The Key Thing Aspiring Writers Need to Do to Become Legit

Do you feel like you can’t call yourself a pro writer right now?

If you introduce yourself to people as an aspiring writer, I want to help you change that today. Yes, by the end of this post.

Insecurity is sort of a pandemic in the writer community.

We never feel like we’ve got enough clips yet.

Or enough expertise to write on some topic we’d like to do.

We’re not old enough.

Or our novel hasn’t been published.

We only write copy, and that doesn’t “count.”

Maybe you’ve only written on your own blog and never gotten paid yet.

The conclusion we draw from all these situations is that we’re not ‘there’ yet. We’re not legit.

The litmus test for writers

I had an insight about this issue of aspiring versus “real” writers at Surrey International Writers Conference, where I was a presenter recently.

One of the keynote speeches was given by novelist Susanna Kearsley.

She asked the audience, “Do you write?”

All heads nodded.

She replied, “Then you’re not an aspiring writer. You’re a writer!”

Aspiring writers are the people who sit watching TV or playing Mafia Wars, all the while saying, “One day, I want to write that novel!”

If you’re sitting your butt in the chair and getting it done, you’re a writer.

If you’re lying there at night when you should be sleeping with ideas for stories racing through your head, you’re a writer.

How to stop aspiring

Kearsley begged the audience to remove the word “aspiring” from their vocabulary.

And if you’re a writer, you should do it.

When people ask, say, “I’m a writer.”

Remember, the marketplace is not the judge of whether you’re a writer.

Think of all the writers whose work was never discovered until after they died. Were they not writers?

Of course they were.

It’s just if you’re doing it.

If you are, you’re a writer.

Are you a writer, or an aspiring writer? Leave a comment and tell us how you view yourself, in light of this post.

 

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53 comments on “The Key Thing Aspiring Writers Need to Do to Become Legit
  1. Debra Stang says:

    At first I told myself I couldn’t be a writer because my fiction hadn’t been published anywhere…well, now it has. Then I told myself I couldn’t be a writer because my nonfiction had only been published online…then a travel article I wrote was picked up by a newspaper and I published several articles in Profiles in Diversity. I’m out of excuses. I guess I’m a writer!
    Debra Stang recently posted..Keep a Gratitude List in Your Writing Workspace

  2. I completely agree. I was a writer before I started my MFA program. I’ve been one ever since I decided that I would write every day, no matter what, and keep at it until I achieved the success I wanted. And I’m still doing it. And the nice thing about is that the writing is really enough. The writing is what it’s about. Even if I never get published, never make the big bucks, or any bucks, I’m still glad I’m a writer, and that the craft defines the way I live.
    MFA Writer Guy recently posted..684 words on Thanksgiving Day

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on. Back when I was a songwriter, I always said the happiest moment for me was when I finished a song. Not when I performed it live, or got a license deal on it, or recorded it, or anything else. It’s that joy of writing and making the puzzle pieces fit together in words.

  3. Kristi says:

    I am a writer. When people ask me I am proud to say it. I writer procedural manuals, articles and stories for kids.
    Kristi recently posted..Writing What We Know

  4. I know the sentiment far too well.

    You so want to get away from low-paying clients and target the big boys. Yet you just keep putting it off and putting it off, as you never quite feel you’re ready.

    It sometimes helps to look at fellow writers that you know who do get the good gigs or do get their book published.

    Then ask yourself whether their writing is better than yours. Chances are that the reason why they get and you don’t is because they bother to ask and you don’t.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted..So you’re a website copywriter – I can do that, it’s easy!

  5. Lauri Meyers says:

    Thank you Carol! I needed that.

