Are You a “Real” Writer? Is This Even the Correct Question?

Original image via Flikr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

Original image via Flikr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

When we begin this dream of writing, there are a number of hurdles we must pass if we hope to become successful. Some of those obstacles are on the outside, yet many are internal battles. If we waste precious energy fretting over the things we have no way to change? That’s valuable creative energy that can be focused on what’s within the domain of our responsibility.

Schrodinger’s Cat Writer—Who is a “Real Writer”?

I see blogs about this all the time, and I’ve been through this myself. We fall into existential thinking. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it fall? Or, if a writer writes a bazillion words and no one reads them, is the writer a “real writer?” Personally, I am into practicality, not philosophy.

I don’t believe it is a case of “real writer” or “fake/poseur/hobbyist writer.”

Oh, I’m not a “real writer” until I’m published, making money and have a three-book deal.

Many of us are asking the wrong question. Real Writer? Hobbyist?

The question has nothing to do with a finished book, a published book, or even hitting a best-seller list. If we use these questions as a litmus test for our success, we will always feel we don’t measure up no matter how much we attain.

I’ve put boundaries on my family and write an hour a day, but since I am not published, I am not a “real writer” yet.

Oh, sure, well I finished a full novel and even published it, but I only sold a few copies. Not a “real writer” yet.” When I hit a best-seller list, then I’ll be a real writer.

Well, I hit the best-seller list on Amazon, but I’ll be a REAL writer when I hit the New York Times list.

We are all “real writers” (if we are putting words on a page) but this is a fruitless pursuit that generally leads nowhere because it’s the wrong question. The question isn’t whether having a finished book, an agent, a three-book deal, high sales numbers and best-selling lists make us “real.”

There is a Difference in the “Real Writer” and the “Professional Writer”

Why? Because I’ve seen many writers attend writing groups for five, ten fifteen years and I know they likely won’t make it in the business. Are they “real”? Sure, there are pages to critique and they do have that novel they’ve been perfecting since the Bush Administration.

Yet, are they going anywhere?

Being a professional writer is a shift in mind-set and how we view ourselves. We begin to look at our art as our profession even if that profession is the second job next to the day job.

Screw “Aspiring.” “Aspiring is for pansies. Takes guts to be a writer.

I’ve attended conferences where attendees easily forked out a thousand dollars or more to learn business and craft. When I ask who in the room is an aspiring writer? Always hands raised. Trust me, anyone willing to put money on the line? That is a “real” writer. In fact, that is part of being a “professional” writer.

“Aspiring writers” are the people who say things like, “Yeah, my life would make a GREAT story. Hey, maybe you could write it. I give you the idea and you write it and we split 50/50.”

Sure, after I go bathe my pet unicorn.

Now, of course, there is the difference between a “professional writer” and a “published professional writer”  and then even a “successful professional writer.” Yet, I assure you if you learn to view yourself first as a professional writer then making your way to the next two levels will come far faster. It’s why I loathe the term “aspiring writer” and encourage titles like “pre-published writer.” Aspiring Writer is fruity-tooty and gives permission for us to be hobbyists and dabblers.

Professional Writer assumes the victory.

The mind is the battlefield, and we have to master how we view ourselves and what we do in order to reach that final tier we long to be part of “successful professional writer.”

When I began, I was an “aspiring writer” too. I spun my wheels, allowed family to walk all over me, and believed my writing time wasn’t valuable (because it was really just a cute hobby since no one could yet buy my book). When my mother wanted to go to lunch or shopping, I stepped away from my work. When my brother needed a last-minute babysitter? Okay, I was only writing.

Transitioning to Professional Writer Gives Us:

Permission to value what we are doing.

We can’t reach our goals if we believe they’re unworthy, or that we are unworthy of attaining them.

Permission to set boundaries.

I remember when I finally put a boundary on my mom. She meant well and wanted to spend time with me. But I finally stood up and said, “I don’t show up in the middle of your shift at the hospital and then give you attitude when you can’t walk away from your job to go shoe shopping with me. This is my job. And no, I am not published yet, but I never will be unless I do the work. I love you and am happy to go to lunch, after I make my word count for the day. You are just going to have to wait.”

Permission to Invest in Our Business

Writing books, craft classes and conferences are now business investments. Yet, some people claim, “Yeah, well anyone can write.” No, you have to be literate and have a desire first. I counter with this. Anyone can be a salesperson (provided you don’t have social phobias and aren’t mute). But not everyone can be a successful salesperson.

There is no licensing or college degrees in “sales” only results. But salespeople have no problem claiming the title and then investing time and money into getting better at SALES, because the good ones embrace the professional status.

Social media isn’t a frivolity, it’s a necessity. How can we learn the dangers in our business, discover great agents, the right publisher, understand the climate of our industry, and network with people who can help us do better (discover great formatters, reviewers, book cover designers, beta readers, editors) if we are an island of one?

Without social media, how can we create a platform that will eventually support and drive book sales if we don’t invest the time in laying the foundation? Blogging isn’t an indulgence, it’s training to become a stronger, faster, leaner writer who makes self-imposed deadlines. It’s also the most stable form of social media and plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers WRITE.

This job requires self-discipline. Trust me, we learn self-discipline when we write no matter what, even if we are blogging to the ether. Yet, keep going and growing? And eventually that won’t be the case.

Blog like I teach you in Rise of the Machines and eventually your future readers WILL find you, but they can’t find you if there is nothing to discover.

Professionals see value in all of this. They read books, listen to audio books, go to conferences, network, place boundaries (on themselves and others) and they do the WORK.

Permission to Embrace Small Beginnings

There are hair stylists with 6 month waiting lists filled with A-List Hollywood clientele. Guarantee you they didn’t start that way. But what if they gave up when they first began doing hair because only one or two people a day sat in their chair? Followings for blogs and books start slowly and grow with guided, intelligent, persistence.

Permission to Get the Work DONE

The world doesn’t reward perfection, it rewards finishers. Once we shift our view to “professional writers” we innately understand professionals don’t work when they feel like it or are inspired. Professionals have goals and a drive to meet deadlines and benchmarks. They get the butt in chair and work.

So instead of debating the issue of what makes a “real writer”? Which is all opinion and everyone has a different one. I say focus on being a professional writer, because those are far easier to spot :D.

Thus the question I want you to ask yourselves daily (and I do it too) is: Am I being a professional writer? This will make it far clearer to praise what we’re doing right and come up higher in areas where we fall short.

What are your thoughts? Questions? Have you called yourself an aspiring writer and had friends, family, pets and needy houseplants wall all over your writing time? Have you made the mental transition and found greater focus? Have you had to invest in a meth-addicted Tasmanian Devil with a gun to guard your office?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU. If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

***I have a class coming up TOMORROW, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

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  1. #1 by richardankerswrites on August 20, 2013 - 10:36 am

    Thank you, Kristen. This is just the sort of thing that helps those doing their very best at what they love. Very interesting and helpful.

  2. #2 by Viv on August 20, 2013 - 10:37 am

    I don’t think it ever occurred to me to use the term aspiring for myself, not even as a teenager. I was (and am) a writer. The other bits, well, they’re the fiddly bits you put on the cake later. I don’t get why so many writers say they don’t have time to blog. Or read, for that matter.
    My family respect my writing time better than I do, though, which is very gratifying. The rule is if I am at my desk, it’s fine to come by the ask me something but if the door to my study is shut the only reason to disturb me is if the house is on fire.
    Anyway, great post and I do hope more folks chuck out the word “aspiring” from their bio.

  3. #3 by celticillumination on August 20, 2013 - 10:37 am

    As an Irishman it is much too difficult to determine whether one should call themselves aspiring writer or professional writer, or not nearly earning enough yet scribe sort of fellow. I’m simply a literary genius. Nice article by the way.

  4. #4 by J. W. Hankins on August 20, 2013 - 10:38 am

    Great post!

  5. #5 by Les Edgerton on August 20, 2013 - 10:41 am

    Another great post, Kristen! Where you wrote: “Aspiring writers” are the people who say things like, “Yeah, my life would make a GREAT story. Hey, maybe you could write it. I give you the idea and you write it and we split 50/50.”

    I thought instantly of the classic short story by the late, great Richard Brautigan, titled “1/3, 1/3, 1/3″ which brilliantly fictionalized this. I still laugh every time I reread it and he captures instantly some of the folks we’ve all met…

    Blue skies,
    Les

  6. #6 by galealbright on August 20, 2013 - 10:49 am

    I love this post. It addresses so many thoughts and doubts and questions about writing and my place in the scheme of things.

  7. #7 by Holly Michael on August 20, 2013 - 10:59 am

    LOVE THIS! The mind is the battlefield, and we have to master how we view ourselves and what we do in order to reach that final tier we long to be part of “successful professional writer.” I’m as serious as a heart attack about my career. You’ve helped me to get really motivated. I’m going to attend a conference next month! Now, I just have to get that third novel finished!

  8. #8 by Jodi on August 20, 2013 - 11:00 am

    This really struck a chord, forever I’ve been struggling with being able to justify the time I’ve been spending at the computer. And yes, I have been obligated to have lunch with my mom during my usual writing time as well. I keep telling myself it’s not a big deal, but the truth is I do feel stomped on. Thank you for putting this into such excellent focus, it really struck a chord.

