Don’t Tell Me Your Aspirations

Ever since I started really trying to reach out to other writers on Twitter, I’ve read a lot of writers’ bios.  A lot of them.  I can’t help but notice some of the same phrases show up over and over again, and sure, that’s totally understandable — there are only so many ways you can describe yourself in 160 characters.

But there’s one phrase that makes me grind my teeth in annoyance every single time I trip across it. So, please, just for me, for the sake of my dentist’s bills —

Please stop saying you’re an “aspiring writer.”

Why, you’re wondering? What’s wrong with that? Let me tell you.

See, I know what you’re trying to say. What you probably mean is, you haven’t been published yet. Or, maybe you’ve had a couple of pieces published here and there, but you haven’t landed that big book deal yet.  That’s cool.  I get it.  Everybody starts somewhere, and I’ve got a long road ahead of me myself.

But that really doesn’t matter.  What you’re doing every time you call yourself an “aspiring writer” is that you’re apologizing, you’re trying to warn people — “Oh, hey, listen — I’m not a real writer yet.”

To hell with that. Yes, you are.

I know you don’t feel like you’ve gotten there yet. I know you’re holding out for that moment, whatever it is — when you first get a check for your writing, or when you first hold a magazine in your hands that has one of your stories in it, or when you first see one of your books in a bookstore. Then, then you’ll stop being an “aspiring writer” and you’ll just finally be a “writer,” full stop, no qualifiers.

I’m not even going to talk about the fact that in these days of vanishing book-store chains and rising self-publishers, the defining  lines are becoming increasingly blurry.  All I’m gonna say is, that day you’re waiting for is never gonna get here.  If you’ve got that little voice inside your head telling you that you’re not a “real writer” yet, then that same little voice is going to keep moving the damn goalposts.  “Oh, sure,” it’ll tell you, “you finally sold a book, but you don’t have a three-book contract yet.”  Or, “okay, fine, you’re selling your stories, but not enough to make a living on, not like real writers do.”

Just stop it. Stop listening to that voice, don’t play its games any more.

And for God’s sake, stop advertising the fact.  Stop telling people like me that you’re not really a writer yet, so we’ll stop thinking, “Oh, well, okay, thanks — I won’t take you seriously, then.”  Because that’s the automatic reaction.

I’m pretty sure it’s the exact opposite of the reaction you want.  You probably say that you’re an “aspiring writer” because you’ve decided that’s what’s important to you, that’s what you’re working on.

Good. I think that’s awesome. Just stop waiting for your notarized Official Writer Certificate to arrive in the mail.

Here’s the only criterion — do you write?  Stories, articles, poems, whatever you’ve set out to do, do you write?  Put the words down on the page, finish what you start, get the job done?

Then you’re a writer.