I don’t consider myself a highly accomplished writer, as there are many goals that I have yet to achieve in the field; however, I do consider myself a Professional writer.
Here is why:
I control the definition of what the word “Professional” means, and according to me Professional means someone who: 1) writes every day; 2) has produced works that are in the public domain; and 3) earns income from their writing.
I do all three – therefore (according to me) I am a professional writer.
I want to share the very best advice that I’ve ever received on writing. I didn’t make it up. The advice comes from two very accomplished writers.
1) Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
And 2) Stephen King’s book On Writing
Essentially it is the same advice (paraphrased into my words):
Everyday you have to write.
You have to choose a word quota and then hit that word quota.
You have to learn to detach yourself from the “results” of your writing, and simply produce the words – even if they are crap, even if you throw them away, even if no one ever reads them, or worse, people read them and they think you can’t write to save your life, you still have to write them. The barbarians can be at the gates, the thieves at your door, you don’t get up off your chair, and you don’t go to bed until your word quota is done.
It’s as simple as that – but trust me – it’s profound in its application.
I have a word quota for myself – I established it in 2012 and it’s been the extremely rare day that I have missed it: 500 words.
Whether it be in the form of a blog, an article, an essay to myself (yes I do write those), a book – whatever – I’m not going to bed until I’ve written 500 words, and – most importantly – I’m going to detach my emotions from the process. I’m going to write, detached, every single day.
Thank you Steven Pressfield and Stephen King – your advice has allowed me in 2 years to 1) write hundreds of blog posts and articles online. 2) write and publish my first book 2) write (as of today) 166 pages on my second book (to be announced later in the fall with a release in 2015).
The crazy thing is that 500 words doesn’t take that long, and it’s not that hard once you build the habit (Stephen King’s word quota by the way, as noted in On Writing, is 2000 words a day).
500 words is basically two pages of a “Microsoft Word” document with size 12 font. Sometimes it takes an hour or two (or three on a slow day), but other times I can do it in 30 minutes when I hit flow. The hardest part is just the commitment to sit down and do the work. Once that commitment has been resolved into a rock solid habit the production becomes fantastic.
I’ve had a lot of aspiring writers talk to me since I published Unsuited – and they want to talk about how they can start writing as well. The answer is profoundly simple:
Set a daily word quota – even if the word quota is 5 words a day in the beginning. Set the target, and hit it, detached, every single day, no matter what.