Why I Love Being a Writer
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” — Orson Scott
We hear, all too often, how hard writing is. Some writer friends I was with recently reminded me of why being a writer is awesome. Let’s romanticize the reasons that you wanted to write in the first place so that you can remember them on the hard days and may they inspire you to keep going.
Tell a Touching Story
You get a fresh canvas every day to tell a story that matters. Maybe it’s your story. Maybe it’s someone else’s story. Regardless, it’s a story that matters. Perhaps you’ll never meet the person who reads your words, but you get to touch a story that can have an impact. Simply: you can touch, change, and influence lives. It’s an important job you have, to use your influence well.
You Have a Responsibility
Don’t get weighed down in the burden of your duty, at least not while writing. You can let the pressure overwhelm you, and the truth is that some days it probably will bring you to a breaking point, but on the bright side, you have the pleasure of sharing your words, books, stories, with people who want to read them. May the hope that your words greet someone you may never see in real life be the reason that you put forth your best quality.
Every writer needs tools. A timeless one on my bookshelf is The Elements of Style by Strunk and E.B. White. The fact that it’s still a #1 Best Seller speaks for itself since the original was released in 1918. In it, you’ll find the elements of the hardest basics used by some of the greatest authors. Drill those basics into use and you’ll be able to modernize them for today’s use. For hands-on exercises, Strunk Junior offers an updated workbook with activities for every writer from novice to professional levels.
Your Biggest Competition is Yourself
Sure, you can look around and compare to others who are farther down the road than you. And there will always be better writers than you, but this journey is yours for the making. You can look at where you were yesterday, last year, last month, a few years ago, and see how you’ve grown. Then you can look ahead to see your potential.
Not everything you write will resonate with others. Much of your early work can be revisited later to refresh and improve as you grow. Nothing is a waste. There are nuggets of wisdom in the earliest pieces you thought were meant for the garbage and in everyday life. Find the bits of inspiration and save them for later.
You create community. Or at least you can create connections if you want to. Purposely chosen “community” over “a community.” Why? Because community is something that has motion. Some of my best and worst work has been found and created in community.
You get to build relationships with other people who are also writers and have the same or similar goals. Those people can spur you on to create the masterpieces in your future and challenge you to be better than you are right now. There’s growth potential and extra goodness when you tap into community.
You Always Have a Healthy Outlet
The psychology of writers and creatives is that they are prone to mental illness and addictions. We have “the greats” in examples to prove the theory in people like Vincent Van Gogh, Franz Kafka, Edvard Munch, Ezra Pound, Delmore Schwartz, William Cowper, Ernest Hemingway, Friedrich Nietzsche, and more, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
You can succumb to addictions, and many do, but you can make a choice to do something different. You always have a healthy outlet for your thoughts and emotions, literally at your fingertips and you can wield the keyboard like a sword to battle your demons in any genre you choose.
Make Your Own Schedule
For better or for worse, you get to set your own time clock. You can punch in and punch out whenever you choose. Or not punch in at all, if you want to take the day off. You choose when you get to show up to work. You can lounge all day in your jammies, work first thing in the morning, or treasure the midnight oil and work by the nightlight. It’s all up to you.
A lot of people on their deathbed reflect on working too hard and missing out on time with the kids and their families. Choose carefully, the time you spend on your craft so that you don’t live with regrets later. Focus on who is important to you and how important your work is. It’s a delicate art to balance a job that looks like leisure against the relationships you want now and forever. You don’t want to exclude your family or writing your story or book. Balance is a good thing. Use your time well.
Earn Your Potential
No one can tell you how to write right. Your skills and voice will develop with time and practice. Friends and community will help and encourage you, but they cannot do the work for you. I think there’s at least one book in every writer. If it’s too hard to wrap your mind around, then break the process down into smaller chunks of action. And if the concept is too hard on an adult level, then think with the awe and wonder of a child.
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” — Madeleine L’Engle
Remember the Good
Writing is hard. You already knew that. You don’t need anyone to remind you that you’ve chosen a career that’s largely misunderstood by your family, probably even by your spouse or partner.
For all the days you struggle to keep going, I want you to remember the good. Get in touch with why you wanted to write in the first place and foster all the good feelings that made you want to start writing.
Focus on your message and treasure the blank canvas before you. Make your mark today and throw it out into the world to see who’s listening.