so You Want to be a Writer

But What Does That Mean?

I always wanted to be a writer. But what does that even mean? I remember when I was in middle school, I read that some writers had started newspapers at a young age. So I started a newspaper/newsletter. It was performative almost, kind of a cargo-cult, but still, I did it, because I thought that is what writers did.

Anyone can be a writer. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Or a typewriter, use your computer, a stylus, a quill, a piece of chalk, use a magnifying glass on a piece of birch bark.

Write this down:

I am a writer


You’re a writer.

But that probably isn’t what you meant. In my opinion, one thing about being a writer is how you use words, and by that, I mean using words with precision (or intentional imprecision).
So for me, to boil down what I mean by being a writer, I need to go a bit deeper.

I want to make a living writing, so that I can focus on my writing, if not 24/7 then at least 23.5/7. I don’t want to have a “day job”. But even so, there are plenty of people doing writing for a living that aren’t the kind of writing I want to be doing for money. I write writing, and the Sarbanes-Oxley act and consultant reports and memos and analyses and I write about whiskey and I write general content for websites, and I’m compensated for all these (though currently not always paid), and only a bit of that is the kind of writing for money that I want to be doing. In addition to all this freelancing and business writing and email writing, there are copywriters and journalists and biographers and non-fiction writers and people who write reports of how much a road has to be re-graded, and they do it for money, writing for a living, but that isn’t quite what I want.

So when I boil it down even more, till there’s not much left, I want to write fiction for a living. But now, with the advent of e-books and Amazon, even that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. I’m going to self-publish some fiction, and if I could make a living doing that it would probably be enough for me but not quite what I want.
So boil the last bit away, distill down to the essence, and I want to write traditionally published fiction.
When I say “I want to be a writer” that’s what I really mean.

If you want to be a writer (or anything) I suggest you actually sit down (and write down) exactly what you mean by that. Putting your goal down on paper can help clarify what you want, and make it more tangible, though it also means you have to admit it, even if only to yourself, and the risk of that can be failure.

Nonetheless, I think the first step to being a writer is admitting you have a problem, and the problem is, you want to be a writer.

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