If you read about what it’s like to write, you will see all kinds of quotes about how hard it is, or how it will drive one to madness. You might think about the writers who bare their soul to the world and you might think about how you would never want to share so much with strangers. So why on earth would someone like you want to be a writer?
I’m here to answer that question today. My answer will not include every reason ever, as the decision to write is personal. There could be a unique answer for every person alive right now and beyond, and I feel like trying to include them all would help me find WordPress’s word count limit…so let’s just jump in!
How I feel about writing
Most of the time, I don’t. Writing to me is as natural as breathing. However, when I get the urge to become a professional writer, I cringe. I feel like I’m some kid that just announced that they want to make a living off of writing Sonic the Hedgehog fan fiction. Because of this, it is very rare that I talk about that dream with anyone (until now I guess). And because of that, I have never seriously worked to become one before.
But is it childish?
All my life I have been told that creative careers were useless, silly, childish. I was told I would never make a living off of creativity. These people were just…ignoring Hollywood and Stephen King, I guess.
Realistically, they were probably just shielding me from the fact that, to make a true living off of writing, you need to have the talent, industry know-how, and/or luck of like .001% of people.* The only people who ever said anything about making it a career were my very young friends (don’t look at me like that, I was also very young at the time), or my English teachers. They were probably just happy that they had someone in their class that didn’t immediately protest writing assignments.
*This number is completely made up.
You haven’t answered my question!
Think about the Greats out there: Woolf, Plath, Homer, Vonnegut, Wallace…the list extends to the beginning of the written word and will continue until the final letter is scrawled in blood at the end of the apocalypse.
Okay, but my point is that we don’t look back at these works and think, “ugh, look at the drivel they wrote. What immature nonsense.”
“Ah,” you say, “but that’s exactly what people say about the immature nonsense I write.”
Well, you’re not alone. Not everyone was a hit the second they popped out of the womb. In fact, I guarantee that the first time any human picked up a crayon, whatever they produced was terrible. Everyone has got to start somewhere, my friend, and that’s where this starts to get a little complicated. A little more real. A little more…”grown up.” Because writing is a skill that is learned and honed. It can be taught and practiced, and anyone can go from crayon on the wall to full-fledged literature in a lifetime.
But what about if you don’t want to write the next Moby Dick? This is fine, too. Writing doesn’t just have to be about writing books.
What can writing do?
This is the part that I look at a lot for deciding if wanting to be a writer is childish or not. Writing has so many uses that it is silly to think that any of them could be considered “childish.”
Let’s take the less grandiose uses of writing for example. These are the everyday reasons anyone would write. Journaling, list-making, making a decision, or keeping records are just a few of the ways that I write all the time. I’ll talk more about each of these in depth later, but for now a quick overview:
- Journaling is just the act of writing down your thoughts and feelings and events throughout your daily life. This has been proven to reduce stress and increase mindfulness, as it allows you to slow your thoughts down enough to be able to observe the feelings they cause.
- List-making is…making a list. What do you want from me? While this doesn’t seem like something you can improve with practice, think about this: have you ever come across a list that someone has made that included things that didn’t belong or the list itself had no discernible purpose? There ya go.
- Decision-making through writing is something that takes a little more skill than the others, I think. In order to do this, you need to be able to see both sides of something you may or may not have done before in order to lay out facts that you then consider fairly. This might be a little more advanced for some, but it’s definitely something that is doable with time and practice.
- Keeping records is something that is slightly different than journaling, as it isn’t necessarily related to your life. This might be, if you’re keeping records of symptoms or fitness numbers, but could also be keeping track of inventory or taxes or the types of customers you serve for marketing purposes.
- Moving others to action. This is not something I do often myself, but it is a handy reason to write. Sometimes people are unsure of what they need to do, or even that they need to do anything at all. Being able to tell them that there is a problem or a need, telling them how to fix it or fill it, and then convincing them that they want to, is one of the more advanced things you can do with the written word.
- Teaching is actually very much like number five above, the only difference is (unless you are teaching something that is mandatory like science in high school), you are probably telling them something that they were already convinced that they needed to know.
There are so many more applications for writing out there, but hopefully this is enough to convince you that this isn’t just some silly kid’s game.
A writer’s life for me!
As the above proves, you don’t need to be a novelist to write. But that’s what some people want to do, and those people (if they get past the feeling of childishness or never had it in the first place) are a bit afraid of the solitude of it all.
Unfortunately I cannot speak to my own experience, as I am not (yet!) a full-time writer. However, I have read quite a bit about it, and the consensus seems to be that writing is both solitary and not.
Like any job that requires critical thinking, you do need some alone time in order to get words on paper or stitch up those pesky plot holes. Once you send off a manuscript to be accepted or rejected, you might feel the waves of silence suffocating you as you wait for a response. However, unless you are trying to write the next Walden, you will probably need some kind of social stimulation in order to keep the flow of ideas from drying up.
Most novels are about some kind of relationship, and most people will draw ideas from their own lives. You don’t want the bloodline of experiences to become thin and incestuous! Your stories will be born weak and anemic. You want to have a wealth of information to draw from, mountains of conversations to sift through, and throngs of people to pick and choose characteristics from so that you don’t end up always writing something that is semi-autobiographical and obvious to those who know you. In this way, you need to have some kind of social contact.
So should you do it?
Yes! Well, only if you want to. There are many people out there who just loathe putting pen to paper or finger to key and it’s almost painful for them to do so. Those people will never want to do this. Some people think that they hate it, but actually just can’t shake the feeling that they are no good at it. To them I say: git gud. I’m just kidding, but if you practice and get better and really just don’t like it, then don’t do it anymore. You might be amazed at how much it will enrich your life.
As I’ve said before, a good portion of this blog is about how to become a better writer, so follow along and hopefully you’ll learn to love this craft as much as I do – whether we’re actually “good” at it or not.
Do you use writing in some way other than was discussed here? Please share in the comments!