  6. Anita says:

    This is an important truth. I like how Jeff Goins puts it, “Are you ready to begin? To stop dreaming of being a writer and start living into your calling? To use your words to make a difference and get your due reward? It all begins with a simple declaration, an act of faith and courage: You have to call yourself a writer.”
    Anita recently posted..books every child should read

  7. Bradley says:

    I always considered myself a writer no matter what level I was at. You Have to become who you aspire to be to become that very thing.
    Bradley recently posted..Amazing LinkedIn Tools Entrepreneurs Need to Use

  8. Erica says:

    I’m a writer because the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning is writing. It’s what I do and when I ask myself “what else could I do for a living?” I draw a sad, sorrowful blank. I love to write. I write as much as I can, every day that I can. I love it. For as long as I can remember (even dating back to middle school), I’ve always been the go-to person for anything written.

    Writing, it’s what I do.

    Excellent post. Love it!
    Erica recently posted..From Corporate Copywriting to Freelance: Getting Your 3 Cs in Line

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m with you, Erica. My husband has a lot of different skills and talents, and I’ve always joked that I’m so glad the writing thing worked out for me, because I really have no other marketing skills…I just read and write and write and read. ;-)

  9. CJ McKinney says:

    While I agree with the idea that it’s important to claim your identity as a writer, there are two different things going on here. If you write, of course you are a writer. But if you want to have a professional identity, as respected and valued as that of any other profession, you do need more than that. In the creative arts, the action of doing confers legitimacy in ways that aren’t true in other professional areas — so it’s important for writers who want to be seen as “real” to be skilled enough to actually do what they say they are doing. There’s nothing wrong with being “aspiring” — as long as you don’t stay in that “aspiring” stage longer than it takes to get the chops to move on.
    CJ McKinney recently posted..Independent Author Index is Live on Amazon!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi CJ — I think if you’re doing it, then you’re not ‘aspiring’ anymore. You ARE it. You can always be better at it, and we all get better as we go. But you ARE a writer. Not an aspiring one.

      I loved this speaker’s distinction of that, because I get that vibe from so many people, they present themselves as aspiring or ‘wannabe’ writers. You’re only a wannabe if you don’t write!

      You might aspire to getting paid more…surely, we all do that! But if you write, you’re a writer.

  10. You know it’s funny reading this as a while ago I did an interview with Bamidele Onibalusi, a video interview which was my first I must add.

    During the interview I noticed that I regularly asked him questions like “if any aspiring writers out there listening to this interview…”

    After the interview I just became aware of all these questions containing “if any aspiring writers…” and I thought to myself that during the interview I felt so humbled and inspired talking to this great young writer that I even considered myself to be one of these “aspiring young writers…” yet here I sit, busy WRITING the very the post containing the interview with the expert. At that time I already had something like 25 guest posts on sites like kikolani.com, WeBlogBetter.com and Firepole Marketing under my belt yet I still considered myself to be one of those “aspiring writers…”

    Today I realize how much further I probably could have been in my freelance writing career had it not taken me that long to get out of the “aspiring writer mentality”.

    Thankfully today I can proudly say that I am!

    Thanks for a great share I could totally resonate with!
    Ruan | FreelanceWritingTactics recently posted..Content Traffic Generation: 5 Guaranteed Strategies Freelance Writers Should Follow

  11. Spot on and oh so inspirational. I consider myself a Freelance writer. I aim to achieve much more but I am always writing. I have been published in local and international publications and have my own blog. I am from the Caribbean island of Jamaica.
    Judy Haughton-James recently posted..Bird Figurine Series – # 14

  12. Sara Foley says:

    Thanks for this, perfect timing. I was just grappling with this very issue :)

  13. Mary says:

    The been thanks for that, you have hit the nail on the head!
    From today I’m a writer. I’ve been writing various kinds of ‘stuff’ for years, I’ve always thought one day I’ll pull it off I’ll be a writer, so, now I just have to work on a change of attitude :)

  14. Very inspiring!
    Isabel Johnstone recently posted..What are you thankful for?

  15. I am a writer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Isabel Johnstone recently posted..What are you thankful for?

  16. Jovell says:

    Hi Carol,

    Thanks for this inspiring post :)

    What I’m having trouble with is determining what kind of writer I am. Should I call myself an online writer, a blogger, a copywriter? I’ve seen some call themselves Web and SEO copywriters or just SEO writers and some even online or web SEO specialists.

