I love writing, but I make no pretense about why I do it: It pays the bills. Time doesn’t allow for me to be anything other than practical, even when it involves this thing I love. It’s a reality that I see many writers struggle with, particularly if they got into writing with the idea that some day they would write The Great American Novel.
I get excited about my clients’ projects and ideas, usually because I’m challenged to think of a better, smarter way to capture what’s amazing about their work. However, I don’t look for ways to romanticize how I write about their latest product or market strategy. Writing is my job, and I do my best to treat it with the respect both it and my clients deserve. Yes, I do get writer’s block, but project deadlines often require that I pull out the metaphorical jack hammer.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but forcing the issue provides the necessary perspective to get the job done and usually done well. I completely understand the need to take a break or look for inspiration elsewhere. However, what separates the professional from the amateur comes down to pushing through, to not letting yourself off the hook.
This isn’t about process, because different writers work successfully in different ways. It is about intent.
What do I mean by intent? This post was originally inspired during a re-read of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. Early on in the book he shares a story from when he participated on a writing panel. He offered up these words of advice to the audience of aspiring writers:
“If your job is to write everyday, you learn to do it like any other job.”
When you sit down to write, do you give it your full attention? Do you give it the respect of a job or do you treat it as a hobby? It matters little to me if it’s a blog post or a book. If you’re serious about writing, you need to understand your intent and what you’re willing to commit. If you aren’t willing to take what you do seriously how can you expect anyone to take the results of your work seriously?
Writing asks something of the writer, and in return, the act of putting words on a page, can give us something back—the perfect sentence, the clear paragraph, even the thought-provoking page. It’s why I bristle when someone offhandedly says, “Maybe I’ll try writing someday.”
“Trying” when it comes to writing isn’t enough. It’s not enough for the writer and it certainly isn’t enough for the client. If you’ve embraced writing as something more than a hobby, understand that we don’t have the luxury of taking a day off from it because we aren’t in the mood. We must find a way to get words on the page, to treat writing, as Zinsser notes, like any other job. That’s what makes you a writer.
Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle