You may or may not have wanted to become a writer from an early age. Perhaps you only felt the urge to begin writing much later in life. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start. If you are still having doubts as to whether you are meant to be a writer, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Did you want to be a writer when you were a child?
Every child gets asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up”. I imagine not many of them answer that they want to be writers. For those who have always loved to write, even from a very early age, they probably don’t suffer the same doubts as the rest of us. However, they are in the minority and many of us find ourselves as adults still asking questions about our purpose in life. For some of us the signs were probably there from childhood in subtle form – a love of books, a keen ability to observe and a tendency to be introspective. For many, the road to becoming a writer is a long and winding one and it can even take decades to manifest as a reality.
2. Do you love to read?
Not everyone who loves reading is born to write but writers are usually avid readers. Do you admire great writers and dwell on the beauty of their prose? Do you wish you could write like them? Do you love reading because it inspires you and exposes you to new ideas and different ways of thinking? Do you have a fascination with words? When you come across a word you do not recognize, do you try to decipher its meaning from the context of the sentence and then check it in the dictionary to see if you are right?
3. Do you feel you could live your life without writing?
Is something missing in your life when you don’t write? If you feel that it’s not a vital necessity for you to write, you probably shouldn’t. If you have a need to write and to express yourself through the written word, it’s torture to imagine a life without writing. It would be like trying to live without a vital part of yourself.
4. Can you handle rejection?
If you want to be a writer, but you can’t handle rejection, you are not going to go very far. Rejection stings and writers tend to be a sensitive bunch. It’s hard not be become disillusioned when you’re turned down. You have to remember that being rejected does not necessarily mean your writing is bad or has no value. Rejection is based on another person’s opinion and that person isn’t always right. Most great writers have had a couple of rejections along the way. On the other hand, you must be open to receive constructive criticism from those you trust and respect. You need to highly value any honest feedback that can help you to understand what’s good about your writing and where you need to improve.
5. When you’re writing, do you forget to eat and sleep?
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that you lose track of time? Have you ever found yourself sitting at the computer churning out words long after everyone else has gone to bed? When you’re in that timeless, creative zone, the last thing you do is worry about your bodily needs. You become extremely focused on what you are doing to the extent that all else fades into insignificance.
6. Do you feel a yearning to write?
Many writers feel a deep yearning to express themselves. That yearning does not go away, despite practical worries, fear of what other people will think and the knowledge that success as a writer is not guaranteed. If you have that yearning, follow it and see where it takes you. Forget about your inadequacies and excuses. Some of us manage to suppress the yearning to write for years but it rarely disappears – it merely goes underground and demands attention again at a later stage.
7. Are you prepared to put in the practice to improve your skills?
“Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.”
– Ray Bradbury
All writers improve with practice and some may need more practice than others. If you continue to write, even if you don’t feel like it, you will begin to stimulate a flow a words. Even when you least feel like writing, do it anyway. Just get those words out – it may be surprising which words become the important ones. It takes practice to find your voice and style.
Everything involves sacrifice, including writing. Are you able to stay up all night writing to meet a deadline? Are you able to handle the loneliness that comes with shutting yourself away for hours at a time from other people? Writing a thousand words a day may seem difficult at first but with practice it’s not hard at all.
8. Are you prepared to study?
As an aspiring writer, are you prepared to study writing techniques? Perhaps you feel that all you need is that desire to write and that you do not need to learn any skills. Imagine if an artist did not want to learn about proportion, shape, lines, texture, contrast and colour mixing? Learning the skills involved in writing does not mean sticking to a formula that restricts your creativity. In fact, it can unleash your creativity. Imagine a pianist trying to write a new song without knowing any notes.
The most riveting writing can be hard to read when it contains basic grammatical errors. In this digital age, we tend to be lazy about grammar. Even if our grammar skills are lacking we have tools to help us eliminate unnecessary errors. Much writing today is published without going through the hands of an editor so it’s important to pay attention to grammar. People may be put off in the first paragraph by your sloppy writing and never read your heartfelt essay.
9. Do you have something to say?
Do you have things inside you that you want very badly to communicate to people and writing is the best way to do it? It’s good to learn writing skills but your writing needs to come from a compulsion to communicate. People will respond to your passion rather than to writing that’s simply a vehicle for showing the skills you have mastered and how clever you are.
Do you want your words to make a difference in the world and impact people’s lives? Research shows that if you want to live happily and healthily, you need to focus on more than just your own fulfillment. That feeling of making a difference is important. Our world has many problems that need addressing – global warming, racism, sexism, governmental corruption, domestic violence, lack of basic resources. If you have something to say about a particular problem, writing about it can contribute towards making a difference. Of course, you are not going to fix the problem by your writing alone but your words can help to draw attention to an issue and inspire people to try and solve it.
10. Are you prepared to embarrass yourself?
If you are going to be a writer who makes an impact with your words, you need to be able to deal with embarrassment. If you try to avoid ever being embarrassed, you will stay within your comfort zones and never achieve your goals. You may think and dream about writing but never do it because you’re afraid of other people’s opinions.
You should never compromise your writing because you fear what others will think of you. Words have power and as a writer, you may have to challenge people and make them think. This sometimes makes them uncomfortable and they will react. Their reaction means you are probably achieving your purpose and you need to continue rather than back off. It can be scary when what you write is contrary to majority opinion. You cannot compromise because you want to be accepted and feeling foolish or embarrassed may be an essential part of your journey.
11. Do you want to make money writing?
If your main reason for wanting to write is to make money, you shouldn’t even think about it. There are definitely easier ways to make money. Perhaps you are thinking of all those other benefits too like flexible hours and being your own boss. Unless you are passionate about the writing itself, you are likely to fall by the wayside. It’s far better to do your best and start putting your writing out there without initially focusing on how much money you are going to make. There is some truth to the idea that if you do what you love, the money will come.
There is nothing wrong with making money from your writing. It’s much easier to do this today with all the potential to make money online. There are plenty of people making a good living from writing and wanting to support yourself or your family through writing is a worthwhile goal. However, if your focus is only on making money, this goal may be elusive. Readers are more perceptive today than ever before and they can tell when you are are trying to take their money without offering them true value. The life of a writer has never been the most stable occupation although it can be incredibly rewarding in many ways, including financially.
12. If you only had a year left to live, would you spend it writing?
None of us like to think about our own mortality but thinking about this question may help you to zero in on what’s truly important to you. People who have had a near death experience often have a greater sense of direction and purpose afterwards. My father felt a sense of urgency to begin writing two years before he died. He had never even voiced a desire to write before. He managed to finish his book, leaving behind a legacy of his words. If you imagine life going on without you, what would you want to leave behind? If you want to leave a legacy of words then you have to take action. It’s often only once you have started taking action that you begin to get more clarity and discover what your true passion.