Spending time writing is one of the greatest (and most frustrating) pleasures of life. If I could spend all my free time writing, I would, and I’m sure all writers would agree with me.
Naturally, life does get in the way, but a writer is someone who will find time after hours, on weekends, in between school pickups and appointments, during lunch breaks, and early mornings and late nights to put together sentences, paragraphs, and full-length books. Then there are those who say they’re writers, but who use any precious drop of writing time to do anything but.
These kinds of writers have good intentions, and may even finish a draft every now and then, but more often than not, they squander their writing time. I’ve done it myself, I even once spent six whole years thinking about writing the YA series I’d started instead of actually working on it. During that period I was a wannabe writer, and if you think that you might be too, here are four ways to tell.
You Talk About Writing, Without Doing The Actual Writing
A big tell-tale sign is if you talk about writing to anyone that will listen, without actually doing any writing. Another is if you read all the books that you can about writing, but then don’t test out your newly learned skills or knowledge by creating a story. Taking so many courses about writing that you don’t have time to write is another one, as is spending time finding memes, tips or advice about the craft, but not actually finding the time to string a sentence together. All of this makes you a wannabe writer, not an actual writer, so back up your skills by putting some actual words down on the page.
You’re Immersed In Writing Envy Instead Of Your Work
Yes, you’re entitled to think the latest best-seller is the worst thing ever written. Yes, you can feel a pang of jealousy when you see fellow writers posting pictures of their book on sale in an actual bookstore. You can even write a whole Facebook post about how you don’t care that everyone in your feed is signing two book publishing deals because you haven’t submitted yet/sent to the right agent/are still in the slush pile of your dream publisher (and expecting to hear any day now)/still editing the best book ever (everyone knows that perfection takes time)/insert an excuse of your choice right here.
If you’re doing all of these things instead of working on your book. Instead of plotting. Instead of making your manuscript better, then you’re still just a wannabe. If you’re spending your precious writing time wallowing in writer envy, wasting time worrying about what others are doing, or complaining about your latest rejection being rigged instead of just submitting to the next agent, then you need to reassess your priorities. Yes, it’s good and very human to vent, but if that’s all you’re doing instead of working to change what’s got you so riled up, then you’re not just a wannabe writer, but a wannabe at life.
You Spend Your Time Planning and Planning To Plan
Planning is part of writing, yes. Some of us like to know what we are writing when we get the chance to sit down at our desks. Some of us like to have outlines and flow charts and detailed maps of what scenes we’re working on, where the characters are going, what plot twist is coming up next, and who is going to be killed off to force the MC to change. All of these things will help you to create your book. What won’t help is doing all this planning and none of the writing that should follow. Plan what is necessary for you to get some words down today! Don’t spend Monday through Thursday planning and then only writing on Friday. Plan a little every day—write a lot straight after.
You’re Too Caught Up In The Impression That You’re Writing
We take pictures of our laptop screens full of expertly crafted sentences in the forefront of a sunset, ocean waves, or a spectacular garden, all of which we’re using as “inspiration” whilst we write. Our scribbled hand-written notes adorn Instagram, expertly blurred with the tilt shift tool so that our brilliant story ideas can’t be copied (or revealed to be, for all anyone else knows, is a picture of a grocery list). While it’s not a bad thing to document your writing journey on social media (I’ve been doing it for years), and it’s inspiring to see how other writers work, if you can’t start a writing session without posting a Facebook status about it first, or if you spend half of your writing time getting the right photo angle, and then the rest of it coming up with hashtags instead of sentences, then you need to consider that you’re just giving the impression that you’re writing, without doing the deed itself.
Such a thing is the very definition of a wannabe writer and is not an impression that any writer should be happy creating.
So if that, or any of the other signs are ringing true for you, it’s not too late to change yourself from a wannabe back to a writer. Don’t talk about your plan to sit at your desk and write, just do it. Congratulate the writers who’ve achieved their goals, and then go out and achieve your own. Write a daily word count instead of planning to do it, and post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram after you’ve completed that chapter. That’s what makes you a writer. And if you do it consistently, not only will you have a completed piece of work, but you’ll never be a wannabe again.
— K.M. Allan