How you define yourself can be seen in how you identify yourself. I am a father. I am a mother. I am a lawyer. I am a fireman. I am a …? Have you ever identified yourself as a writer, and I mean have you done it publicly toward other people?
When asked by other people, “What do you do?” I used to identify myself by my dayjob, and then add, “but I’d like to be a writer.” Then one day I said, “I am a writer.” That made all the difference in my attitude toward myself and my work ever sense.
Many cannot do that because they feel as if they have not yet merited that description. They are not yet published, or they are not yet famous. Regardless of how much you have written, for how long you have been writing, how many people have read your work, you need to get it into your head, YOU ARE A WRITER. That is your identity, both internally and externally, from this day forward.
Expectations, Not Just Goals
There’s no need to say it if you’re not going to do it. Saying you are a writer means you write. This means more than a little scribbling now and then. Writers begin and finish projects, and then they get them read by people who are not related to them.
Goals are nice, but easy to sidestep. Goals are what you want to get done. Expectations are better. Expectations insist that such will be accomplished, and within a certain timeframe. I expect to post articles for this blog every Monday and Thursday. I expect to post excerpts from a serial short story every other Wednesday here. I expect to publish a short story anthology by midyear and my first how to book by the end of the year.
Take your goals and make them into expectations.
Rev Up Your Urgency
You need to make yourself accountable for your writing expectations. Don’t just keep them in your head. Write them down. Also tell someone else. That is what I just did with that last paragraph. So now if someone asks me, “How is that anthology coming?” I had better have a good answer and not lie about it!
Take your big projects and make them into several small projects. Then give each one a deadline. This sounds terrifying, but a sense of urgency is what your writing needs. It’s good to be under the gun, even if you are the one who loaded it.
And don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on yourself. If you miss a deadline, punish yourself. I am not kidding. Tell yourself, “You will get no more coffee until you finish this chapter,” and stick to it. Make the punishment something you’ll miss, and you’ll break fewer and fewer deadlines. Little projects become one big project, and you will have accomplished a lot.
Write And Be Read Immediately
Writing will definitely make you feel like a writer, but one thing will accomplish that quicker and with more durability, and that is writing and being read. Let’s face it, we didn’t finish that novel just to sit on our desktops. We want to be read.
As Writers we must be read. Finishing a book is no guarantee I’ll ever be read. The best writers are the ones who share their work. That is one reason I am sharing my short story. Write something, make it quick and short, and share it with as many people as you can. Begin a habit of sharing your work. This is a habit you will carry through to your bigger writing projects.
So when you write you next novel, or your first, you will share what you write before, during, and after it is finished. This is ultimately what it means to be a writer. It’s not just finishing a book, or getting it published. The purpose of being a writer is so that you may be read, and thus affect the lives of others.