  9. #9 by Holly Michael on August 20, 2013 - 11:01 am

    Kristin, thinking about signing up for the first five pages webinar. What’s the difference between the bronze and the gold?

    • #10 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 20, 2013 - 12:16 pm

      One I actually review your first five pages.

      • #11 by Holly Michael on August 20, 2013 - 12:25 pm

        Ok, I’m in.

      • #12 by Holly Michael on August 20, 2013 - 12:57 pm

        I already signed up and paid, but I’m going to a conference and wondered how soon you read the first five pages? The conference is in September.

        • #13 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 20, 2013 - 3:16 pm

          I will get your pages after the class and then start plugging through. If you are submitting something to a conference, I can put you at the top. I’m pretty fast. Been doing this a while :D.

          • #14 by Holly Michael on August 20, 2013 - 3:46 pm

            Yay!!

          • #15 by Holly Michael on August 20, 2013 - 4:01 pm

            Kristen, I didn’t receive any information to log into the webinar and I couldn’t get to it from the WANA site.

            • #16 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 20, 2013 - 6:28 pm

              You can’t get into it until the class starts :D. August 21, 2013, 3:30-5:00 PM EST. The class is live so you can meet me, talk to me and ask questions, then we send you the recording after. The password won’t work until I open the classroom. Don’t feel silly. A lot of on-line classes are pre-recorded and this is live, so a lot of people get the same confusion.

              • #17 by Holly Michael on August 20, 2013 - 8:54 pm

                Ok, so do I just click the link from your blog and you’ll give me the password? I’m such a dweeb, I thought for a minute today that your blog was one day old and I missed it. My husband had to calm me down, point to the date and tell me everything would be okay.

                • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 20, 2013 - 9:21 pm

                  When you register a letter with instructions is sent to the e-mail you used to register. No worries. You are new to our classes. You’ll be an old pro soon enough :D.

                  • #19 by Holly Michael on August 21, 2013 - 1:26 pm

                    Sorry, but I didn’t get a letter in my email yet about today’s class.

                    • #20 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 21, 2013 - 1:32 pm

                      Just resent the e-mail. Let me know if you don’t have it.

                    • #21 by Holly Michael on August 21, 2013 - 2:11 pm

                      got it…yikes, look at the time…I need to get out of my jammies and get ready!!!

  10. #22 by sharonhughson on August 20, 2013 - 11:13 am

    I’m going on record: “I’m a professional writer.” I think that I just accomplished step one in the 12 Step Program to becoming a successful professional writer.
    Your helping hands are one reason I can say those four words today.
    Thanks, Kristen, for being real and bursting my bubble and putting my feet on the right path.

  11. #23 by Melinda Friesen on August 20, 2013 - 11:20 am

    You’re mean. And how dare you take my husbands side. He says I should quit school, nix getting a job, and stay home and write. I say I need to be practical. Get real job. Be a responsible grown up. You’re pushing me over the edge, Kristen–this talk of being a professional w/o being published. Dang it, I may just have to listen to my husband.

  12. #24 by Sheryl on August 20, 2013 - 11:25 am

    This is absolutely perfect timing. I was just saying to my husband this morning that I sometimes feel like I’m just spinning my wheels, going no where and no one would even notice if I stopped writing. Well, I would notice. That can be enough for now. I can focus on my goals, keep writing, and keep moving forward. Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. #25 by Karla Akins on August 20, 2013 - 11:31 am

    You are so right! I know there are a lot better writers out there than me who aren’t published (yet). And sometimes, I’m afraid someone will read my book and announce it drivel, but I finished! And I’m convinced it’s not the talented who make it but those who work the hardest and as you said, willing to sacrifice for the dream. I’ve spent more money on my writing career so far than I’ve made. But I’m hoping that one day, my investments will pay off. I realize it won’t happen overnight but it will happen one day! Love this post. Gave me a boost!

  14. #26 by cynthiagrstacey on August 20, 2013 - 11:54 am

    Wow great pep talk Kristen. I needed that! I have been changing my mental state a lot lately but still have some work to do. You have inspired me. Thank you. I AM A PROFESSIONAL WRITER!

  15. #27 by Lara McGill on August 20, 2013 - 11:59 am

    Another professional writer here. Not because I make money, but because that’s who I AM. I do other things to make money, but at my core, I’m a WRITER. It’s what I DO. I wrestle with plot and words every day. Sometimes I win, sometimes not. But I will ALWAYS show up to the battle.

    My colors are still flying.

