I’ll be honest. I usually don’t feel like a real writer. I struggle with this on a day to day basis, even though most days I do something in the form of writing, or “writerly” as we like to say. Right now I’m elbow-deep in editing my 2015 Nano project (4th time’s the charm right?); I’m also 40,000 words into the next book in that series. I’ve also just edited for someone. I blog (obviously), which (obviously again) is writing. I listen to podcasts about writing and publishing. I read about writing every chance I get, and yeah, my library is pretty long.
I was chatting with my friend Gareth Young, (find his blog here and his Amazon author page here) about this very topic not long ago. He asked me when people ask me what I do, do I tell them I’m a writer or do I tell them what I do for my day job? This was over Facebook Messenger so he couldn’t see my jaw drop, but it did. Because only two days before that I had gotten a trim at my salon and of course, the stylist asked me what I did for work. As Gareth pointed out, that could have been a perfect time to tell her about my book, what I was working on, tell her about my email list, and given her a card. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, made a sale.
But I did none of those things.
I’ll tweet to more than 8,000 people that I’m a writer, but I can’t tell my hairstylist I wrote a book. And that it’s for sale. And that she can go on Amazon and buy it.
I thought about this for a long time, and I realized it’s because I only have one book out. Unfortunately, I do not consider that enough proof to say I’m a writer to anyone in my real life.
But I am a writer. I have 150,000 words in the hands of an editor right now. I’m editing a 77,000-word novel that will be released later this year. I’m writing the second book in that series, and I’m 40,000 words into it.
Yet I don’t feel like a writer. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. On any given day I can vent my frustration with normal everyday activities that need to be done: cleaning the bathroom, going to the grocery store, scooping cat litter. Things that only remind me that I am not writing, therefore not publishing, therefore not adding to my proof that yes, the hour or two I can squeak out of my schedule does add up to something people will be able to buy and eventually add to my backlist of books.
With all this in black and white, I’ve come to realize that I need to separate my actual writing from what I am doing to build my platform. While I may be doing well with my writing, my platform still needs a lot of work, and it will always need time and attention.
So whether you write all day only to put it in a file and slip it under your bed, or you scribble a poem on a cocktail napkin to leave for the bartender, or you’re editing a 4-book high fantasy series, you are a writer.
What you do with it is up to you, but that does not define who you are.
Joanna Penn in her book How to Market a Book (you can find it here) asks you to define your version of success. People define success differently. Maybe it’s publishing one book, maybe it’s having a successful blog. Maybe it really is just finding that one hour a day you can sit with a cup of coffee and your characters.
Success to me will be having a decent backlist I can promote. Maybe enough sales to drop to part-time work so I can write more.
But I have to remember that my definition of success and my definition of being a writer can be exclusive of each other. They have to be, or somewhere along the line, I’ll get discouraged.
Platform-building takes years.
Writing and publishing a book or novella or short story can take as little as a couple of weeks.
My idea of success is where these two things meet in the middle.
Maybe then I’ll feel like a real writer.
When do you feel like a real writer?
Let me know!