    I write mainly for the web and yes, I give focus on SEO keywords when writing. And I study copywriting for the web A LOT :-)

    Any suggestions?
    Jovell recently posted..How To Make Blog Posts Planning And Writing Easier

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t think of myself as being in any one writing box — take a look at my LinkedIn profile sometime and you’ll see what I mean. I write articles, do copywriting and web content for businesses…and I just say all the things I do.

      One tip is to stay away from calling yourself an “SEO copywriter,” as that seems to be code for “really low paid junk articles” in many parts of the Internet.

  17. Carolyn says:

    I’ve been a writer for most of my life – from the fantasy stories I scribbled as a child, the soppy love poems I mooned over as a teenager and now as a blogger.

    My trouble has always been self doubt that people won’t want to read what I write, so it’s always encouraging to read words which spur us on to believe in ourselves.
    Carolyn recently posted..Web Site Visitors – Catch Them And Keep Them.

  18. Hello Carol, thanks for this awesome post. Insecurity and self-doubt is something many writers battle with. The truth is that creativity is stiffled when one fears to make mistakes or thinks his writing is poor. No one knows it all, so no one has enough expertise to say another is not a writer. I agree with your thoughts.

  19. I read this post when it arrived in my inbox this morning with the intention of coming to post my response, but having an article due (delivered on time as promised). Then logging in for Week 2 of JSchool. And more life inbetween.

    So here I am hours later.

    I am a writer.

    In fact, it wasn’t until after one of your weekly Den meetings (can’t remember which one offhand) where I got off the call and thought, “Hey, wait a minute… I’m a writer! I’ve been doing this for more than a decade now. Duh!”

    One of those lovely, well-timed slap yourself and wake up moments.

    My ideal goal is to move beyond (while maintaining what I have) to “bigger and better.”

    Oh, and throw in a whole lot more (assignments, money, etc., because who wouldn’t love that :)

    Thanks as always for succinctly sharing your inspirational experience (the conference) with the rest of us.

    It’s very similar to something someone I know said years ago, “Try to pick up the pencil.” Picked it up. Conclusion… There is no trying, only doing (or not), where the choice is always ours.
    Theresa Cahill recently posted..How to Use Screenshots to Your Do I Buy Advantage

    • Carol Tice says:

      Go, Yoda! Right on, Theresa ;-)

      I related to what this speaker said because I got into writing prose sort of sideways from songwriting, and it did take me a while to go “Hey…I think I’m a freelance writer now! Maybe I should learn more about this and start taking it seriously.”

      I think starting to write regularly for a section of the L.A. Times is what finally turned on my light bulb…so we’re all slow at it. The faster we claim who we are, I think the faster we can move forward.

  20. Yes, I’m a writer. I’m proud to say I’m a publisher too. And now I have proof!

    I have just launched my debut novel, “eloves me, eloves me not”. It’s a fun and relatable story that follows one woman’s quest to find lasting love through online dating.

    So, yes. I am a writer. I write, I have written, I will write again!

    LA
    L A Johannesson recently posted..Australian Author and Literary Legend Bryce Courtenay Dies

  21. Yep, absolutely, I’m a writer! Now that I’m dipping into all different kinds of writing, I don’t even feel the need to say I’m a copywriter or I’m a business writer or I write for magazines, just I am a writer, hear me roar!
    Susan B. Bentley recently posted..This week’s rant: Facebook and the art of Plain English

  22. I’m a writer and proud of it! And I run into tons of aspiring writers, those who say “I’ve always thought I could be a really good writer,” and so on, the unspoken thought being that it’s so easy anyone can do it. It’s those of us who actually sit down and do it, over and over again, that get to claim the title writer.
    Charlotte Rains Dixon recently posted..Radical Gratitude

    • Anne Galivan says:

      You’re right Charlotte, it’s not easy! I spent several hours just this evening getting a post up about “smart gifts for kids” that I had already written but needed to format in WordPress, along with links to Amazon so my readers could easily access the items (and I can hopefully get some affiliate sales!)