  16. #28 by cynthiagrstacey on August 20, 2013 - 11:59 am

    Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Awesome article from author Kristen Lamb

  17. #29 by Lara McGill on August 20, 2013 - 12:00 pm

    BTW, great post, Kristen. It’s going in my writing folder. And I just downloaded a sample of your book.

  18. #30 by Lara McGill on August 20, 2013 - 12:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Lara McGill.

  19. #31 by Lara McGill on August 20, 2013 - 12:02 pm

    Reblogged this in Lara McGill. Brilliant article.

  20. #32 by A. B. Harms on August 20, 2013 - 1:21 pm

    After reading WANA, I stopped calling myself an “aspiring writer.” I never thought about what it was really saying to me and everyone else. What a game changer!

  21. #33 by J.G. Chayko on August 20, 2013 - 1:56 pm

    I am a writer – simple as that. I have always called myself a writer.

  22. #34 by Sonia G Medeiros on August 20, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    Amen! I was hesitant to embrace the idea that I was a “real” writer at first. Now, I tell anybody who won’t run away asks. The hardest part for me to embrace is the “permission to get the work done.” I’m working on that. :D

  23. #35 by mandyevebarnett on August 20, 2013 - 2:03 pm

    Although I call myself an author and have books published, I was having an internal dialogue regarding changing my attitude to becoming a freelance writer. Thank you guiding me the correct way.

  24. #36 by Shea Ford on August 20, 2013 - 2:13 pm

    Hee hee. So if you hear it from my hubby, I’m a hobbist despite the fact that I’ve been published. But since he complains about the gas money I spend going to the YMCA so that I can have 2 hours to myself to write while the boys play, then I think I’m a pro.

    Hmmm. Okay, so as a pro, I am going to have to put my foot down and shoo away the Silver Sneakers group whenever they come around. They’re nice to chat with, but really cut into my writing time.

  25. #37 by Alice Joy on August 20, 2013 - 2:21 pm

    Definitely a little nugget of inspiration for the day! Thank you!

  26. #38 by Alice Joy on August 20, 2013 - 2:22 pm

    Reblogged this on IdeaTransfuser and commented:
    Great little nugget of inspiration for the day!
    Props, Kristen Lamb.

  27. #39 by Joanie on August 20, 2013 - 2:23 pm

    Before I became a full-time freelancer, I worked in oil & gas engineering, and I can’t help but see more than a few parallels between what you’ve written here and oil & gas. First, you may get an engineering degree, but there’s no bar to pass or license requirements to meet. Petroleum engineers start using what they already know or already were taught as undergrads to gain more experience. Writers do the same thing. If engineers had problems with something, they ask other people questions. Writers do the same thing. If the “numbers weren’t quite telling the story” they had a more experienced engineer look over their work. Writers do the same thing. And “awarded sales” for engineers were a lot like writers’ experiences too. Some engineers were best hands at bread and butter wells and fields that kept up a stead revenue stream for the company–like some writers. Other engineers worked side-by-side with other departments, especially geology, to try to find the blockbuster projects. Sounds a lot like some writers, huh? And if an engineer or geologist was responsible for finding a blockbuster, it could be years–or even decades–before they found another one, but that didn’t negate the success they’d already achieved.

    In other words, I’m comparing two career fields I know first hand. But every career field has its matches with writers. The only difference is the way the world–and the writer involved–perceives it. Just because an engineer has to drill a dozen marginal wells before one comes in that really makes headlines, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an engineer before. He just hadn’t been involved in the right project yet. Same with writers.

    Of course, writers don’t get all the great benefits that come from working in oil & gas. I do miss those things. Sigh…But if I had it all to do over again, I’d take the very same steps.

    Thanks for a great post, Kristen.

  28. #40 by Heather on August 20, 2013 - 3:01 pm

    I allowed myself to step using the word “amateur” when I finally finished my first novel. Until then, I dabbled. I am pre-published in the fact that I have not yet “sold” my work. However, since I blog, and post some works on other people’s blogs, I consider myself published. I have a thesis that is in my University’s library. This makes me a writer.

    Of course, it is slightly different with my other profession. Once I finish logging my hours, I will be a licensed Architect. But for now, I am an Intern, which annoys everyone when I have to correct them. Which I do, because I legally have to correct them.

    But it’s hard to call myself a professional writer when I have a current profession that doesn’t involve writing fiction. Just emails and occasional proposals.

  29. #41 by Cate on August 20, 2013 - 3:23 pm

    Funny – I remember an artist friend who said the same thing – if you do art, you are an artist because what you produce is art… hobby, part time, full time or professionally. I recently created my ‘author’ fb page and a website after a workshop where the eternal question of ‘when do you become an author?’ was hotly debated and I finally decided that, yes, I am one. Love your blog.

  30. #42 by evolution on August 20, 2013 - 3:45 pm

    I am a writer. I write articles for my job all day long, even if it is just for 14k employees of a multinational company. My job is to inform and inspire them, and while I’m not always fabulously successful with every article, I learn something every time I publish a piece on our intranet. Similarly, I may not have a single ‘like’ with a particular blog post, but I certainly learn something with each and every little creation. I hang onto my persistence.

  31. #43 by M T McGuire on August 20, 2013 - 4:23 pm

    You know what, I reckon it’s an attitude. I’d like to think I’m a professional writer, but I don’t earn a living. Not anymore. I did, but even then, not writing books. Indeed I earn even less from books now; after a healthy £20 a month, which is better than nothing, I haven’t sold a book for 9 weeks. I’m not sure if Amazon’s done something to the algorithm or the full time summer holiday Mum thing has killed it but…

    However, I’d like to think my attitude is professional. I aim to write ‘properly’ as best as I can and, certainly, my ambitions for what I aim to achieve in prose grow with each passing week. I hope I’m a real writer. I write in slow motion, for sure but yes, I DO finish! Wahoo! I can’t not finish actually and I hope the stuff I produce is good. Certainly, once I’ve forced people to read it at gunpoint, they usually like it quite a lot.

    So there we are.

    Cheers

    MTM

  32. #44 by laurie27wsmith on August 20, 2013 - 4:57 pm

    Great blog, my about me page is titled. WARNING, writer at work.

  33. #45 by clareodea on August 20, 2013 - 5:05 pm

    ‘Aspiring writer is fruit-tooty’. Ha ha! This might just be the day I drop the title.

  34. #46 by kitdunsmore on August 20, 2013 - 5:21 pm

    I just had this issue come up when talking with someone I hadn’t seen in years. He heard I was writing and didn’t understand why I wasn’t just putting my chapters online for everyone to read instead of worrying about getting published. It wasn’t until he was gone that I realized I was miffed at his whole attitude. He thought my writing was a cute hobby, something I was just dabbling in, when I consider it my calling.

    Since then I’ve decided to start treating myself as a professional. I bought Rise of the Machines (great book, by the way, and I will be putting up my review on Amazon in the next week) and now have a plan. Especially grateful that you and I were thinking alike. I’d gotten as far as “If I’m serious about this, I really need to be blogging but the last thing I want to do is start a writing blog — too much of that out there, and I’ll get bored!”. Thank God you’ve carried the thinking process through to the end. I know that book just saved me months of trying to puzzle it out for myself. Instead, I can get right to work and start building my brand so I have someone to tell when my book is ready for public consumption. And I bet I’ll be able to get people to pay me for it! Thanks!!

    • #47 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 20, 2013 - 6:29 pm

      Hey, I learned all this from doing YEARS of work (and a lot of stupid stuff) so it certainly saves you time because we ALL get the same “bright ideas” :D.

      • #48 by kitdunsmore on August 21, 2013 - 5:02 pm

        I was *hoping* it would only take me months and not years to answer my question (which was simply, “What the hell should I blog about?”). Fortunately, it only took a little money and a few hours of reading because you’ve put in all the time figuring it out. Thank you! Figuring out all the social media stuff would have taken me eons (and made me crazy to boot).

  35. #49 by Alison Doherty on August 20, 2013 - 5:24 pm

    This post is just what I need while I’m finishing (not just playing around with) my WIP. Definitely taking the aspiring out of my title.

  36. #50 by malindalou on August 20, 2013 - 7:08 pm

    Love this! And I think a lot of what it takes to go from “aspiring” to “professional” is a matter of desire. If you really want to be a writer (or a gardener, or an entrepreneur for that matter), you must decide that your profession means more to you than anything else.

    • #51 by Gry Ranfelt on August 21, 2013 - 1:39 am

      I agree. It must be the no. 1 goal. I used to not get how my father could stay at his office for the entire day. Now I’M in my office (room) the entire day! :D

  37. #52 by heatherkinnaneauthor on August 20, 2013 - 7:25 pm

    Awesome post Kristen!! I love the imagery of the meth-addicted Tasmanian Devil guarding the office! :D Living in Tasmania I can tell you that a regular Tasmanian Devil would be enough to scare people away if you got it cranky enough – no need for the Meth, just a hunk of raw meat would do the job! (Or perhaps two! Two Tassie Devils fighting over the same hunk of meat!)

