The First Question You Must Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Professional Writer

Note: This post is about how I became a professional writer. At the end, I link to a video that shares more on the process. If you want to skip to that, just click here.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. –Proverb 23:7

I waited seven years to do this. I read dozens of books and wasted hours upon hours every week meeting with people, trying to learn this simple secret. It was the answer to the question my heart was asking. Maybe you’re asking it, too.

Professional Writer
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Do I have what it takes?

Every writer struggles with this. In fact, every person grapples with it on some level. It’s not just a creative struggle, but a human one. We all are wondering if what we are made of is enough. Can we really survive this trauma, this struggle, this current trial – whatever it may be?

The answer, though, is not something you can find out there, in the world. It’s something you must grapple with from within. It’s a question only you can answer. And for the longest time, I misunderstood this.

My awakening

When I was starting out a few years ago as a blogger, I had a few conversations that changed my life. Even though this question your heart is asking is one you know the answer to, you will find guides along the way. These were mine.

CONVERSATION #1: In an interview, Steven Pressfield told me that a writer becomes a writer “when he says he is.” It doesn’t matter what other people think. It matters what you think, what you believe about yourself.

CONVERSATION #2: A few months later, I was having a conversation with my friend Paul and he asked me what my dream was. I told him I didn’t have any, and he looked surprised.

“Really? Because I would’ve thought your dream was to be a writer.”

“Well,” I said. “Yeah, I guess I’d like to be a writer… some day.”

“Jeff,” he said. “You don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer. You just need to write.”

That was all it took for me to get started. And what happened next was nothing short of extraordinary:

  • I launched a blog which had over 50,000 monthly readers by the end of the first year.
  • The next year, I replaced my wife’s income, and a few months later replaced my own.
  • A few months after that, I quit my job and became a professional writer and never looked back.

It sounds like it happened so fast, but really the process took about nine years – seven years of waiting and two years of finally doing the work. But all of this knowledge is worthless without understanding one simple principle.

BONUS DOWNLOAD: Watch my free video in a three-part series on what it takes to become a professional writer. Click here to get started.

The Activity-Identity Principle

I don’t know why, but when I started calling myself a writer, everything changed.

Maybe it was because now that I was owning my identity, I felt pressured to live into it. Or maybe we are all waiting to become who we really are. Regardless, I now believe in a very simple but powerful principle:

Activity always follows identity. 

This, I think, is the reason behind most people’s struggles. And it’s the secret to breakthrough in your career, your goals, and your life. Before you can do something, you have to become someone.

But where, exactly, do you begin?

Start with your words, with the everyday things you say (or think) about yourself. In the words of Mr. Pressfield, “You are when you say you are.” And that, as simple, as it sounds, just might be the answer.

Here’s your challenge (and a free video series)

If you’ve read my blog for some time, you’re probably not unfamiliar with this story or even this idea of owning your identity. Because of the impact it’s had on my life, I’ve written about it many times.

But just because you’ve heard this doesn’t mean you’ve applied it, right? Often, it’s the most familiar things that we take for granted the most.

So if you’re reading this and feeling a little uncomfortable, maybe that’s a prompting. Maybe it’s time for you to take a significant step towards changing your life. Maybe it’s time to become yourself.

Here’s what I want you to do. Try this out. If you were like me, wondering when you would have permission to start writing, why not do what I did, what my friend made me do?

Call yourself a writer. And watch your confidence grow. Slowly, you will begin to believe more in yourself, and your competence will increase. It's a mysterious but beautiful process. As you declare these things to be true, you are becoming more that person.

If you're in, go watch the first video in my three-part series on the questions every writer must ask and be sure to leave a comment declaring yourself a writer!