Kill your ego
Today I would like to talk to you about being a writer.
I know a writer talking about being a writer! So new! Never done before! Such a unique perspective. Fortunately, I’m not trying to be groundbreaking today, I just need a chance to rant.
I’m a member of several writer groups on various social media sites across the internet and that exposes me to a lot of people in the very early stages of their writing journey and thus also exposes me to a lot of the preconceived notions people have about writing and that’s what I want to talk about today.
Before I start, I want to stress that I am in no way gatekeeping the writing community, it’s an amazing place with some incredibly supportive people and if it can continue to grow then that can only be a good thing. I’m also not trying to gatekeep the craft of writing, I’m not about to start saying “You’re only a real writer if you have sold X number of copies or made X amount of money” That’s all bullshit in my opinion.
What I am going to say is that you need an open mind to be a writer, you need to be flexible (seriously flexible) in your thinking and you need to lose your ego, stuff will be easier without it, trust me.
The first preconceived notion, I write therefore I am a writer.
Defining a writer is difficult. I think the definition is based on your own perspective, aka what makes a writer is something different to everyone. Technically anyone can be a writer, anyone can self-publish anything and therefore be a writer. However, I’m not going to lie and say this super broad definition doesn’t irritate me slightly. That’s because for me a writer is someone who writes yes, but also someone who invests a lot of time, money and effort into becoming better. They are constantly learning about the craft, constantly challenging themselves to be better. They use editors, invest in their manuscript, invest in their cover art etc.
It does rub me the wrong way when after I’ve spent years of my time, more money than I’d like to admit and more effort than I can calculate to get to where I am on the writing spectrum, for Aunty Gladys to come in write a 50-page story, publish the first draft on Amazon and then start bragging to anyone in the area about how she’s a published author/writer.
So yes, I think the definition of a writer is a preconceived notion, there’s more to it than some think and more to it than some want to know. I would love for someone smarter than me to give us a full-blown definition.
The second preconceived notion, we’ll all be rich in six months.
I’m not going to say that breakthrough writers don’t happen. Or that people cannot get wealthy from writing. But generally, those people are the exception and most of them only reach that after a long time (usually more than six months anyway) and a lot of work, perseverance and business know-how.
This is especially true for those who use traditional publishing routes. From my research, you’re actually far more likely to make a living wage if you go down the self-publishing route.
We can’t all be J K Rowling, Stephen King or even E L James. For the vast majority of us we will have to put in the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the years and be happy with that. But that’s not to say we can’t dream.
The third preconceived notion, I already know everything I need to know.
No, you don’t.
One of the nuggets of wisdom I have come across in my travels is that as we progress in the craft writers get more and more critical of their own work, so while they get better, they might not feel like they do and that’s entire because they keep raising their own standards. You’re always improving, if you keep learning and relearning and practising then you can’t help but improve. But as you improve your perception of what’s good should also rise. That’s a good thing, it might not feel like it, it might feel disheartening but trust me it’s a good thing.
The danger comes from those who start out thinking they are great already. As I said earlier ego is the death of the writer. I’ve come across many people at various stages of their writing journey who are rejecting any and all criticism because they feel like they are at the peak of their game and cannot possibly be better so any constructive feedback is wrong. I’ve seen people flat out argue with negative reviews (never do this, please never do this, even if you’re right and the reviewer is wrong, you’ll look like a crazy egomaniac, just accept the reviewer didn’t like your piece and move on. Reviews are opinions and opinions are subjective to a point, obviously, if all or multiple reviewers are saying the same thing then you need to take another look at your piece and recognise the issue…I’m getting sidetracked, sorry). My point is that even the great writers of our time are still learning, there will always be something that you could do better and that’s fantastic if we could all reach a point and say, this is it, I’m never getting better than this then that would be a sad world where everything would stagnate. I’d much rather believe that I can keep getting better.
So yeah, kill your ego, it’ll be easier to improve and accept criticism if you do.