Through a sort of strange coincidence, I found myself reading Tucker Max’s blog today.
If you know who Tucker Max is (and many people do), you may think I was reading his famous “asshole” blog. Interestingly enough, though, Tucker seems to have matured lately, and is now writing a more thoughtful blog on how to become a writer, run a startup, and get published.
He highlights a thought-provoking question on his post “How To: Find A Mentor”:
“‘Why do you want to be a writer?’ 99% of [people who tell me they want to become a writer] have no fucking concept of how to answer that question. They’ve never even asked themselves this most basic and fundamental question. They stutter and stammer and can’t come up with even one concrete reason. [And BTW--there is only ONE correct answer to that question, I will cover that in another thing I'm writing.]“
Interested, I thumbed through the rest of his blog, but I never found where he followed up with the answer. Since I’ve gotten this question too (although it more often comes in the form of “How do I become a blogger?” with me), I figured I’d answer it from my perspective.
I Struggle to Answer the Question
And then…something strange happened. I struggled to answer the question. I had a momentary panic attack: Was I one of those awful 99% of people who “wanted to be a writer” yet “had no fucking concept of how to answer that question”? But no, that didn’t feel quite right.
Then it dawned on me: I’d never even thought of that question. I’ve never had the sense or feeling of “wanting” to be a writer, since, from a very young age, I’ve always seen myself as being a writer.
And then I realized I had the answer. Maybe not the same answer Tucker Max has, but the answer you might be looking for.
Inherently, you desire what you do not believe you have. When you say “I want ____”, whatever that is–from pizza to sex to running your own business–you are at once making two statements:
1) I desire to move my life in the direction of (a yummy pizza or great business idea.)
2) I acknowledge the lack of that in my life right now.
Knowing You Are a Writer
I remember quite clearly the earliest sense of myself I had as a “writer”. I was in preschool, and our teacher asked each of us to write a poem. In the spur of the moment, I said something–and the whole class paused. “What did you say?” my teacher asked, running for a pen and paper. Surprised, I managed to stammer it out again.
She wrote it down quickly on a piece of paper. Later, she would pull my mom aside and tell her that it was one of the best poems a kid had ever written in her class. And yes, at age 32, I feel ridiculous writing that right now. Like–it couldn’t have been that good, could it? But apparently it was. I loved that teacher, Mrs. Profitt, and I could see the sincerity and excitement written all over her face. I knew she meant every word she said, and I saw the clear statement in her eyes: This child, this one, has something special.
And thus, at a young age, I knew: I was a writer. So I never desired to be one, because I just was one.
But Erica, You Haven’t Told Me How To Become a Writer…!
But that doesn’t answer your question, does it? Alright, you asked for it. You have a sincere desire to know how to become a writer. You want to run a popular blog or write a best-selling book. Are you ready for the answer of how to do it?
The truth is, if you’re asking that question, there’s something inside you that believes that you cannot do it. Maybe you had the opposite experience of me at a young age and some teacher said you were a terrible writer, or you could never spell anything, or your thoughts just got all ridiculously jumbled up and refused to come out as nice straight words.
So, whereas this particular childhood experience of mine instilled in me a belief that I was a writer, your experience instilled in you a belief that you were not a writer. And you’ve carried that with you, every day. Your desire to be a writer conflicted with your subconscious (or conscious) belief that you were just not very good at it, or that it was possible for other people to be a writer–but not you, or that you just didn’t have the time to write 2,000 words every day like a freakin’ Stephen King robot and therefore you should just not start, ever.
Whatever that was–that’s what brought you to this blog post today. Your desire conflicts with your beliefs about yourself. And that’s why trite, bullshit advice like “Hurr durr, just write 2,000 words every day!” doesn’t work on you. Because that advice, while applicable to other people, does not override your internal belief that you cannot be a writer.
So how do you end the conflict inside yourself? If you really desire to be a writer, you first have to believe that you are one. Note that I did not say “Believe that you can be one.” I said: “Believe that you are one.” You are a writer, and while–like playing a musical instrument or riding a bike–writing gets better with practice, you first must believe that it is indeed possible for you, right here, right now, to be the best writer the world has ever seen.
But What About All Those People Who…?
But what about that jerk of a teacher who told you you were just no good? Or all those classes you failed? Well, today is your lucky day, because today you get to close your eyes, relive that moment, and–as an adult–say, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Teacher, that I didn’t live up to your expectations.” You can forgive that person, forgive yourself, and then–when you feel the burden lift off of your insides–you can smile and say “I’m a writer. I’m a WRITER!”
And once you can say “I’m a writer” to yourself with no fear, no qualms, no sense of foreboding or worries about “But what if…?” then you will find that the words flow effortlessly. You will no longer be afraid to write 2,000 words a day–you will look forward to it. Writing will become a magical part of who you are–a way to express yourself, to be heard, to have others listen and learn from your experience and perspective.
If it feels impossible for you to get to that place from where you are right now, work on one episode of your past at a time until you feel your inner burdens lift. If you can’t figure out an exact “cause” for your writing block, just hold the emotion–whatever it is you’re feeling, like being scared–inside yourself, take a deep breath, and ask yourself “When was a time in my childhood that I felt this emotion?” Once you let that come, the memories will follow, and you can forgive. Then you will write. You will be a writer.
I’ve been doing this for several straight months now, on all sorts of issues I had with my life. I’ve been shocked to see how much my life has changed in those months, just by closing out and forgiving ugly stuff from my childhood. I won’t lie–sometimes it’s been really painful to open up those boxes. But the feeling of well-being, of “effortlessness” I have now was worth the pain.
Thanks to all this healing, I’ll be writing more too. Because, you see, I am a writer. It’s what I was meant to be. And it fits beautifully with running a successful business!
I hope, for at least one of you out there, you’ll find that, too. The world needs you. It is waiting for you to express yourself. Your desire is there–now, it’s time to be brave enough to face your own internal issues and become the writer you’ve always desired to be.
I can’t wait to see what happens–it’s going to be beautiful.
Here’s to becoming–no, being–a great writer!