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.

writing pin
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.

91 thoughts on “The Surprising Path to Becoming a Professional Writer

  1. Thanks, Mr. Jeff, for your unending encouragement and consistency. Biggest fear: That my writing is too cheesy, too soft, and afraid I will mess up big time in the view I hold and the message I convey. I notice when I write these fears right here right now helps me take responsibility for them and deal with them. Thank you.

  2. I like writing.. but I don’t want to be a writer. I want to sell my textile artwork and build it into a smart little collection that people will want to buy. Biggest fear – no one will want to buy it!

    1. Martha – I am guessing you call yourself an “artist”? I understand your fear.

      Here’s a question for you – when you are creating your beautiful textiles, do you experience unbounding joy? Focus on sharing that JOY. That will draw people to your artwork. They will buy. 🙂

  3. Fear #1 – to get no reaction at all for my writing, neither good nor bad. It’s the fear of being ignored. Fear #2 – to feel uncomfortable about my previous work as I get better and develop my craft and skills.

  4. Jeff this is an excellent post. I always nod “yes” when I read your writing. My biggest limitations for turning pro are my fear of rejection and ultimately failure. I’ve been teaching for 6 years and wanting to become a full-time writer. It’s time for me to be a bit uncomfortable and go hard.

  5. Biggest fear: That everyone will look down on me because they think writing isn’t “a proper job” and they imagine me sitting in a cold apartment with no light, staring at a computer screen.

    So basically social rejection.

  6. The biggest domestic abuse in the world and in our lives is trying be who we are not. (Tweet that!). This post, this day, this is a changing day. Mark it on your calendars people, I am a writer! Going pro! Today! Stop reclaiming and taking my hands OFF what has been laid before me and going with what my identity keeps telling me I already am. A communicator. Plain simple writer, blogger, author, speaker, podcaster, freelancer, intelligent, word designer, word nerd, and speaking life, hope and freedom to anyone, everyone, all who read. (Insert battle cry here!) Thank you Jeff for being a constant source of encouragement in our true identities!

  7. I just cannot believe this came along today. This post, combined with another that came my way about an hour ago, are ones that God is using as milestone markers in my life for change this very day. And of course, you wouldn’t know that some of the exact words and phrases you use are exactly the ones that have been running through my brain; the ones that tend to drag me into defeat instead of victory. I feel like you’ve been a fly on the wall in my mind and have echoed my very thoughts in this post, but instead of the self-loathing lament that I usually hear round and round in my head, you have the ability to move the reader past any doubts and compellingly present the positive side that will enable me to push ahead and do what’s required of me, because of the gifts and abilities that God has shaped me with. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I could cry, but I’m at my day job so will refrain….. 🙂

  8. Thanks Jeff. Excellent post as always.

    One of my biggest fears at the moment is the simple idea that my writing just won’t be “good enough”. I’m trying something new at the moment by writing a short story and my worry is that I just don’t have the skill to be story teller.

    On the non-fiction side, my fear is that strangers (or friends!) might make fun of my writing! Writing non-fiction is quite a soul searching exercise and you have to be quite honest to make an impact. My worry is that my honesty will leave me open to criticism.

    It does feel good to list out these fears though! Thanks for the task. 🙂

    I also believe that the simple act of writing is the cure for these fears. I find the more I write, the more I find confidence. I have a little panic attack before I hit the Publish button on my blog posts and I imagine all sorts of negative feedback will come flooding into my inbox!

    The reality is that everyone has been very kind so far and I’ve had a couple people send some very nice and heartfelt comments, which is great! The key there is that if I had given in to my fear at the time and never published my article, then I would have missed out on those comments and connections with others.

    So yes, I would say, “do it afraid” (as you’ve said before) and the habit of daily writing will bring confidence.


  9. Thanks, Jeff.

    My biggest fears when it comes to writing:
    1) People will hate my writing.
    2) I’ll run out of things to say or get bored and quit.
    3) If I’m accidentally wrong someone will call me out in an embarrassing way.
    4) That I don’t write well enough.
    But my biggest…
    5) No one will ever see what I have to say, and the people I want to reach will never see it.

