The decision to become a professional writer happens somewhere between the inner knowing that you are a writer, the daily act of writing itself, and then some kind externalisation. Like hearing your friends introduce you at parties … oh Jane’s a writer she could help you.
“Perhaps the greatest barrier for any of us as we look for an expanded life is our own deeply held skepticism.”
Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way)
For me (and maybe for you too) I wanted for such a long to time to write professionally but believing that my writing was actually good enough to sell, or that my skills as a writer could attract an hourly rate, or that someone would buy my books, was a huge obstacle I found difficult to overcome. Unless you have the confidence to see yourself as a writer it’s quite difficult to upgrade your dreaming to doing, and start taking real action to build that writing business.
A Daily Writing Practice
The only thing I have found that actually makes you feel like a writer is to write. And write. And write. In fact getting yourself into a daily writing practice is essential if you’re serious about a writing career. And it doesn’t matter whether you see yourself as a non-fiction author, a novelist, or a freelance copywriter, you need to be writing every day.
Julia Cameron (author of the amazing book The Artist’s Way) says writing three pages of handwritten notes (stream-of-consciousness style) every morning as soon as you wake up is the key to unlocking your inner creativity. For me, these ‘Morning Pages’ inspire my creativity and have now become the foundation of my professional writing practice.
Writing morning pages trains you to articulate your inner thoughts into text. For those of you who haven’t read a Virginia Woolf novel, stream of consciousness type writing is recording your thoughts as they occur and without edit. So your aim is to capture every random thought with your pen (no, not by the percussive sound of your keyboard).
Establish discipline with Morning Pages
Morning pages can be really daunting when you first start. Your thoughts arrive so fast it’s so easy to find yourself 10 minutes in with just a few lines of text — you’ve become lost in a day dream. But with practice and focus the discipline will come. You’ll dream less and write more, and eventually you will be able to write three full pages of handwritten notes in less than 30 minutes.
The discipline you gain by learning to articulate your thoughts into text is exactly the training you need to become productive enough to write professionally. If you can’t push through 20-30 minutes of morning pages it’s unlikely you’ll sit long enough to finish a client’s blog post or a 30 chapter novel. And it’s a cold reality that it doesn’t matter how well you can write, if you can’t churn out enough copy to pay the bills you may as well stick to reading.
You’ll find it even harder too, of you don’t believe in yourself. Actually, if you don’t believe you’re a real writer you will find it almost impossible to write for clients. You’ll find it very difficult to get started (I’m sure all writer’s block stems in some way from lack of self-confidence) and once you do you’ll come up with a million excuses and ‘random’ accidents to interfere with your progress. Permit yourself to be a writer.
Thinking back to my first few clients it took me a ridiculous amount of time to finish their projects, and it all stemmed back to my lack of belief in my ability as a writer. I lost a few of those clients too — and with good reason on their behalf. But it was a renewed commitment to morning pages combined with a determination to really become a professional writer that turned things around for me.
Read to write
Apart from the morning pages, my daily writing practice also encompasses blogging, writing poetry, and at least one hour of reading. My reading list each day includes books about the craft of writing as well as blogs, magazines and journals. It’s so important to immerse yourself in the language and writing style of the latest authors, plus contemporary writers within your own professional genre.
Having a daily practice that includes reading as well as writing will do more than hone your writing chops, you’ll find yourself believing more (after all you’re reinforcing with action every single day). If you persevere, at some point you will start thinking of yourself as a professional writer.
Someone who believed in their writing enough to pitch a potential copywriting client or magazine, enough to write more than the book outline, or submit your short story collection to a publisher. Enough to move your inner knowing that you are a writer to a real externalisation — like creating an author FB page or tweeting out your novella.
Getting started as a professional writer will probably start with trepidation and maybe even terror, but with a daily writing practice that’s begins every morning as the sun is rising, you can build the confidence (as well as the discipline required) to make money from your writing.
© 2018 Melinda J. Irvine