      Anyone that thinks that writing (or blogging) quality material is easy is seriously deluded.
      Anne Galivan recently posted..What’s Your Teaching Style? (And Why It Matters)

  23. Anne Galivan says:

    Sometimes I wish I could actually SLEEP instead of having all those ideas rolling around in my head.

    Today I was trying to take a nap and ended up writing an entire blog post in my head as I lay there. I did finally doze for a little while (thankfully…I needed it!)

    However, while I lay there in the darkened room I did at least grab the notepad I keep beside my bed for just such a purpose and wrote the title to the post. After I got up I wrote the key ideas for the post that I wanted to remember.

    This happens to me ALL the time! Yes, I am a writer!
    Anne Galivan recently posted..How To: Inspire the Reader in Your Child

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m with you…that is always happening to me! You just lie down and start to doze and then…aha!

      There’s something about relaxing and being semiconscious that definitely gets the creativity flowing sometimes.

    • I can soo relate to this Anne! Fortunately I seem to be able to remeber things in the morning but I can’t settle until I am able to sit down and put write it out! I’ve only been doing this for a few months but I love it!

      Isabel
      Isabel Johnstone recently posted..Work in progress!

  24. Interesting… I can claim over 150 published-for-pay articles (I don’t mean $10 content mill items, but articles in the $50-400 range, including for two regular clients and two “newsstand” magazines), multiple long-running blogs, and one self-published book that has hand-sold a couple hundred copies–and, to a large degree, I’m still thinking of myself as an “aspiring” writer. What I should say is “a writer who aspires to eventual $50,000+ annual earnings and also happens to be an aspiring marketer.” My greatest weakness is that my brain is too used to living reactively instead of proactively; I can accomplish anything so long as someone else comes along to take responsibility for deciding what should be done when. (More accurately, perhaps, for deciding what DOESN’T need to be done now.)

    I can’t wait for official New Year’s resolution time. I’ve already put down “cultivate a positive attitude and a vocational focus and passion” as my top priority for December.
    Katherine Swarts recently posted..On Not Stepping on People’s Toes

  25. (Forgot, again, to check “notify me of follow-up comments” the first time.)
    Katherine Swarts recently posted..On Not Stepping on People’s Toes

    • Carol Tice says:

      No prob! I hate when I do that myself…always forgetting to do that on my Freelance Switch guest posts so I’ll be sure to see all the rest of the comments.

      That really breaks my heart, to hear 150 articles later you’re still thinking “aspiring.” I know so many people who would kill to have that many legit credits!

      I struggled with this so much myself, too. Having gotten into reporting and writing sort of by accident from songwriting and being a college dropout with a degree in nothing, I spent so many years waiting for that tap on the shoulder and for someone to say they’d busted my illegitimate attempt to be a paid writer, notified the Universal Editor Council of my bogus-ness, and that I would not be allowed to write for any good-paying markets ever again.

      It wasn’t until I won the first Best in Business award from SABEW in my paper’s 25 year history that it started to dawn on me: I not only do this, I excel at this. And nobody has the power to kick me out of this club.

      We probably all aspire to earn more from our writing…but if we’re writing, we are writers, not aspiring writers. Say it with me, everybody!

  26. Hi Carol, You sure seem to have hit a nerve with this post.
    I have always considered myself a writer. I love words. I would also love to have 150 credits, I’m not there yet, but I believe that I can be. Thanks for your enouragement. Oddly enough my latest post is about whether or not we should ever work for free. My goal is always to be at work, and a worker worthy of wages for work completed.
    Peter D. Mallett recently posted..To Free or Not to Free

    • Carol Tice says:

      I still do some guest posts for free, but fewer and fewer…and I know those of us who do them a lot view them as a marketing activity.

      I think there are situations where free makes sense, especially if you’re trying to start building your portfolio. The trick is to remember to start charging and not get stuck at no or very low pay.