    On topic, I have recently taken the step from ‘real’ writer to ‘professional’ writer. My motivation was a contract for a novella, which meant I had to get serious about social networking (And I’m still working on that), and also gave me that boost to want to feel that success again, which of course means I need my butt in the chair and my fingers working on the keyboard. Speaking of which – now I’m in that position, it’s about time I got back to my novel! :)

    Love reading your posts Kristen!

  38. #53 by Elizabeth kurecka. on August 20, 2013 - 7:27 pm

    Using iPad so am one-fingering this but gotta respond NOW. The Universe sends us what we need to hear when we are ready to hear. And boy, did I need to hear this. And exactly the minute after i finised searching the web for a new career. I once thought I’d become a writer after I had a short story published. Then I thought I’d become a real writer when I got paid for my first short story. Duh. I never considered that I could become a professional writer though. Thank you for hitting me over the head!

  39. #54 by Leisl Leighton on August 20, 2013 - 8:17 pm

    I used to actually say, even after I’d been writing for years and getting requests for fulls and winning and placing in comps, that I ‘wanted to be a writer’. I caught myself at it one day and biffed myself over the back of the head with that massive chip I’d been carrying around on my shoulder about not wanting to overstep myself, and began to own the fact I am a writer. But what really made the difference for me was when I won a five day mentorship with a multi published author and we had to go interstate for it. I had my own room, my own writing space and realised how essential this was, rather than the couch or kitchen table surrounded by kids and their paraphernalia and noise and demands – no really, I love my kids, but no space for me in the house whatsoever! When I got back, I knew this had to change. I had to treat my writing like it was serious. like it was a business (all start up businesses earn little to no money at first, that’s why they borrow money from the bank, it’s called a ‘start up’ – I knew this but had failed to apply it to my writing) if I was to expect anyone else to treat it like it was serious and not just some funny little thing Leisl does. So I got a desk, printer, proper laptop, and made my own space away from the family used areas of the house and protect that area like a German Shephard guarding a juicy bone. No one – I mean no-one – is allowed to sit at my desk or use my computer. I still struggle every day with trying to make hubby and the kids understand that if I’m in the lounge room (which is where my desk is) with the door closed, it means ‘don’t come in’, but they are getting it. And I think this attitude change of mine really made a difference for me. I am now published with Penguin Australia’s Destiny Romance and they’ve just contracted my second book. So, yeah, I agree with all of the above, Kristen. Change the way you think and it will help to change the outcome.

    • #55 by Gry Ranfelt on August 21, 2013 - 1:37 am

      Congratulations! I couldn’t help but laugh at the “So I got a desk, printer, proper laptop, and made my own space away from the family” part. I mean, you did this years into your writing, after having won prizes. Think of all the people out there who decide “yea, I’ll become a writer”, buy this stuff, go at it for a week and then drop it.
      It’s probably a good sign that we don’t immediately run out to buy these things. That means we’re concentrating on writing instead of the idea of writing.

  40. #56 by rxena77 on August 20, 2013 - 8:25 pm

    Was Emily Dickinson a real writer? She published only 3 poems in her lifetime. And she withdrew her writings when criticized by a friend. Stephen King says you’re an author when someone pays you hard cash money for your work. I believe we are what we do. If you believe in yourself and your work, in today’s publishing world, you can become published. Whether anyone will like your work is another thing.

  41. #57 by T. Greenfield on August 20, 2013 - 8:25 pm

    THANK YOU!

  42. #58 by Maddy on August 20, 2013 - 8:32 pm

    I just finished lamenting about blogging to the ether before reading your post. I may have only just started my blog and have a mere skeleton for my book but I am a writer!

  43. #59 by Debbie Johansson on August 20, 2013 - 8:53 pm

    ‘It takes guts to be a writer’ and ‘look at our art as our profession’ – these really stood out for me. Thanks so much for another great post Kristen – loved it!

  44. #60 by DJ on August 20, 2013 - 9:03 pm

    I’m a published writer–I’ve even made money at it. Not much of either, but that’s irrelevant!

  45. #61 by t.i.n.a. on August 20, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    True true true! I don’t give myself permission to write at all – everything (and everyone) comes before writing. The better-half IS supportive (thank goodness!) but I still haven’t figured out that I need to do it myself and pursue this like my backside were on fire… (now to go back to my lack-of-plot and BBT dilemma!) You always write the Good Stuff, Kristen! Thank you.

  46. #62 by donnajeanmcdunn on August 20, 2013 - 9:50 pm

    Kristen I loved this post. I keep telling myself and anyone who will listen, I am a real writer. My first book was published in May 2013 by MuseItUp Publishing, but even before that I felt like a real writer. I just have one question–Where can I get a meth addicted Tasmanian Devil with a gun to guard my office?

