How to Turn Pro in Your Writing Career
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” – Steven Pressfield
I know what you’re thinking. You write, but you don’t think you’re a real writer.
The gap between your work and the work of those you admire seems so wide you’ll never close it. They’re professionals and you’re just playing pretend.
Somewhere along the line, the people you looked up to probably felt the same way. We all start at zero. We all have to face the blank page for the first time.
How do you make the transition? How do you become like the writers you look up to?
You turn pro.
The Only Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit”
I’ve made friends with other bloggers and authors over the years. I keep tabs on what they’re doing and many do the same for me.
Sadly, after six months, a year, or two, I’ll come to find many have fizzled out or stopped writing completely. They fell prey to the amateur’s mindset. They didn’t turn pro.
Every once and a while someone will comment on a new post I write and say something along the lines of “Wow! You’re still showing up and putting in work. Good for you.”
What choice do I have? I’ve turned pro. Once you turn pro there’s no going back.
Turning pro simply means you’re done bullshitting with your craft. You’re done being inconsistent. You’re done half-assing it. Instead of treating your writing success as a pipe dream, you treat it as an inevitability.
In business, you turn pro when you stop “brainstorming” and start picking up the phone to land customers.
With art, you turn pro when you add pragmatism to match your romanticism and dedicate yourself to doing the work.
I hear that little voice in my mind telling me to quit every single day, but I do the work because I know the work will bear fruit.
Are you ready to turn pro? Here are some tips to help you get there.
Show Up When You Don’t Feel Like It
You’d think your best work comes during your “peaks” — when you’re in a great mood, the coffee buzz hits you just right, and the ideas are oozing out of you — but the writing you do when you’re not feeling it builds character.
Every so often, I’ll decide it’s time to quit writing altogether. This usually happens after I write thousands of words I find unusable. When I’m in a rut, it’s hard to imagine getting out of it. But I always do. How?
I decided for better or worse… I’m married to my keyboard. My relationship with writing is like a marriage. I love writing, but I don’t always like it. Sometimes the relationship gets stale and I feel like I’m going through the motions. But, like a good marriage, I work through the rough patches instead of abandoning the relationship.
Showing up is hard. Writing 1,000 words nobody will ever read is hard. Writing entire books that flop is painful. But showing up is the only way through.
I’ve written about all the tips and tricks to help you succeed with writing, but they all boil down to showing up.
There are many ways to feel like you’re showing up that aren’t showing up.
…like growing your social media following.
…like working on your about page.
…like getting your ducks in a row (whatever that means).
Busy work gets you nowhere. Real work gets you where you want to be.
If you stop reading this blog post right now and start writing one of your own, I’d love it, because I’d rather you create work then consume it.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Certain people want others to invest in them, but they never invest in themselves.
You want to make money from your writing, right? You want people to buy your books, products, or services, don’t you?
How much money do you invest in your writing career?
If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, I’d question whether you’re serious about your work.
Investing in yourself as many benefits. First, when you put your money where your mouth is, you take yourself more seriously. Many online courses provide information which technically could be found for free, but without putting some skin in the game, most people don’t hunt for that information.
Second, when you invest in other people, you’ll attract people who want to invest in you. If you don’t buy books regularly and support other authors, why should anyone buy your book? If you don’t take any courses or classes, why should anyone want to join yours?
If you don’t spend money on your education or to support other writers, you can’t empathize with your audience, because you know nothing other than trying to get freebies. Then, subconsciously, your own behavior will betray you because you’ll expect others to do the same to you.
When you turn pro, you treat your writing as a business. What business do you know of that has zero expenses?
Until you drop a pretty penny, you’re a pretender.
Win the War Between Your Ears
So many people in our lives have preached the need to be realistic or conservative or worse – to not rock the boat. This is an enormous disadvantage when it comes to trying big things. Because though our doubts (and self-doubts) feel real, they have very little bearing on what is and isn’t possible. – Ryan Holiday
I used to think writing a book was impossible. I’ve done it twice now.
I remember having two email subscribers. The thought of having 100 seemed unrealistic at the time. I have thousands now.
Each time I accomplish something new, I’m reminded of the fact my self-doubt has “no bearing on what is and isn’t possible.”
To overcome each hurdle and silence my inner critic I do a few things.
First, I realize the people who’ve done what I’m trying to do are human beings.
The writers I look up to are not super human. They don’t possess skills I can’t learn. They turned pro in their mind, committed to learning those skills, and persisted — that’s it.
Second, I look back on things I once thought were difficult but find trivial now.
My audience increases weekly at a pace that used to take months or more.
After tons of practice, I can write 1,000 words in 30 minutes.
I don’t say any of this to brag. I say it because I was once brand new, scared shitless, and thought building a writing career was improbable.
But I loved writing from the beginning. I knew it was what I wanted to do. I have one life to live and I want to pursue my purpose. So, instead of thinking I started doing.
When you act instead of think, your fear doesn’t go away, you just notice it less because you’re active.
If you can bring yourself to do — open up the word doc and just move your fingers, start haphazardly putting together your website, write a pitch to a guest blog — the results you want will follow.
I hammer this message home often because I know how you feel. I also know what’s on the other side of turning pro.
You’ll have experiences you’ll never forget like seeing your name on a cover of a book, checking your analytics to see thousands of people took time out of their day to read your work, and feeling the euphoria of knowing you finished something.
You don’t need a book deal to turn pro. Hell, you don’t even need anyone to read your writing to turn pro.
Make the switch in your mind and you’re a pro. It’s as simple as that.