Investing in Yourself as a Writer
Post by Katie Wall
A trend I’ve noticed while working with writers and interacting with various writing communities is that many people refer to their relationship with writing in this way:
- I write sometimes.
- I’m working on a book.
- I’m a writer… I guess.
While there is nothing wrong with these statements in and of themselves, it shows me that there is a hesitancy about claiming the identity of “writer” (or “author”).
Why can’t we proudly claim the title of “writer”?
If someone paints, aren’t they a painter? If someone knits (or crochets or embroiders), aren’t they considered to be a knitter (or crocheter or embroiderer)? If someone runs, they’re a runner!
So why do we feel like writing is different?
A few things might be at play:
- Since writing is “free” (you don’t have to buy special supplies to do it), there’s not an initial investment to dedicate yourself to the endeavor, which may make it feel less “official.”
- There is a misconception that if someone reads books and can write generally, they should be able to write a novel, easy-peasy. When it turns out to not be so easy, discouragement and imposter syndrome sets in.
- The hours and blood, sweat, and tears that go into our manuscripts is often unseen and/or misunderstood by others in our lives. Other hobbies often have visible results that those who do not write can recognize more easily.
Let’s get one thing clear: If you have an idea for a story, you are at the start of being a storyteller. If you are putting that story down on the page, you are a writer. Period.
Sit with that for a minute. You are a writer.
Say it: I am a writer.
Now, while you are sitting in this identity you have claimed for yourself, ask yourself this question: What am I doing to grow myself as a writer?
Just as someone who draws might buy the right supplies, take an art class, watch YouTube tutorials, and get feedback from other artists, it is important as a writer to invest in yourself so that you can grow in your craft.
What can investing in yourself as a writer look like?
- Reading craft books to broaden your understanding of the writing craft. (investing time and money)
- Working with a book coach. (investing time and money)
- Going to writing conferences. (investing time and money)
- Working with a good developmental editor (investing time and money)
- Joining a writing community (investing time and sometimes money)
- Reading books in the genre and for the age group you write for (investing time and money)
All of these ways to invest in yourself as a writer go beyond the particular manuscript you are currently writing. While they may help you with your WIP, the growth that you come away with will help you write the next book more skillfully. Notice that each of these ways to invest in yourself as a writer requires both time and money, which is why they help you grow.
In contrast, there are ways to invest in a particular piece of writing that do not focus on growing you as a writer:
- Copy editing (investing money)
- Proofreading (investing money)
While these edits might help you realize that you need to practice using commas correctly, they won’t teach you how to do it right or give you the forum to practice the skill. Notice that these ways to invest in your particular manuscript only require you to invest money—they are passive, which is why you as a writer don’t grow (even though your particular manuscript will be improved).
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned getting feedback from other avenues yet. That’s because I think feedback from writing groups, a critique partner, and beta readers could fall into either category. In this case, it really depends on the quality of the feedback you are getting:
- If your beta readers don’t give you much constructive criticism, how will you grow from that? Conversely, if they nitpick every word you wrote, how can you grow from that?
- Or if the writing group you’re in gives you feedback all over the map, you’ll spend more time trying to figure out what to do with that feedback than actually applying it and honing your skills.
- While critique partners can be an amazing help, the feedback you get from them reflects their own writing skills—so if they aren’t at least as skilled as you are, how will they help you grow?
Please don’t take this as me saying not to get feedback, as that’s not what I mean at all! My intention with this post is to help you realize that, as a writer, you should think critically about how you are investing in yourself, and that you deserve to be invested in!
I believe that writers grow best when they are mentored and nurtured by someone who is trained in story; who can triage the feedback and present it in a way conducive to growth; and whose goal is to support the writer, not just the writing. In other words, a book coach! I believe this so much that I have personally worked with a book coach on my own writing projects.
Sometimes it is easier to invest in yourself if you are clear about your goals and intentions for writing. I have another blog post here that walks you through that discernment process.
If you are ready to invest in yourself as a writer by working with a book coach, let’s chat! You can sign up for a free 30-minute consultation here.
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