  47. #63 by geralynwichers on August 21, 2013 - 12:29 am

    Thanks for the boost of confidence. I don’t have to wait for “someday” to be professional. I’m actually well on my way.

  48. #64 by Gry Ranfelt on August 21, 2013 - 1:34 am

    Wonderful statement. I think I started taking myself seriously when I started High School and told myself “hey, if you want to get better, you’ve got to finish stuff. Finishing novels is hard but finishing short stories is a good way to learn to finish.” So I wrote a lot of those.
    I’m really glad I started taking my dream seriously, even if I always felt it would be better for humanity if I became a doctor and went to Africa or something. And maybe I will. But for now I’m having a gap year just for writing, and I’m dead serious. I tell my parents so, though my father still wants to throw me into the field with a pitchfork. Too bad for him.
    Now I just have to make my mind wrap itself around my self-imposed schedule.

  49. #65 by thesilverclaimer on August 21, 2013 - 4:09 am

    Reblogged this on thesilverclaimer.

  50. #66 by clarelondonClare London on August 21, 2013 - 4:54 am

    This was an excellent wake-up call for some authors! Along with the creative talent and craft, it requires a professional attitude and a disciplined approach – but you remind us that it should also be a reward of self-confidence and achievement! :)

  51. #67 by ontyrepassages on August 21, 2013 - 5:16 am

    I used to be an aspiring writer, but I kicked her out of the house a couple of years ago. I get along with myself much better now. An aside: When I read your book you talked about the proper way to maximize your blog so you show up in search engines. I Googled myself and one tiny picture popped up. That’s it. I then switched to your approach. Last night I Googled myself again and was shocked at how much came up. I love it when I listen to people who know what they’re talking about. Thanks!

  52. #68 by notjustablonde on August 21, 2013 - 6:29 am

    I’ve always found the notion of being a writer such a romantic idea. “If only I had that gift!” I would dreamily sigh… I pictured the writer sitting in the top if her century old home… up I the repurposed attic, up, up, up and away from the world below. Sitting in a wooden chair (after all she couldn’t get too cozy!) she would type type type and the words would flow through her fingers. The light through the window would be her clock, the shadows casting inward from the large oak tree suggesting the time to take a break or to climb down from the writing tower to join the real world again!

    You see, to me this was what a true writer looked like… and clearly this would never be me. Thanks to this post I’m realizing how I’ve lied to myself! Sure, my imagination described a writer, but one doesn’t require such a set up to be legit! I can be a writer too… in my modern home with my iPad! I can be a writer too… writing nonfictional inspirational essays! I can be a writer too…. writing for my Not Just A Blonde Fb Page, my notjustablonde.wordpress.com blog and http://www.notjustablonde.com blog…. and perhaps one day a book! I’m living my dream… the only person stopping myself was me and my out-of-reach definition of what a writer is.

    Thank you for giving me permission to tell myself I’m a writer,.. I’ve hidden myself under the title Newbie Blogger…. but that’s just going to work for me anymore! Whoo! Hoo!

  53. #69 by Richard Leonard on August 21, 2013 - 7:02 am

    Matthew Reilly, author of Area 7 and various other action-thriller novels quoted an anonymous source in an interview in the back of Area 7: “There is no such thing as an aspiring writer. You are a writer. Period.”
    I like that. I’ve called myself a writer ever since reading that because, as you say above, I put words on a page, but I stop short of identifying as an “author” because I’m not yet published. That’s the line I’ve drawn but it may change. I like the idea of profressional writer, even though I don’t get paid for it. Then again, I do write software and associated documentation for a living so I guess I could stretch the definition!

  54. #70 by C.L. on August 21, 2013 - 7:57 am

    I love the distinctions you make between “aspiring” and “pre-published” writers–you’ve really put it into perspective for me! :)

  55. #71 by scifimagpie on August 21, 2013 - 9:47 am

    Omg…this was an excellent kick in the pants. I am getting an editing business off the ground, and as a sci fi writer to boot, it involves a lot of work. I am even quitting my full time job and finding a new part time one. (Fortunately, he editing has been going well!)

    I really wish people would not take hobby writing as an insulting title…this business is not for everyone. I live and breathe words, and I love it.

  56. #72 by Penticular on August 21, 2013 - 10:29 am

    Great stuff, now to apply this info to my future,

    Thanks Dave
    AKAPenticular

  57. #73 by katbiggie on August 21, 2013 - 4:11 pm

    I am a real writer. I am an aspiring “professional” writer! :-) Is that allowed?

