It’s Not Your Publishing Credits or Your Follower Count That Makes You a Writer — It’s This.

It’s OK to not feel OK.

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We’ve all had those days — the ones where we clock out of our day jobs, greet our fur babies, sit down on the couch for five minutes … and then it’s 9 PM and oops we didn’t write again oh well maybe tomorrow!

And repeat.

But there are also days we do try to write. And it doesn’t always go well. Sometimes the words just aren’t coming out right. Or you got another rejection email and you don’t want to even look at your computer screen anymore. Or the 40-hour workweek is exhausting you so intensely that even your small writing accomplishments don’t feel worth celebrating.

Sometimes … you just don’t feel like a writer.

And then you start questioning whether or not what you’re doing actually matters.

You haven’t published a best-seller. You’re tweeting into the void and no one’s responding. You barely even blog anymore. Should you even bother?

Maybe you’re just not looking at the correct definition of “writer.”

Chances are, if you’re chipping away at a book, trying to write blog posts, or even just sketching out ideas as they come, you’re actually doing just fine.

What makes you a “real” writer isn’t how many things you’ve published, how much money you’ve made, how many people follow you or even how long you’ve been doing it.

What makes you a writer is the simple fact that every day, you wake up not only believing that your work matters, but also that you’re trying as hard as you can to make your big dreams a reality.

This doesn’t mean you have to physically write something every day. It doesn’t mean you have to send 1,000 emails a week to editors or agents. It doesn’t mean that if you feel like you’re struggling, you’re not doing your best.

Writing is hard. I will never try to sugar-coat that. I will never try to crush someone’s dreams by saying “becoming” a writer takes years of practice, hard work, and exhaustion. Because I don’t know of any writer who doesn’t feel the weight of The Grind.

Everyone is trying to get better at some aspect of their craft. And everyone is struggling with something that has nothing to do with their writing projects, and has to figure out how to write and deal with that at the same time.

If you’re writing 50 words a day, and that’s it, you’re still a writer.

If you’re taking some time off of writing to deal with life, but you’re still thinking about all the stories you could tell, you’re still a writer.

If you hate your day job and can only stand to write a few days a week, you’re still a writer.

If you’ve been trying to finish the same book for five years, writing one page at a time, you’re still a writer.

What makes someone a writer is that they are writing. Maybe no one will ever see that first draft. Maybe a magazine will never pick up your essay. Maybe you’ve collected so many rejections you’ve forgotten what it’s like to receive praise. It doesn’t matter. Your best is your best, and that has to be good enough. It’s better than not trying at all.

It might not always feel like you’re doing fine. But if you keep going, keep writing, keep trying, it’s all going to work out. You have to believe that. We all do.

Here's some extra encouragement for you today.

When Writing Reminds You You're Not Very Good at This (Yet)

When It Feels Like No One Else Is Proud of You

Do This the Next Time You Feel Like Leaving the Writing Life Behind

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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19 thoughts on “It’s Not Your Publishing Credits or Your Follower Count That Makes You a Writer — It’s This.

  1. Yes to all of this but especially this part “Maybe you’ve collected so many rejections you’ve forgotten what it’s like to receive praise.” Thank you for putting into words exactly what all writers go through.

  2. Thank you Meg for another amazing and really encouraging post! Throughout life it is so easy to lose track of where we are and where we are going, but at the end of the day being true to ourselves is extremely important! I definitely needed to read this fantastic post today, so thank you for that kick start!

  3. I am a person that thinks about writing every day – I am struggling right now to find a balance between the day job and my love of writing. My job situation as not been stable lately and this does not make for a cohesive writing frame of mind. Although sometimes – my best ideas come from the hard spots in life.

    Hopefully, I will soon be able to breathe a little – easier and put down on paper my short story series – that has been brewing in the back of my mind – waiting to be served up. Thank you – for the great advice! :)

    1. I’ve been dealing with similar circumstances. Sometimes the best you can do is take it one day at a time and keep that spark of inspiration alive even when you can’t write when/how much you want to right now.

  4. This reminds me of a quote from Neil Gaiman, where someone asked him for “the secret” to becoming a writer, and at first he answered “just write”, but when they persisted he crafted this elaborate story involving plants, seeds, birds, following the bird to a distant mountain, etc.

    I think it is both important, and kind, to offer messages like this. One thing I take comfort in is the fact that even the most financially successful artists still feel a certain amount of doubt.
    Actually I recently heard an interesting quote from Lindsey Stirling, where she admitted that she still struggles with doubt and anxiety before every performance, and what’s helped her is accepting that she is someone who feels those doubts, and that’s not going to change, but what she can do is add positive energy into the equation, through meditation, rituals, and other habits that help her remember that many times she has struggled with doubt, and still triumphed.

    And there’s that classic choice of saying “Wow, I have something in common with Neil Gaiman and Lindsey Stirling…maybe I have other things in common too.”

    1. Lindsey Stirling <3 she is my biggest inspiration right now. I went to her Chicago tour stop this past Christmas and she talked about how when she was in college, she'd just go places and start playing her violin just so someone would hear her. This keeps me going every single day.

  5. Great post! I think everyone feels like a bad writer (or none at all) at some points. And that’s okay. But if writing is what you love, that shouldn’t keep you from doing it. I love posts that are honest about the struggles writers face. And it’s true, who is to say what a “real” writer is, anyway? If you love writing, and you write, you’re a writer. Maybe not a bestselling author, but a writer. And that’s a wonderful thing. So, thank you a lot for that post! ;)

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