How To Decide If You Should Be A Writer: In 7 Questions Or Less
November 10, 2015
I can’t say that I necessarily decided that I should be a writer one day. I was always writing, and I always loved to write. I started this blog five years before I left my marketing career, and at that point I had several scripts and plays under my belt. But at some point in my mid-twenties my goal shifted from I want to be a person who writes to I want to be a full-time writer.
Writing is a wonderful hobby. Many people keep blogs while enjoying other primary careers. Other people write every single day for an audience of one or none. But how to decide if you should be a writer and nothing else is a big question. In honor of DEAD RINGER coming out TOMORROW (had to), here are the seven equally big questions I asked myself before making the decision. I suggest you do the same:
[Disclaimer: if you know why the featured image on this post is the featured image on this post then you don’t have to keep reading. You should just be a writer already.]
Can you work on a deadline?
Art takes time, but art you’re making for someone paying you to make it by a given deadline often doesn’t. A writer that consistently blows deadlines is not a writer that consistently gets deadlines, for long. Test yourself by pretending a deadline exists for every single project you pursue. I still do that to this day (…she finally typed after procrastinating for 20 minutes on Pinterest).
Can you handle criticism?
This should be item #1. Everything you write as a professional will be evaluated. First there will be notes from managers, agents or editors. Next there will be feedback from readers. And along the way you’ll have comments from family and friends. Does it hurt? Every single time. Can it stop you from improving and moving on? Nope. It is important to be attached to your writing but not so attached that you can’t stomach the idea of someone suggesting you change a character…or the entire thing. (…she advised even though she fully intends to ask her husband to read all the DEAD RINGER reviews ahead of time and only share the ones he thinks she can handle).
Do you need to have regular, high income?
I hate to go negative so early, but DO NOT BECOME A WRITER IF YOU WANT/NEED/HOPE TO BE RICH. Should major success be your goal? Of course. Can it be your sole purpose for pursuing the craft? No. I have been earning income from my writing for ten years. I have been writing full time for three years. I have accomplished major writing goals. As of right now I am only just getting by. I’m sorry. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it’s not helping anyone if I lie to you. (And yes of course I want to be rich and I get super bitter about the fact that I am not…yet).
Are you comfortable promoting yourself?
There are plenty of shy writers, but their uphill battle is even steeper. You need to be able to talk about your work. Oh, you’re a writer? What do you write? It’s a question you will get constantly. You need to be comfortable answering. I really, really struggled with this part. I used to call everything I wrote, “this silly little…” It totally undermined the work and made me sound like I didn’t care. Now I literally practice explaining a given project (mostly in the shower). What’s that annoying expression? You only get one shot at a first impression? It’s correct.
How do you feel about spending a lot of time alone?
I do not have colleagues (outside of my dog) and go for long stretches of time without speaking out loud (unless it’s to my dog). There are ways to combat this situation (write from cafes, join a writer’s group, get a writing partner), but you will not be working among a team of humans right away (And two dogs doesn’t count, even if you pretend that you’re all talking to each other).
Do you love to read?
Confession: I don’t. Or I should say that I don’t love to read just anything so much that I’m always reading something – if that makes sense. But when I find something that I love, I devour it. Then I have to read every single thing that writer has ever written. Also, when I’m preparing to write something in a given style I do a lot of “reading research.” All of that helps enhance my knowledge of what’s out there in the marketplace and what I want to model my career against.
Do you love to write?
It sounds cheesy and obvious, but you’ve got to love it because it will be so, so hard – so, so much of the time.
Sometimes I wish that I didn’t want to be a writer. It often feels like life would be a hell of a lot easier if I wanted to be a marketing executive, like I was before I said no thank you to a salary, health insurance and a working printer. But when I was at Boston College college a very wise Jesuit named Father Michael Himes gave a talk about discerning your life’s vocation, aka figuring out who and what you’re supposed to be. He said it boils down to three questions (so then why isn’t this post just about that? fair point…)
1. IS THIS A SOURCE OF JOY
2. Is this something that taps into your talents and gifts—engages all of your abilities
—and uses them in the fullest way possible?
3. Is this role a genuine service to the people around you, to society at large.
When it comes to writing, my answer to all three question is YES, and I feel like arriving at that answer is too impossible a task to deny it.
Good luck and hope to see you along the way. Now please excuse me while I go treat myself to watching Sister Act II for the 10,000th time because I finished all my writing for the day.