by Kate Colby
So writing is your creative calling, your life’s purpose, your ultimate joy. Congratulations! You’re part of (in my totally unbiased opinion) one of the best groups of people in the world. You know it, I know it — and yet, your friends and family don’t.
After all, what’s so special about being a writer? Literally billions of people on the planet write every day. It’s a basic life skill, one of the first we learn. And as a career? Psh! You might as well steal a cardboard box from behind your local grocery store and get comfy on the street.
Let’s get this out of the way: writing is a viable career and meaningful task. Whether you do it professionally or for pleasure, you deserve to be taken seriously and to receive the same respect that other professionals or dedicated hobbyists receive.
That being said, there are ways to make it easier for your friends and family to take your writing seriously. Here are a few:
Write (and write regularly)
This may seem obvious, but you would not believe how many people I knew in college (myself included), who did more talking about writing than actual writing. That doesn’t work. You have to write to be a writer. Period. I know how to dive, and I enjoy doing so when the mood strikes and I happen to be at the pool. But I don’t go diving regularly. And I would never call myself a diver.
Once writing, call yourself a writer
Often, “aspiring” writers feel like imposters for calling themselves writers. Don’t. If you write regularly, enjoy writing, and intend to make writing a part of your professional or personal life, you are a writer. The sooner you embrace and use the label, the sooner your friends and family will, too.
Treat writing like a job
In order to finish a writing piece, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work. This means protecting your writing time. If you’re stuck at the office with a huge deadline and your friend asks you out to lunch, what do you do? Hint: you stay and get your work done, lest your boss fire you. If you want to make writing a career, you must be equally vigilant. When you make your writing a priority, others will see that it is, too.
Don’t play into “writer” cliches
There is this insane idea floating around the internet that writers are miserable. Like, we don our berets, pour a glass of whiskey, and slit our wrists over the keyboard. Is writing always fun? No. It’s actually pretty difficult work. But it also shouldn’t be torturous (if it is, you might look at a different field). There is no nobility in self-induced suffering. And if you exude misery to your friends and family, they’re not going to view you as “authentic.” If they care for your happiness, they’re probably going to encourage you to quit.
Don’t downplay your accomplishments
When a lawyer wins a trial, she doesn’t say, “Oh, yeah, I said some stuff and the bad guy went away.” When you finish a book, publish it, or receive a publishing contract, don’t be self-deprecating (but don’t be an asshole, either). Own up to your success, thank those who have supported you, and reach for an even bigger goal.
Be clear about your goals
If writing is a dedicated hobby, that’s fine. Call it that, and inform your loved ones exactly what you get out of it (satisfaction, stress relief, joy, etc.). If writing is your chosen career, explain your plans. Describe what kinds of books you intend to write, your publication plans, and where you see your writing business in five to ten years. If you are driven, logical, and enthusiastic (and can back up your dreams with action plans, facts, and figures), the people in your life will realize that you have thought this through and that writing is a viable life choice.
And if all else fails…let people think what they want. In the end, what matters most is how you view yourself. If you are happy and fulfilled as writer, if you know that your hobby or career is right for you, and you just plain love writing — that’s all you need.
Guest post contributed by Kate M. Colby. Kate is a writer of multi-genre fiction and creative nonfiction as well as a writing-craft blogger. Kate graduated summa cum laude from Baker University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology.