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Should You Become a Writer?

 
By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I received an email from a young writer named Noor who asked: “I’m in middle school and will be in high school soon. I was wondering if I should become a writer. I love to write and it's one of my passions. But I know a career in the arts can be a tough thing, so I'm not sure if I could do it. Can you give me some advice?

Should you become a writer?

This is an excellent question and one that many budding writers struggle with no matter their age.

First, let’s define what it means to “become a writer.” Many people love to put words on paper in a variety of formats and do so for personal inspiration or pleasure. There are some writers who decide to pursue publication with their inspired words because they want to share their stories with others. Then there are those who want to make a career out of sharing their words and stories with others.

So my simple answer is, yes, if you love writing, be a writer. Bring life to the words bubbling inside you and find great pleasure in it.

Should you share your words with others? And should you pursue a career of sharing your words?

It depends.

Should you share your words with others? Just this week my husband told me about a facebook post from a high school student getting ready to self-publish her first book. As he read the post, I cringed. And then I said: No one should ever publish their first book. Ever.

My daughter is a freshman in college studying to become a nurse. If you went to the ER, would you want a freshman nursing student to treat your injury?

She has to study, learn, grow, and practice (A LOT) before people will want her to fix their problems.

You have to take the long hard road of a educating and practicing the craft of writing before people will want to read your words (that is anyone besides family and loyal friends). A first book is simply part of that process of becoming a writer.

(Sidenote: I’m guessing some blog readers will probably argue that a first book isn’t always un-publishable. Maybe there are writing geniuses who can pull off a first-book wonder. Some might be able to eventually overhaul their first book and make something of it. But most of us scrap that first book and chalk it up as a practice effort.)

In other words, don’t rush to share your words with the world. Take your time to become the best writer you can be first.

Should you pursue a career of sharing your words? Let me be honest. Being a full time author (where writing and publishing books is your main job) is extremely tough in today’s saturated book market.

Yes, you may hear stories of both traditional and self-published authors hitting it big. But the large majority of career authors struggle to make a living off their books. I’ve been writing full time for close to ten years. I’ve published over twenty novels, mostly with traditional publishers with a couple of indie books in the mix. I haven’t gotten rich off my writing.

And in rubbing shoulders with LOTS of authors, I’ve come to realize that most of us are in the same boat. We’re staying afloat, but our careers are more like steamboats chugging upstream, not luxury liners with smooth sailing.

All that to say, if you want to make a career out of writing, be prepared for the realities of a competitive publishing market and the possibility of having a supplemental job that can pay the bills.

Rather than end this post on a negative note, I’ll close by saying that if you have a love and passion for writing and want to make a career out of it, then definitely go for it. Chase after your dream. I can honestly say I LOVE my job. I can’t imagine any other career more fulfilling than sitting down every day and creating stories.

But as you chase after your dream, be prepared to work harder than you ever have for anything else. Give it all you have. And with enough hard work and determination, someday you may find yourself chugging upstream too.

What about YOU? What advice would YOU give if someone asked you if they should become a writer?

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  2. Fully intending to publish my first ever book written. But not in it's original state. Made that mistake on a free writer's forum group once... Couldn't handle the heartache and criticism and buried my novel for years. I want to see it published, but I also don't want to face rejection due to its feeling less than publishable.

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