone that you really are passionate about writing?

Take yourself seriously.

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to take yourself and your writing seriously.  If you don’t take your writing seriously no one else will, and why should they?  You must be dedicated to your craft, and that means putting in the time and energy that it takes to get better.  It means you have to write and revise, and maybe rewrite your work.   You need to study grammar and style.  You should be networking and reading other books in your genre.  If you really dedicate yourself to it, writing is a lifestyle, not a hobby.

Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with writing as a hobby, but those that are truly dedicated to the craft aren’t satisfied with that.  People who really want to be writers have an itch to create.  Those are the people who are really passionate, and they may get discouraged when they are told that writing isn’t a worthwhile pursuit.

It’s hard to motivate yourself to sit down and work at something that no one cares about.  Your writing is important to you, but  the world will be fine without another book, and it certainly doesn’t need another want-to-be author, but that shouldn’t scare away someone who truly loves the craft.  It doesn’t matter what the world needs, it’s about what you need, and for those people writing is a need as basic as eating and sleeping.

If you happen to be one of those people, the first step you have to take is to admit to yourself and others that writing isn’t just a way to fill time.  You have to approach it the same way you would approach your career.  You have to be dedicated, learn about the trade, and work on making yourself better.

No one who isn’t a writer, or at least passionate about another creative art, will understand that you need to write.  They don’t understand that it fulfills you on the most basic of levels, and it’s your job to show them.

Be professional.

Like I mentioned above, you have to treat writing like you would your career.  If you want someone to understand that you take it seriously, don’t act like it’s any less important than your day job.  Would you joke about being bad at your day job?  No.  (Well, some people would, but not if they hoped to do well in the field.)  So don’t joke about writing.  If you’re serious about it, and they see how much work you put into it, they’ll start to realize that it isn’t just some crazy idea.

Show up for your writing job.  If you’ve committed to writing a scene tonight, don’t go to the movies with your friend.  Kindly but firmly explain that you have dedicated that time to writing, but you’d be more than happy to see them after.

If your spouse or close friends don’t seem to understand that your writing time is sacred, make yourself writing schedule, give it to them, and stick to it.  Explain that you aren’t to be disturbed, except in an emergency.  Teach them that you treat writing the same as you do your day job, and they’ll learn to do the same.

Talk about writing.

It may not seem like it, but this is an important step.  People talk about their passions, so how will anyone know that writing is important to you if you never talk about it?  It may be difficult at first if your friends don’t share your interest, because they probably don’t know what to say.

A great way to start talking about writing is by casually mentioning like you would any other part of your day.  For example, you could bring up how thrilled you are with the progress you made on your novel today.  This is a low-key way to get your friends and family involved.  Everyone talks about his or her day, it doesn’t require them to know anything about the subject, and it lets them know that it was something important to you.  Maybe in time they’ll even start asking you how your project is going.

Show them your work.

Nothing gets the message through that you’re serious about writing  than actual proof that you really are writing.  If talking about writing shows someone you’re passionate, actually handing them your short story demonstrates that you’re dedicated.  It shows that you actually spent the time necessary to produce a piece of writing and that you weren’t just talking about it.

The other awesome thing about this is that it gets your friends and family engaged in the process.  If you show them a draft and ask what they think, they will feel like you value their opinions, and they will learn how they can get involved in your writing life.  (Use caution in soliciting feedback. While your friends may mean well, never giving you negative feedback is a sure sign that they are afraid of offending you.  Make sure they know that you need honesty, but don’t get too heartbroken if they are honest and don’t like it.  Just a tip: don’t share your writing with your hyper-critical friends.)  Who knows?  Maybe some of them will like your writing and become fans.

Be resilient.

You will get criticism about writing from people you love at some point.  Maybe they don’t like your themes.  They think your style is boring, or they feel like you don’t spend enough time with them.  Listen to their concerns, but in the end, you know what is a legitimate concern and what isn’t, so don’t sweat petty comments.  If it’s your passion, it won’t matter what anyone thinks anyway.  If you ever doubt feedback given by non-writer friends, reach out to other writers and avid readers before you get too down on yourself.

If all else fails, make new friends.

If your friends still don’t give you the support you need, reach out to other writers and make some new friends.  They share your passion, and writing groups can give you more useful feedback than your non-writer friends can.

Did you, or are you struggling with getting people to take your writing seriously?  Leave a comment.

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4 thoughts on “Seriously? You Want to be a Writer?

  1. Most people know me as being fairly “imaginative” so I don’t think anyone is surprised that I write. Most have even been very supportive and like to ask questions about it. I don’t think any writer will ever be taken seriously, though, until they’ve seen moderate success in the field. People who know me are proud of me and are a little jealous, even, that I’ve actually written a book…but they will likely always see it as a “whim” until it takes off. Thankfully, it doesn’t bother me that much 🙂

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  2. The beginning of this post completely describes my start as a writer. My parents have come to accept my chosen career path, as long as I can pay my bills, as have my non-writer friends. But they still don’t seem to understand the work that goes into finishing a piece of writing. Someone will see me one day and they’ll say something like, “Did you finish that story we talked about yesterday?” like I can just whip something up with a magic wand. It can be frustrating because, as writers, it can take so long to perfect something enough so that you want to share it with others. I’ve learned to accept it with grace, though, and just try to explain my process a little more. Usually, that helps open a lot of peoples minds: telling them about your writing process and your future goals for your writing.

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    • It really is frustrating that people don’t realize how long writing can take. Even a short story can take months to write if it has to! I think this frustration is something all writers experience to a degree. I’m glad you’ve gotten important people in your life to accept your choice. Now you just have to train them! 🙂

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