“Writing is a choice. Not writing is a choice. It’s all just a choice.”
So stop pretending that it isn’t.
The above is basically my new motto. I came to adopt this model through two things:
1) self-pity when I caved to watching TV or youtube videos instead of writing
2) listening to the excuses people give to pretend to be writers but don’t want to put in the effort
How re-framing your choice can be empowering
I actually started using “it’s a choice” for my dietary choices, which I found helped me choose to eat more healthily. I think we feel like we lack of control when we allow ourselves to forget that everything we do is basically the result of a decision we make. There are various pressures behind each decision (and I’m not talking about decisions where survival is on the line) and I found acknowledging that helps me feel more in control.
It becomes my choice to write or to watch another Nostalgia Critic video (or whatever is new on my subscription list). That’s very empowering, even if I cave and make the choice I know I shouldn’t. Feeling empowered makes it easier for me to judge when I really should write, instead (which is most of the time).
When I decided I wanted to BE an author and try to make a career out of that, I had to start choosing writing.
I did this by building a good daily writing routine, finding tools that worked for me, and also be setting aside a couple weekend days a month for writing. I don’t go to friends’ events, I don’t goof around; those are my writing work days. I put in at least 8 hours of writing, just like my regular workday.
Recognizing the choice made a big difference for me, maybe it can for you.
I want to be a writer BUT….
Disclaimer: this post is not in response to anything in particular or any one person that I am currently friends with online or in real life.
Disclaimer 2.0: I know many people who write as a hobby. This is not about you.
I have met and introduced myself as a writer to so many people that I’ve started being able to categorize responses in a few different brackets:
- Wow, that’s amazing, good luck, and I really don’t care otherwise (totally fine)
- That’s awesome! I will buy your first book and cherish it forever (hopefully I actually know you)
- People do that as a career?
- Oh neat, I always wanted to be a writer but [INSERT EXCUSE HERE]
Those in the 4th bracket often lament at length about all the first world problems that prevent them from writing and I have no time for that (because I’m probably writing).
I have connected with so many people who want to be their version of “writer” and they struggle GREATLY with finding a balance between their lives and their writing. Those people are AMAZING. If you’re one of those people, you are like a hero to me.
I know many people who, to varying degrees, have the balance thing figured out. They know when to choose writing and when to choose something else. I like to think I’m there but I probably have a ways to go.
But I have met many (and dated a few) people who say, “I want to be a writer, but…”
And Ijust…*takes deep yoga breath* I don’t know why I am so passionate about this. I have a low tolerance for excuses (see the “it’s a choice” thing from earlier). I have a feeling that I feel sort of threatened by this–like how when someone is able to do something you are skilled in but points out that they prefer not to, it can imply your choice is inferior if you’re a little insecure about it. I could see this being more of an issue with me being insecure about my own writing status.
But, let’s be honest, I’ve heard just as many people complain about how they’re too busy, they have too much stress, etc. etc. and they just can’t write.
Um, no. You probably can. You choose not to.
There is a difference between, “I want to be a writer but I have emotional or life obstacles I am trying to overcome” and “I want to be a writer but I don’t feel like putting in the effort.”
And no one in the latter camp says it like that but you know it when you hear it.
Disclaimer 3: There is NOTHING WRONG WITH NOT BEING A WRITER. There’s nothing wrong with not following through on that dream.
But don’t pretend it’s not a choice you make.
The 10 Minute Novelists is the best evidence I have for this. This is a group of published and unpublished writers who have busier lives than mine choosing to write. They find lunch breaks, commutes home, early morning hours, and dog walks to be pockets of time for them to write. If you want to write and struggle to find the time, that is the group for you.
Lastly, there’s nothing that says if you want to be a writer, you have to make writing a top priority right now.
When I was in college, my main priority was graduating and getting a stable job. Writing took a backseat.
When I got that stable job, other things still took precedent over writing until I decided I wanted to get serious and become published. I wanted to make this an eventual career.
I started to choose writing over other things. It’s easy for me; I am childless, I live alone, my friends have flexible schedules. But even I had still had to choose writing to make it happen.
Recently, I have decided to make my lifestyle a little healthier which led to more time to cooking healthy meals and working out. This eats significantly into my writing time but it’s more important to me to be healthy than published.
And, you know what? Since it’s STILL important to me to be published, I worked writing into those activities. I outline during my workouts, listen to writing podcasts and learn about the craft while cooking. I chose to make writing a high priority and, because it was a priority, I found ways to make it work.
Writing is HARD.
It can be a very difficult choice to make. I pre-schedule my writing days and I’ve had to turn down events I really want to go to because it’s during my “writing workday.” I had to decide to make that a work day. I can’t just not show up to my day job, so I can’t just not show up to my writing job. For those people with more complicated lives, figuring out how to fit writing in (even in just 10 minutes a day) can be daunting. I applaud anyone who is able to keep up the hard work or put it aside for more important things. You are under-appreciated for making a choice many don’t see as “that difficult.”
You don’t have to make writing a priority NOW to want to be a writer, but making excuses about why it’s not a priority isn’t helping anybody.
The point of this is: if you want to be a writer, then choose to be a writer. You may not care much about being published or turning your writing into anything more than a hobby but you still have to make that choice however often or rarely it comes up.
But don’t make excuses if you don’t want to make that choice. Own it and figure out what choice you DO want to make because, odds are, there’s something cool waiting for you down that avenue, too.
Listen to Motivational Penguin: