I think most writers start writing in their spare time. They’re going about their lives until they have a great idea. Then they write. The problem is people like this are easily swayed into quitting. No matter how brilliant the concept, most of these writers don’t have the discipline or attitude to keep moving forward. I know this from experience. There were several times that I started a project but didn’t have the resolve to push through. When my writing was lacking, I took it as a hint that I would never be able to do that story justice. So, I did what a writer is never supposed to do…I deleted the file (good thing those ideas were terrible).
Then one day I had a dream that I believed would be a great scene in a book. Five years later, I began writing down that idea. I was surprised when I kept writing – the ideas kept flowing. I let go the urge to scrutinize my work and just let my fingers tap their way across the keys. Within a few months, I had a first draft. It was basic, it was poorly written, but I had a complete story. Having that finished manuscript was like getting my merit badge. “I did it!” I did something that many people only wish they could do. I knew that my finished work was, in actuality, nowhere near finished. There was a lot of editing ahead of me, but I knew in that moment that I wanted to be a writer.
So, what separates a hobby writer from a serious writer. Some might say that it’s making a living off of your work, but I disagree. In order to make a living, you have to write it first. Some might contest that one must quit their day job. No, absolutely not. Do not quit your day job. So what is it? Here are the basics of what I believe constitutes a writer from the hobbyist.
This doesn’t mean that you need to go back to college and finish or advance your degree unless you want to. But there are podcasts, writing sites, writing books, conferences, writing magazines, writer’s groups, and workshops. These are all accessible to you. A real writer educates themselves on how to improve their craft and are always trying to be better than they were before.
Writing is the most important thing you can do as a writer. The runner-up is reading. Reading fiction, reading writing books, reading magazines, and reading whatever peaks your interest. Football coaches study other coaches. They learn their trick plays, they learn from their weakness and strengths, and then they use that knowledge to enhance their players’ game. It’s the same with writing. You need to know how good writing both functions and malfunctions. The best place to find examples are in published books and other writing.
Schedule Writing Time
Someone might contest that they don’t have time to write. If you have a day job, have loved ones to care for, or school, it can be difficult to find time to write but not impossible. I write during the day and read at night, but if I had a day job, I’d read on my commute and lunch break and then write when my kids are in bed. You have to make the time. If you don’t make the time, writing isn’t a priority for you. If you want to loose weight, you make the time to make healthier meals and exercise. If you don’t make the time for those things, the goal of loosing weight was clearly overpowered by the other priorities in your life.
Sacrifice the Unnecessary
This goes hand-in-hand with Schedule Writing Time. In order to make time, you need to get rid of the fluff. This will be different for everyone. I gave up television, and I can’t tell you how many times I have people recommend a T.V. show that I “simply must watch”. However, that was the time-waster that I chose to forfeit. Someone might choose movies, playing sports, watching sports, playing video games, book clubs, or any number of things that pull them away from writing. Spending time with your family, helping your children with their homework, exercise, meditation, schoolwork, work, and other necessities are never sacrifice-able. Unnecessary time-fillers are the expendables. Untie whatever hold these leeches have on you so that you can choose writing instead.
Let me be clear, I have nothing against hobby writers. Many writers start off this way because they feel they need to. I did, but at some point you have to decide how serious you want to take your writing. Do you want to spend the next twelve years working on the same manuscript? I sure don’t. I made the decision, and now when someone asks me what I do, I proudly tell them that I am a writer.