Now that I’ve woken up and decided to simply be who I am–instead of trying to make myself fit some other mold (something which is more stable, something my parents approve of more, etc.)–I’ve discovered in hindsight that the signs were always there. I even knew that I always wanted to be a writer. I’d said so on numerous occasions. But somehow I still missed the reality of that statement. That it wasn’t just some wishful, I want to be an astronaut, kind of saying; It was truly the wish of my heart expressed in word.
One of the signs I overlooked when I was trying to be a computer programmer and economist and banker was the contents of my Amazon wish lists and Kindle. Today I was struck by the fact that I have 68 books on writing on my Kindle–more than any other category, including fiction. I’ve definitely read more fiction than I have books on writing, but still, it was certainly more books than I have on How To Be An Economist–or How To Be A Computer Programmer.
That realization is what prompted me to write this post because it’s directly tied to another part of making anything you want a reality: If you want a certain kind of life then you need to accessorize. You need to do those things which flesh out the pursuit. In my case, I want to be a writer. Other than the reality that any day I write, I am a writer, I also want to be a professional writer who makes a living writing.
Any day I write, I am a writer; But if I want to be a professional writer, I need to take it to a higher level. For me it’s helpful to dive in to the world of writing. Rather than reading programming blogs and forums (as I used to when I was trying to be a programmer or economist), read blogs and forums on writing. Rather than read books on programming or economics, read books on writing. Above all, treat writing like a job, an enterprise…as if you were launching a business. Because truthfully, you (and I) are. When you decide you want to make a living from your writing and you start writing with that in mind, you are launching a business.
Yes, you might strive to be merely moderately entertaining in the beginning–hell, it’s better than being terrible, and a lot more realistic than hoping to be amazing right out of the gate–but like someone opening a bakery, you have to start baking bread, writing down some words, intending to make some money from your efforts.
That’s what I’m doing: launching my writing business. Writing is rewarding, but I’m doing it for the money. If there were no money in it…I might do it, but I doubt it. My attraction to writing is that I can make money at it, and it’s deeply rewarding. I’ve never bought into the argument that a true “passion” needs to be something that you’d do even if you didn’t get paid to do it. For me agreeing with that argument would mean that my passion was Netflix watching and reading and perhaps the occasional video game. But those are just entertainment. Passion must be deeper. I think it’s entirely appropriate to have a passion that you ultimately want to make money from–and perhaps this is why the money matters to me–because it means that you have readers…that you entertain people enough with your words that they are willing to pay money to be entertained by you. As a writer I don’t write for me. I write for you and everyone else. I enjoy and find writing rewarding, but ultimately, I am motivated by the idea of sharing my stories with others. And the measure of how well I’m doing that is if people are paying me (1), and how much they’re paying me (2).
So to accessorize as a writer, I recommend reading lots of writing books–develop your skills and craft with what I call “writerly education.” You cannot learn to be a master in a vacuum. Learn what you can from those who’ve proceeded us on this path. Also, if you read news, blogs, and forums, switch to reading writing news, writing blogs, and writing forums. Everything feeds into your passion and motivation. Develop a writing routine which you can commit to every day (I once read that a writer needs to work every day in order to stay in touch with their flow. I agree and found it immensely wise–besides, if you write every day you’re much more likely to get where you want to be much faster). I write from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. every day. Well, that’s what I’m working towards. Sometimes it’s later than that, but I do it every day. Even when I feel ill. Buy a special pen, or computer, paper, mug…something which puts you in the writing mood, which you only use for that writing time. I have a special pen and paper which I only use in the story search/design phase and only for writing. I have a Macbook Air which I only use for writing. When I pick up these tools, it helps me get in the groove of writing. Mentally it orients me to write.
Finally, have a ritual. For me, I just read something in the War of Art that I’m going to adopt. It is a prayer which summons the Muse and asks for her guidance as I write. I will say it before I begin my daily writing, just after I make my morning espresso.
Eventually, I hope to find a good writing hat, or item of clothing that I can wear every time I write to further help me really enter the writing zone.
In short, build an entire writing world–even before you’re doing it for money. The more real it seems to you, the easier it will be to believe, and the easier it will be to persist in your routine and make steady progress over the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.