Writer's Life

How to Be a Writer

I came across something interesting while testing out the free version of the Moz SEO toolset recently. The first search term I ran through their keyword research tool was “writing.” It’s a broad topic that apparently has over 73,500 monthly searches, but I wanted to know what about writing people were most often researching. What burning questions about my industry could I help answer? Or, gee, what questions am I not asking myself? And while picking through a thousand results, I saw it. “How to be a writer.” Clocking in at 4,950 monthly searches.

I tried the search to see what answers were out there. So many lists! Here, 10 steps you HAVE to take. There, a structured guide on developing a writing career. And don’t forget a breakdown of writing jobs and their average salaries. All of them are useful and provide valuable information. None of them mention identifying as a writer.

How To Be A Writer

“If you want to be a writer, don’t do things that will kill your writing.”

Kerri Majors, “This is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World”

This is, by far, my favorite answer from one of my favorite books on tackling mindset issues as a writer. It’s followed closely by a parenthetical I also love: “I’m still going to call you Writer, because in your heart and soul, that’s what you are, regardless of the type of writing you are drawn to.”

Not all writers want to write books. Not all writers are paid. But all writers like to write in some form.

Habits to Become a Writer

Write every day. Study writing. Read like a writer. Read books X, Y, and Z. Subscribe to writerly blogs, newsletters, podcasts, social media accounts, smoke signals.

Every list of habits on how to be a writer includes these things. As if doing all these things, somehow, means you’ll wake up one day and brush your teeth like a writer. But these lists aren’t instructions on how to transform yourself from some ho-hum humanoid into a sparkly, majestic writer. They’re just general tips on how to nurture your inner writer and keep in tune with the craft.

And I’ll tell you right now: I am a writer, and I

  • don’t put words on the page every day (but there’s more to writing than getting words out)
  • have a degree in writing, which helps but isn’t necessary
  • read lots of things like a normal person who just wants to read a damn book
  • have tried to read books X, Y, and Z and didn’t enjoy them, so I stopped
  • have unsubscribed to many writerly content streams I didn’t enjoy

I tried everything every list and book said I should do. The plain truth is not everything works for everybody. I ditched whatever so-called have-tos drained my energy and made writing feel like a chore.

If you want to know how to be a writer, think more about why you want to be a writer. Figure out what drives you to write. Do things that work with your energy, not against it.

What do you do to nurture your inner writer? Please share in the comments!

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