The Surprising Path to Becoming a Professional Writer

You’d like to write a book some day. You’d love to get your words out there. Heck, you wouldn’t mind even getting paid to share them with the world.

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Photo Credit: yksin via Compfight cc

But that’ll never happen, you say. This is just a hobby, something I do for fun. I don’t have what it takes to turn pro. And that, in the words of Yoda, is why you fail.

Before you know it, you’re back to using words like someday and wannabe. You’re back to thinking small, like an amateur. And slowly, your dream dies before it ever had the chance to live.

So what if you stopped thinking like that?

What if all it took to become a writer was to start thinking one? What if writing wasn’t this thing only the elite got to do, but a craft anyone could tackle?

Most of us are content to look at the opportunities others have been given and lament what we’ve lost. We would rather find an excuse for our inaction than a solution to our problems. I know, because I used to do this (and still sometimes do).

The simple shift that made me a writer

For years, I thought of my writing as merely a hobby, something I did on the side. I never would have called myself a writer and certainly wouldn’t have seriously tried to publish anything.

But one day, I met someone who taught me how this thinking was preventing me from the success I wanted. He said to me, “Jeff, you don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer. You just need to write.”

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know those simple words — “you are a writer, you just need to write” — truly did change my life. But maybe you missed the importance behind them.

I don’t want you to get me wrong. You can’t just think your way into a new life. You have to work at it, and it won’t be easy. This is not as woo-woo as it sounds. It’s hard to change the way you think.

But here’s the thing: once I started thinking differently about who I really was — a writer, not a wannabe — the activity that followed didn’t feel forced. In a way, I had to believe I could be a writer before I became one. And maybe that’s not such a crazy thing, after all.

Better questions, not more answers

Every day, I meet people who want to become writers. They have a book in them and a love for words they just want to let out. They don’t have any delusions of making a million dollars or getting on the Today Show to promote their book. They just want to be heard.

I wanted the same thing — not fame or riches, just an opportunity to say something that people would listen to and hopefully appreciate.

Now, after publishing four books and getting the opportunity to speak to hundreds of thousands of people every month, I am amazed at how important that simple mindset shift was for me. In order for me or you or anyone of us to do the real work of a writer, we have to stop looking for answers and instead learn to ask better questions.

What questions are you asking? Share in the comments.