    I used to be a pretty good writer when I was younger, but I got away from doing it as much. Now, I just don’t have the confidence I used to have…and yet, I feel like writing (still trying to figure out what I want to write about) is what I NEED to do. More than most things that I do in my life, writing feels like an obligation that I keep avoiding. I’m supposed to do it, but I don’t.

    1. Thank you for saying this- ” writing feels like an obligation that I keep avoiding. I’m supposed to do it, but I don’t.” That’s how I feel most of the time, and how I felt all day yesterday, in particular. Glad I’m not the only one.

  10. My biggest fears: A lot of the writing ideas I have come from my family experiences and I’m afraid writing about them will hurt my family members. I’m also afraid of not being as good as I think I am. And being embarrassed by a mistake – I’m too much of a perfectionist to ship my writing when I should.

    1. I am so glad you brought this up – I have no idea how to write what’s been most impacting and meaningful to me without throwing one – or two – family members under the bus, or, at the very least, airing their dirty laundry. Jeff, any advice as to how to go about this delicately?

    2. That’s sort of along the lines of what I’m scared about. Thanks for sharing, as I don’t feel alone so much anymore. And I’m a perfectionist as well; some of that comes from feeling inadequate, like what we have and who we are isn’t enough.

  11. At first I thought it wasn’t fear, but in a way it is. I have issues with my memory, and it’s put my memoir on hold. It’s about exes, so this isn’t something I want to screw up. Also, since I have generalized anxiety disorder and depression, those always get in the way of being creative and energetic. I have little to no ideas to pitch to publications. Thanks for this Jeff!

  12. Challenge accepted!
    Biggest fears of going Pro with my writing:
    1. No one will respond, it won’t resonate with people
    2. I won’t have enough time to write and fulfill my other obligations
    3. Being a professional writer means I can’t (or shouldn’t) spend much of my time on my other passions
    4. Not being able to find my voice as a writer

  13. That I will be my biggest critic-leading to inaction, waiting for perfection. That I will be afraid to have a point of view.

  14. My biggest fear even after publishing my first book and revising it 3 times in two weeks, is still finding mistakes and people giving bad reviews over my imperfections. However, I still published and need to let it run off my back like water.

  15. Biggest fear about going pro? That I’ll be too different. My ideas don’t fit into boxes of what’s been proven in the industry. My mediums of choice don’t fit nicely into the world of publishing, so I may have to strike out on my own. My vision isn’t safe. I do, however, believe there’s a demand for what I’m thinking about …so maybe I just need to do it and see what happens!

  16. That my (presently hypothetical) books would end up among the junky paperbacks at yard sales. In other words (quoting Dr. Seuss), that I’d just contribute the all the “noise, noise, noise, noise!” in the world.

  17. My issue comes from feeling overwhelmed at the getting stuff out there…I have over 50 poems already written..separating them into categories. Also I have over 8 chapters rough drafted and more ideas but not sure how to complete it and move to other parts that are needed in the book…also getting website put together that looks like I want it setup Twitter, have a logo but kinda froze from moving…

  18. My fear is becoming totally transparent to not only the people in my life but myself as well. I am already translucent enough…There is also the grand possibility that my razor blade of a tongue become sharper yet. I think I may have an unrealistic desire to become a great writer starting with the naked truth about myself followed by my perceptions of random subjects that tickle my fancy at any given time. Will any of what I have to say make a difference to anyone other than myself??

  19. What’s holding me back on the fiction writing side (which I really want to try) is that I don’t actually have a specific story. I write about various things (scenes) but it’s not part of a bigger whole.
    Almost about the same time I started following you, I have been given the opportunity to write a book on my practical experience in my work field to guide and help other practitioners. Although am good at my work, I am still relatively new to this field and I am not sure of how to go explaining these things are that sort of intuitive to me. For this one, I have an outline ready and I am trying the 500words a day..

  20. And yes of course am afraid it’s not going to be good or interest anyone…but the want and need to give it a try is greater at this point…

  21. My fear is to put my writing up AS IS and without editing it a gajillion times, let people see my skill level… will they love my stories? will they reject them? WORSE- will they just not care???

    My goal is to start posting stories online and thus, grow as a writer, gain readers and spread my story around. *breaks out into a cold sweat

    CAN I DO IT???

  22. I am not afraid of anything, just as in my life, which is probably one of the reasons I have a “book” to write. But I don’t seem to find time to crawl out from under the paperwork I am burred in each day as well as emails and phone calls. Unending interruptions so that my mind does not flow like it used to. I know my grammar is bad, spell check does not always work, but I wrote a major instruction/work book for our industry and even though one may comment on that from time to time, they get so much from the book they glide right over the errors I have been correcting for 20 years. I self published it because too many professionals I turned to wanted to remove the personal data, info that I had in it. But those who purchased it loved that part, saying it felt like I was right in their living room teaching to them in person. So whatever I guess it is do it and see…. I already have an audience to begin with from those whom I have taught in my industry and sold my manual and DVD’s to. I would love to have someone edit this time though and for me to just sit and tell the stories or write them as they come to mind. I am not in to doing all the prep work, learning any more computer and software details.

  23. I’m afraid of offending people. I’m afraid of being told that what I have to write isn’t okay. I’m afraid of being told that I don’t belong. I’m afraid of ridicule. I’m basically afraid that whoever sees my words will validate all of the horrible things I say to myself to keep from writing and tell me that I don’t deserve to call myself a writer. I’ve been trying to write with your challenges since last October. I have posted and deleted thousands of words. But I keep coming back because I know that I have something to say. But I’m afraid of the consequences. I’m afraid of what I have to write just as much as I’m afraid of what the outcome will be.

    1. I encourage you to start shipping… Just start. Small steps, but always moving forward. Start putting what you have to say out there, and my hunch is that the “fallout’ won’t be anywhere near as bad as you are imagining. Realize that you are strong enough to handle the consequences; do not let perceived negativity in feedback that hasn’t even happened yet close the door for you. Go for it!

    2. Find someone you trust as a writer, and run some of the “worst” (your opinion) pieces past him. Most writers are willing to glance over something once to help a beginner. Let this person’s opinion reshape yours. Then publish!

    3. You’re offending me. What you have to write isn’t okay. You don’t belong. I’m ridiculing you. You obviously say horrible things to yourself all the time. YOU don’t deserve to call yourself a writer. Do you really have something to say??? You should be afraid of the consequences. I hope you are afraid of what you have to write just as much as your’e afraid of what the outcome will be.

      There now all your worst fears have come true in one evil response.
      Are you dead?
      Have you shrivelled up and withered away?
      No ?
      What happened? …. Nothing?
      Do you know me?
      Then why do you care about what I think?
      I dont know you, but all I see is someone putting herself down for no obvious good reason.
      People are generally nice.
      I know.
      I doorknock for a living.
      Generally people want to help and will accept your writing for what it is.
      There are going to be some Trolls …. move on.
      There are going to be those that dislike what you write. So what.
      Do you like doing it? Then just DO IT. Stuff what others think.
      You’ll probably never hear from me again.
      What difference does it make if I like or dislike what you write.

      Just go for it. As long as you are having fun doing it and not hurting anyone in the process then what’s the problem? One cool think to do is to imagine that today is the last day of your life. Get it as real as possible and then think if you would have any regrets. If you would regret not writing then you know what to do.
      Best of luck and stop putting yourself down, there are enough Muppets out there that will put you down anyway. You should at least be on your side.

      Thx A

  24. One of my biggest fears is that my story of losing 132 lbs. the natural way is not a big enough seller to gain significance in this quick-fix-world we are all drowning in. Challenge issued, and accepted!

  25. Thanks for asking us to share our fears. I’ll start with just a few of my greatest fears–1) I’m not sure how I’ll handle the success once I find it; 2) Some of the fiction pieces I’ve written are semi-autobiographical, and I fear that those who knew me when I was younger won’t understand (in short, it’ll be the first time that many of them will know some of the things that happened to me) or they’ll try to play down what they read; 3) I’m also afraid that once I’m “out there”, the people who had hurt me before will try to do so again, so I’m exploring options re. pseudonyms to publish the projects with more ticklish subject matter; 4) I want to self-publish some things first, as this seems to be the way many are starting out, but I also want to make sure I’m doing this the right way and not just slopping out something just to get it out there; and finally, 5) I’m afraid I’ve already missed a lot of great opportunities that could have been mine just because of #’s 2 and 3.