  58. #74 by jennifer Windram on August 22, 2013 - 10:51 am

    I write this as I prepare to go out with my mother, who sees my writing as some sort of childish whimsy. But really who would subject themselves to the torture of writing just for fun? She doesn’t understand that this is a full time job with commitments and deadlines. Do they not count just because they are self imposed?

    A couple of months ago I told her I completed the first draft of my novel and she didn’t even blink. It’s time to set boundaries like you suggested. And not just with her, with all of my family.

    At least today I am making her run errands with me, then I still get my chores done and I get to see her too.

  59. #75 by staceywilk on August 22, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    Excellent post, Kristen. I am going to forward it to my writer friends who need a little reminder.

  60. #76 by Kirra Antrobus on August 22, 2013 - 11:02 pm

    Thank you. It’s nice to have permission to call myself a professional writer even at the stage I’m at.

  61. #77 by ponderingspawned on August 23, 2013 - 10:04 am

    I love this post!!!! I had to draw some major boundaries with friends and family who seemed to think I could drop everything for random phone conversations during the day. At one point I was asked “why don’t you just turn your phone off?” Hmmm, I don’t know, maybe because I also use it for work?!

    You’re absolutely right about saying professional writer to yourself over aspiring. I’m making the change right now and it already feels better! I followed the blogging course, gaining followers slowly over time, and I recently got a position at Examiner because of the portfolio I could offer from my blog work. It’s opened some new doors professionally, and it also brought some much needed validation to stay off the phone and at the keyboard. It has temporarily taken time from my novels and quieted my blog, but that’s only because I haven’t been balancing my day properly–something that will change immediately now that I am a professional.

    Thanks for sharing!

  62. #78 by Susan Union on August 24, 2013 - 6:47 pm

    Thank you, Kristen. You inspired me to jump in and write my first blog post. It’s been on my to-do list for nine months (developing just like a baby!). I gave you credit, too and linked back to your blog. Hope I did it right! Thanks! susanunion@blogspot.com

  63. #79 by L. Marie on August 25, 2013 - 2:51 pm

    I’ve been asked this question before, especially by people who have J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins as their model of a “real writer.” Sigh. The answer is yes, even if the person who asked hasn’t seen a book I’ve written.

  64. #80 by sstamm625 on August 25, 2013 - 8:03 pm

    Thanks for this very helpful post, Kristen.

  65. #81 by WriteInTheHead on August 25, 2013 - 8:15 pm

    “Am I being a professional writer?” can lend direction through metacognition. By that I mean I stop working or engaging in whatever activity I am doing and ask myself that question. If the answer is “no,” I make an adjustment.

    “Am I being a professional writer?” also feels good!

    “…you had to invest in a meth-addicted Tasmanian Devil with a gun to guard your office?”

    Wait, you got your Tasmanian Devil to carry a gun

    ?!!?!

    My Devil said he couldn’t get a handgun carry permit because Bugs has a restraining order on him!
    I’ve been robbed!

  66. #83 by maralight on August 25, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    Ms. Lamb, thank you SO much for this post. I was feeling down on myself recently, questioning my sanity in making writing my career (I was also questioning my choices in coffee….), and if I was ‘a real writer’ because I hadn’t been published yet. My mind needs to shift, and your words were like a slap in the face. But in a good snap-out-of-it-you-whiny-baby way. So thank you! From here on out I will stop trying to put labels on myself like “well I’m not published, so clearly I’m not a writer….” I have one novel and three short stories done and edited…that’s pretty good for not being a ‘real writer’!

    I look forward to more of your posts!

  67. #84 by Anor on August 27, 2013 - 7:07 am

    This post has stayed with me for some time. So much that I’ve actually referred to it in another post on my blog: http://anorbloodgood.blogspot.ch/2013/08/bums-vs-writers.html :)

  68. #86 by Jenny on August 28, 2013 - 5:02 pm

    Kristen all I can say is THANK YOU. This blog really touched a sensitive place in my heart about my writing. Often I feel like life pulls me from one thing to another and my writing takes a back seat. But after reading your inspirational blog I realize that I am letting that happen. I’ve only recently started reading your blog but I just LOVE IT. Again thank you for sharing your wonderful experience and vast knowledge on writing.

    • #87 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 28, 2013 - 8:42 pm

      THANK YOU, Jenny! So FABULOUS to meet you! It’s such a privilege to hear from you guys so thank you, thank you for taking the time to comment and I hope to see you back. *HUGS*

  69. #88 by Raani York on September 17, 2013 - 5:24 pm

    Thank you very much Kristen – this helps me a lot. Honestly… sometimes things are getting “out of control” with my mood – and all I need at that moment is particularly this question…
    Your blog post told me a lot – about my attitude, my insecurities – and about me being in really dark moods sometimes. :-)

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