From time to time, people email me to ask for advice from a writer.
(Inevitably, I always think I ought to go find them one.) True, I work as a writer. I have a degree as a writer. I like writing sentences more than almost any other job I’ve known. But I don’t feel like a writer. And these people who write to me, who ask for the way to go freelance or for tips on getting work, they want to feel like they’re writers. They want paychecks to prove that their families were wrong. They want job titles that tell the world, “Look, she did it!” They want someone to read their work and say, “Wow!” and “You’re amazing!” and “Well done!” They want to feel like they’ve made it, like they’re okay. I know they want these things because I want these things. We all want these things, especially those of us who pursue writing work, but probably not only those of us who pursue writing work. I mean, I imagine you might doubt yourself if you’re a business owner or a beekeeper or a crossing guard, too, I don’t know. But the thing is, no one can make you feel like you’ve made it. The minute they do, look out, new doubts come. So instead of chasing the ever elusive sense of arrival, take the best advice I can give you: Keep writing instead.
Because listen, if there’s anything I know about writing, this is the thing I know about writing: You have to write. Writing is about writing. It’s not about talking about writing or dreaming about writing. It’s about sitting down to your computer and stringing together thoughts, one by one by one. When your writer friend gets the Job Title, you write. When you are passed over for an award, you write. When you read an article so good, you want to give up your pen altogether, you write. When you write something you’re finally proud of and you want the world to see it, you write again.
If you want to write, you write.
If you want to feel like a writer, well, you keep writing until the feelings come.
You write and you write, and when you finish something, you move on. You could get stuck; you could want to quit; you could beat yourself up for the mistakes in that last piece you turned in. But you don’t—you keep writing (and you keep writing and you keep writing), instead.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.