    Now, here’s the flip side. One of the self-publishing summit presentations I attended showed me how to make lists of all the questions, concerns and worries I have, so I’m doing it. What came out of this so far is that I now have some action lists to help me get in touch with the right people, fill in the gaps regarding my research, and so on. Re. #2 and #3–a life coach has been helping me sort out things and some of my childhood friendships that were once strained are being restored. However, the safety and privacy issues in #3 still remain. I’m tired of feeling like I must remain silent, yet on the same token I see the importance of self-protection. It’s almost as if the key component to healing and restoration of my life is to help others do the same through what’s happened. I know others have done so, so I know I could do it, too. I just want to make sure I do things right. There, I’ve said it. Thanks again for asking us to share our fears, as it’s the only way to move forward like never before.

  26. I’ve been making a living as a writer for 31 years, the last eight of them online. My ongoing fear is that potential readers will look at my stuff and think, “A woman? A middle-aged woman? She has nothing to say to me.”
    I don’t just write about my cute shoes and my grand-nephews. But some people can — and do! — write off anyone who doesn’t look a lot like them.
    So I keep writing, and my stuff *does* reach people I never thought would read me. Still, there’s that fear that some wouldn’t even consider it.

    1. Donna, if your age were a barrier, think of all the older writers that would never be in print!
      And you can count on it that a few people will not consider your works worthy of reading! However, with over 7 billion people out there, you can afford to lose those few! Just think if only a tiny fraction—say .1%—of them did pay attention! 😉 And 330 million are native English speakers. If only .1% of them noticed you, how many readers would you have?

      I believe it might be 330 thousand. Plenty.

  27. My big fears – no one will read what I write; no one will care about what I write; no one will like what I write – the rejection is terrifying, as it is a rejection of an inner part of me. But, I have an even bigger fear: being 80 years old, looking back on my life, and regretting that I never gave my writing a real chance, and it is too late to try. Conclusion: Regrets of my 80-year-old self trumps fear of rejection for my 30-year-old self. Time to start writing and TURN pro!!! Take that fear!!

        1. Katherine,

          Sorry for the late response. I used, and found a great one here in Phoenix! I’ve also stumbled onto a couple through other writers, and Facebook isn’t a bad place to check.


  28. I fear launching out and making huge mistakes.
    I fear having to travel a speaker circuit to make the book sell.
    I fear not breaking even.

    And I’m starting to seriously fear the dust bunnies and cobwebs around here!

    1. You will make big mistakes….this is not fatal. What is worse is not making any mistakes because you are doing nothing.

  29. I really do fear I cannot afford to publish a book. And that I’ll do it wrong and therefore cause what I know is a good book, to be ignored or rejected.
    I fear the ebook publishing maze.
    I fear spending money on things I know nothing about, and therefore wasting money.

    1. There are lots of affordable options out there, Katharine. Don’t risk money you don’t have, but don’t letter fear hold you back. Worst case, you learn a little about how not to publish a book.

    2. Katherine, book publishing is not that scary. I prefer self publishing to having your manuscript rejected 500 times….that is not funny. I had a blog for 1.5 years and that’s way harder than self publishing. Self publishing is expensive though if you want a very high quality book. I’m actually willing to work a normal job to fund this book.

      1. Being a homemaker is not an abnormal job, Nyakerima.
        Book publishing is scary to me, and to me, is very serious business that, because of my career choice, must at least break even.
        If the advice “out there” were all consistent, I’d feel less nervous, but the more I investigate, the less I am sure of.
        And I’ve even read that if anyone mentions these troubles, they place themselves in jeopardy of being blacklisted.

  30. Every time someone asks me how I can possibly support myself writing, I tell them, “You just start a project, and work until it’s done.” It’s not black magic, it’s a job. It’s not even an extremely difficult job. Anyone who passed high school English has the basic skill set. The rest is just discipline and practice.

