He promises himself he will write.
He wants to.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. I’ve gotten a flurry of emails lately from people on the Writer’s Living mailing list who feel a bit stuck. They want to write, long to be called writers, dream of selling something one day.
But they live in disappointment and frustration. It seems that everything in life is teaming up against them, to keep them from writing: The kids need attention, the day job is super demanding, the house needs a good cleaning.
It’s not those things that are keeping them from a writing career, though. It’s them.
Maybe it’s you.
If you crave a writing career but seem never to find time to write, then the problem isn’t anyone else. It’s what is going on in your head.
Prove to yourself that you are a writer
The story of you is saying that you will never be a writer, you don’t deserve to be a writer, that you’ll never have writing success. The doubts eat away at your confidence and it seems that your life is a self-fulfilling prophecy: You can’t be a writer because you have nothing to show for yourself. Your emotions and self-image of who you are as a writer are fueling your lack of progress, and your lack of progress is fueling your emotions and self-image of who you are as a writer. They are conspiring to keep you just there. Not great, right?
You need to reframe the story of you. Stop telling yourself that you’ll never be a writer. Stop telling yourself you can’t, you don’t have, and that you’re not good enough. Science tells us that we think about 60,000 thoughts a day. Most of them are negative. Yes, negative, just like the thoughts you’ve been having. The “I can’t,” “I’ll never be,” “I am not,” type of thoughts that stand in the way of your success.
We can’t choose every thought that enters our heads, but we can choose the thoughts we embrace. So embrace the good thoughts of who you are as a writer. Starting here:
Look yourself in the mirror and say, “I am a writer.”
And then write.
I know, I know, you might not believe yourself when you say you are a writer. That’s because you’ve let yourself down before. But say it, anyway. “I am a writer.”
You’ve got something to prove.
Promise this one small thing
You’re the only person who can rewrite the story of who you are as a writer.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve disappointed yourself in the past. It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed before. It doesn’t even matter if you’re not very good.
All that matters is that you choose to rewrite the story.
Starting now. See, you’ll always have demands on your time. But if you truly want to be a writer, you’ll have to find the time to make it happen. If you need to start with just a few minutes or a few pages, start with that. In fact, that may be the best thing. Instead of pressuring yourself to sit down and tackle a big, huge project, try this: Just promise yourself you’ll sit down and write for ten minutes or promise yourself you’ll write two pages. And that’s it. No pressure to churn out 200 pages. No pressure to make it perfect. No pressure, even, to make it good. Not at this point. Just the promise to yourself to do one small thing on this day, for your writing career. And then on the next day, the same thing. We think of maintaining integrity with others — you probably keep your promises to your family or your supervisor at work, but what about to yourself? Promise yourself this one small thing.
And when you make it happen, you’ll feel pretty good about what you’ve done — kept a promise to yourself and got great progress on your writing project. You will have proven that you are a writer.
This is how you rewrite the story of you. You replace all that negativity you are telling yourself, with positive action. Action that moves you forward. Day after day.
Starting with one small thing.
It’s not about how great today’s writing project is. It’s just about getting it out of your head and onto paper. Leave revision for another day.
Today, just keep your promise to yourself and write.
You will no longer be one who doesn’t write. You’ll be one who does.
And the doing is the most important thing.
You’ve got to do it to be it.
You’ve got to paint to be a painter. You’ve got to sing to be a singer. You’ve got to write to be a writer.