  27. Lana says:

    I have written since I could hold a pencil in my hand and had many short stories and articles published in newspapers and magazines in my native Serbia before I even graduated from college, it took forever to consider myself a writer in English. I have started my blog a few years ago in order to figure out if my writing translates well into English, and I have been elated with the results.

    I can proudly say that I am a writer in both languages:) I just have to get the guts to stop learning the tricks of the trade already and start bidding on jobs and making money with what I do well:)

    Thanks, Carol, for this article!
    Lana recently posted..Thanksgiving for Two? Try Seared Duck Breast with Korean Pear Sauce

  28. Mercy says:

    I’ve been stuck in that same quandry for a while. So far I only write my own blogs. I’ve never written anything to sell or publish so I was of the mindset that I couldn’t be a writer. This clears things up for me. Time to get busy.
    Mercy recently posted..November Birthdays and More

    • Carol Tice says:

      You had the mindset where you COULDN’T be a writer…even though you were writing away on your own blogs! What a classic example of how our biggest limiter is in our heads. Hopefully you’re out of that mindset now. ;-)

  29. anne grant says:

    When I took an interest in photography 22 yrs ago, it was a hobby. I was in a photo club, going to workshops designed for photo enthusiasts to improve their skills. After a while, I wanted to get paid. Any amount would do, I just wanted to validate my work.
    Once I got paid a few times, I thought I could get more people to do the same. Soon after, I joined a professional photography organization and began the process of treating it like a real BUSINESS. I immersed myself into the craft of portrait photography, and along with sales and marketing, grew my studio into one of the most well known in the area…over the next 20 years.
    I did not consider myself as a photographer when I first started my hobby, even though I was taking lots of pictures. Recently, a young woman in her early twenties asked me where I worked and I told her I owned a photography studio. She said, “OMG, how fun, a lot of my friends are photographers!” Now are all her BFF’s really photographers? Not anymore that the person who writes for fun occasionally and doesn’t approach it with serious intent.
    I would think a person would want some sort of credibility or experience to EARN the title of writer, photographer, graphic designer, web designer, life coach, personal trainer or any similar undertaking that doesn’t require licensing by law.
    I guess I don’t see anything wrong with being “aspiring”- it makes the real deal (and that is very subjective) more of an accomplishment.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think you earn the title of “professional writer” by building a business and getting paid. But if you’re writing…you’re a writer, not an ‘aspiring’ writer.

      Fascinating all the conversation this has inspired…I’m glad I shared this keynote speech I heard with all of you!

  30. John Moore says:

    I’m a writer! I’m a writer! I’m a writer! I’m a writer! There, I said it. Hello everyone. My name is John and I’m a writer.

  31. Arden Zich says:

    Thank you Carol. Sometimes you just need that validation to say it (type it) out loud.

    I write, therefore, I am a writer. (Whew! That felt freeing.)
    Arden Zich recently posted..If Bird Watching is the Chase, Collecting Feathers is the Catch

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’d think it would be obvious to us, eh Arden? But you can see from this comment thread how so many writers are haunted by feelings of illegitimacy and like we’re not ‘there’ yet. If you’re writing, you’re there.

  32. I’ve been a writer for a while now. Just not a published author. Yet.
    It felt so Good a couple Sundays ago when in response to the usual “So what do you do?” question my sister answered for me with, “She’s a writer.” I could have hugged her!
    Then last week my husband introduced me as his wife, a writer. He’s proud of me. And I love him even more for it.
    Rose D’Andrea recently posted..Leibester Award, Part 1

  33. Hi again Carol,
    I commented on this great post already, but ever since I read it I have noticed the word aspriring on at least ten other about me pages. Since reading this article it sticks out like a sore thumb. I refered some of them back to this post. Maybe some will remove it from their vocabulary. One I shared it with replied, “Oh yes, I’m a writer, I guess I meant aspiring author.”

    It’s almost as bad as “practicing” lawyers. :)

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Key Thing Aspiring Writers Need to Do to Become Legit"
  1. [...] is a nasty way of calling yourself a wannabe. You’re not there yet, you just wish you [...]

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