  31. My greatest fear is I will not get many reviews when I publish my book and I will sell less than 250 copies the first year!

  32. Is this different from the Tribe Writers course?? I’m already in neck deep, have to leave some room to breathe. Love your classes Jeff, so much to learn, so little time.

  33. My biggest fear as a writer… that I will die with all of these untold stories locked away in my mind, lost forever. I’ve shared 4 published books with the world thus far (with more coming soon), but even those accomplishments seem small when I think about the bigger picture. Finding the time to develop each idea… to tell the stories I need to tell.
    I’ve dealt with the fears that others have shared here already – they are very real and can be crippling (and have kept me worried and awake at night), but you have to SOLDIER ON. Any barrier in your path – improvise, adapt, and overcome.

    1. Great comment Russ Slater, untold stories is my own private biggest fear, lost forever. That is a real mind fxxk when you think about it. That should be all the motivation writers need, but seems many are thinking bout success riches fame or failure of those lofty fantastic ideals. How many writers die relatively unknown and then their novel(s) are classics or films 50 years later? Many. Plath sold the “Bell Jar” for $750 dollars she was so broke. It was published in the UK first one month after her death. I own a copy, millions do. The 50th anniversary edition came out 2 years ago. Where would the world be if she was worried about fame and success?

  34. My biggest fear is not being able to sustain the passion I have for my projects. I have a very short attention span for my interests and passions.
    Does anyone else have this problem?

    1. Yes. Completely. You sound like you’re a Scanner / multipotentialite. There’s nothing wrong with you! Check out the website Puttylike or the book “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher. They changed my life. Embrace the many interests!

      1. Cool! I will. 🙂 thanks. My dad was the same way, and I always felt like he wasn’t doing what he was mean to do. I hope that that won’t be the case for me.
        What have you decided to do with that personality?

        1. I do a number of things. I discovered I’m a type of cyclical scanner; I have a number of interests that I rotate through. I’ve kind of settled on a life of knitting teacher / knitting pattern designer / tech editor / graphic designer / photographer / writer / blogger as my income, and I also paint, draw, colour (love those colouring books for grown ups!) and read a lot. I usually fit a couple things in my day, and I’m gradually allowing myself to obey my scanner impulses instead of forcing myself to slog through things. I’ve noticed that being interest-led during the day has given me more energy, creativity, and hope, and I’m therefore getting more of the drudgery done with less complaint. I’ve also been surprised to notice that things are still getting done on time. For example, when working on a deadline for a knitting pattern submission, I’ll also take breaks to knit something simple or fun that’s unrelated, read a book, move another project forward a little, or wash the dishes and listen to music. Or I take a little nap. Doing the other things seems to help my brain reset and allows to bring my a-game back to my work.

          1. Wow! That’s a lot of interests! That sounds fun!
            That’s cool that you’ve found a way to get things done by allowing yourself to have fun.
            I totally know what you mean about the brain reset thing.
            Unfortunately I feel like my interest in things is stunted because of my depression. I can only get so much motivation to do things. So therefore I’m not really good at doing anything. That has been a big problem.

            1. *hugs* I’ve been there. Now’s the time when you just take good care of yourself and treat your body like a precious infant that needs some loving. You don’t have to achieve lots of things; you are already worthy and how much you accomplish or don’t accomplish doesn’t affect your worth in the least. I get easily overloaded and overwhelmed, and I have to be super careful about what I do and how much I take on. I know there were a lot of things in my list of interests, but that doesn’t mean I do them all the time. And I don’t do things for other people often because working on someone else’s schedule with someone else’s expectations makes me absolutely crazy with stress. I’m learning to just be. And to say no. I still feel like I’m cheating when I sit down to design my knitting because I find it so relaxing that I have to remind myself it’s a “job.” It’s not a job — it’s my sanity. It’s tiny stitches that grow into something cozy while I watch my latest binge show on Netflix. 😉 Anyway, I just wanted you to know you’re so not alone. And you’ll find your mojo again.

      2. I just looked at your blog. Really interesting! We have a lot in common. I was homeschooled (and prob will homeschool my kids when I have them).
        I also have been battling with depression for awhile. That makes me not even passionate enough about anything to do that!

  35. It is interesting what you are trying to get across here. The message is delivered very clearly and the ideas that the content of this feature concentrates on is definitely inspiration focussed and expresses creativity. I see that there is usually a couple questions writers would want to ask before they get acknowledgement of something they have written or even just to start getting ahead with writing. My fear if I had one would probably be pondering whether my work was good enough to be published and if it is going to be received favourably from the people who read it.

  36. My greatest fear is not being able to hone my focus and develop my voice. I feel like I can write about a lot of things from a lot of different voices. I can be a prophet, a professor, even an artist, but I don’t think I can be all of those things at once, not effectively, anyhow. Writing is a full-fledged career transition for me. I believe I have things to say. I enjoy writing. I believe I can get published. I need to develop the discipline to learn to say things well.

  37. Hey Jeff,

    My problem is I don’t know which avenue to take that would build an audience. I love writing children’s books and non fiction for helping kids learn and understand science. I do both already but I’m just not sure how to build a writing platform in these areas.


  38. My fear is putting in the work and not getting published. I have been told since HS that I could be a published author. I wrote a kids book in HS and the teacher said publish it. I never did and that was almost 40 years ago. When I read I always want to write. So now I will write because I’m determined to do it.

  39. My biggest fear? Going poor. I’m living on my savings now since I resigned from a job I hated and started writing on a website I created, Struggling to decide whether I should continue the job search or figure out a way to monetize my writing.

      1. Ha! Thanks for the advice, Ellsworth. If erotica came more easily to me or was even an interest of mine I’d take your advice, but it doesn’t. I also think my disinterest in that genre would come across in my writing. BUT, I will think of your comment as I write future romance scenes for the characters in my book. 😉 Thanks again.

        1. Hi Viola, I read your blog sketch of your Dad, and said to myself – there is her book right there. Then I read that is your project. He sounds fascinating, and your relationship to and with him, and how a physician could spend the last few of his 81 years in prison. I want to know – More. Keep writing. And as far as the erotica goes, its all in the mind anyway. What would your knight appear as?

  40. I guess I’m afraid that I’ll write something I’m proud of, that took me ages, and that no one will like it, or that my ideas will suck. That all that work will have been for nothing.

  41. Writing a book is a dream which has to be followed but the difficult thing is to put that pen on paper and start the ball rolling

  42. Maybe you address this somewhere and you can point me to the right post, but one of my problems is that I don’t like sitting down for hours to write and rewrite. My writing comes from my living, and when I’m sitting down I feel like my thinking stops. I’m also a techno-dinsoaur. Do you know of a simple way to write/think while, say,
    moving around the house or working outdoors?

  43. Because, I can write ‘See Spot Run’ does not make me a professional writer. Why don’t you get gutsy honest with your readers and tell them what it ‘takes’ to be a professional writer? It may start with a ‘dream.’ And a little scribble, but that is 10% of the process. To be a professional writer, Jeff, you and I both know it takes a minimum of 5 years of daily effort. It takes reading, lots of reading, and I am not talking about your blog, I am referring to other writers you respect and some you do not. I don’t care if it is Joan Didion, DFW, or Stevie King. And please don’t ever think Nick Sparks is a writer. He has a formula he reproduces that desperate lonely women love. Kudos to him, he is rich and famous. I would rather be Chuck Bukowski – a professional writer.
    Being pro means writing for hours daily. Coming to terms with your most honest truths about yourself, about your view of the world, about your feeling on issues that matter to you, the ideas that roll around in your head, and writing about them. No one here is a literary genius and is going to publish their first essay in the “New Yorker.” This takes time. And if you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime, and don’t go submitting your work where it will be Rejected. Try writing about your son’s Little League game or your daughter’s Youth Soccer game, and send it to your local paper, “Observations of a Mom on Little League” or “Soccer and my Daughter.”
    Chances are the local editor is so desperate for a new ‘Voice’ your piece will get published, use spell check. And it don’t gotta be perfect. It simply has to be your observations that turn the ordinary into something at least a little extraordinary. When in the Little League of writing start with pieces about ‘Little League.’
    I never post on your blog. But today I am. Be honest with your writer – readers. Its work. The first thing you have to either possess or develop is the “LOVE” of writing. And that often takes practice, and when we love writing, a rejection letter means jack. Cause we will still be writing tomorrow. Sometimes I don’t open my mail for weeks, I am busy writing. I could careless what is in my mailbox, inbox, or cereal box.
    Tell your readers if they wanna turn pro to write everyday until they can sit for 4 hours and lay down 2000 words of decent work. Then after a re-write, maybe they are ready to go pro and submit a piece to a small publication. Beginning writers are always scared, ‘I am not good, I am crazy to do this, This is probably a waste of time,’ as I see in the comments. Writing about your best friend Sue in Junior High and your first kiss playing spin the bottle in Laurie’s basement after pool parties that went until dark, and what it felt like to You, is never a waste of time. Even if you never share it with someone – or have it published – this is the process of the professional writer. And through this process you will discover a ‘you’ that you never knew was there. And maybe that you is a writer.

  44. I’ve been writing since I was young. 12 maybe. Being bullied and hating the way the world ran made me and my brother escape into our own world. While others were playing in the park, we were locked in our room playing out our world and creating the bomb to start my book. I’ve been writing my book for over eight years now and it has become my life and is still my refuge from the troubling reality. I want to become a full time author and write my series until the day I die. Trouble is that I’m afraid of all the things everyone has already said and I feel like I wouldn’t be able to bounce back from rejection. Any pointers on getting over this fear?

    1. Dear Mr. Parsons, can’t help myself, you withstood bullying from kids at school who we all know can be cruel and filled with malice. Write your series, there are millions of folks like you who would love to enjoy your prose. Rejection, sounds like you can handle that. It’s only a word, Not a definition of who you are as a human being or a writer. Understand your writing is for you first. And for others second. Let the idea of rejection slip away like a dead fish used for chum, eaten by anxious Mako sharks.

  45. I’ve only started writing a few months ago and to be honest i love it i have all these ideas and I’m really excited to see where this goes. My biggest fear would be rejection…. i get that not everyone has the vision you have but the thought of being rejected is scary. I’ve shared some of my writing with family, friends and even complete strangers and they all had nothing but positive things to say which is great and gives me hope. eventually i would love to just be a full time author and focus on writing and have my books published. point is I’m terrified of rejection any advise on what i could do to get over this fear?

    1. As John Belushi said in Animal House, “Start drinking heavily.” You started writing a few months ago and you are worried about rejection from NYC publishers? Critics, your potential readers, give yourself a chance to bloom.

  46. I love this blog. Its educative. Check out mine on To view my books go to my restore

  47. I am taking baby steps to get out of my comfort zone and do some uncomfortable things to get ahead and prosper. (Old habits die hard, believe me.) The one thing I’m working on is sacrificing sleep to gain some time for writing and whatever else I need to do at the moment while working a part-time job. And doing some work that I don’t necessarily like sounds like part of God’s plan for his calling on my life. Being available whenever He calls.

  48. Hi Jeff. I started blogging in July. I love it. That got me out of the “maybe I can do this” zone to absolutely WANTING to become a published stay home writer. I have had several published pieces w/Clubhouse, Focus on the Family & other children’s magazines & I write for a Christian newspaper by-monthly. That thrill of acceptance each time is such a great blessing & reward but unless I have the $$ to self publish, how do I get that first BIG acceptance for the 2 books I am working on, plus all my children’s books? I AM doing the work. My limited computer skills on my blog site are pitiful, and I know that is discouraging me & I have tried to convince myself I’m ok if I just write all I want & it doesn’t go beyond that but now I realized I’m lying to myself. I definitely want more. I recently ordered 3 of your books. Can’t wait til they arrive. Surely I’ll find some new answers. Thank you for all your efforts for writers like me! I just started your 31 day challenge…3 days…2000 words on my blog! Woo Hoo! lane @ Memory Lanes Site:

  49. Feeling light after reading your article.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is very helpful to the writers wannabe like me 🙂 🙂

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