Every time I see someone describing themselves as an aspiring writer, I want to shout at them, “There’s no such thing! Being a writer is like being pregnant – you either are or you aren’t. So are you writing or not?” Because if you write, you’re a writer. And if you don’t, then you’re not.
Saying you are an aspiring writer has as much meaning as me saying I’m an aspiring rich person. Let’s read between the lines. It means I would like to be rich but I’m not. It also likely means I don’t have a clear plan of how I’m going to become a rich person. I’m also an aspiring piano player, an aspiring helicopter pilot and an aspiring hermit.
Some people seem to have trouble with this concept. They think of writing as something they might do one day, like retiring and travelling the world after they’ve finished working their real job, paying off their mortgage and raising their family. But just like retiring and travelling the world, it requires a lot of preparation. You can’t just decide you want to do it one day and the next day be doing it. At least, if you do, you won’t be doing it well.
Only a miniscule percentage of a miniscule percentage of writers write something perfect and publishable on their first go. The vast majority that comprises the rest of us have to practise and practise and practise. And while we’re practising, we’re writers. Whether or not anyone else reads it is irrelevant. Do you really want the first thing you write to be the one and only book you’ve got in you? Wouldn’t you rather it was the tenth book and have the knowledge and skill that comes with practising to help make it the best possible book it can be?
The great thing about writing is that you don’t require anyone else’s permission to do it. It doesn’t require study or training, although that helps sometimes. You don’t have to be a member of any group or if you write something you aren’t happy with, you don’t have to show it to anyone. You can write a little here and a little there in between working your real job, paying off your mortgage and raising your family. And anyone with a basic knowledge of the language they want to write in can do it.
So if you want to do it, then do it. But if you aren’t doing it, then stop telling us that you want to, that you might one day. People who want to, who might one day are unpredictable and, worse, unreliable. And every day you don’t write is another day of diminishing credibility.
So write. Or don’t. Just don’t call yourself an aspiring writer.
*First published in Project December: A Book about Writing