Turning Pro: How to Become a Real Writer

“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.

I get asked the same question on an almost daily basis:

“How did you learn to write so well and so prolifically?”

They already know the answer before they even ask. February officially marks a half-decade worth of time I’ve spent becoming a better writer. I started writing and I simply never stopped that’s the whole secret. What can I say? I love to write. Writing is fun. It should be fun.

Combine writing for joy and writing with the attitude of a professional and you’ll be successful. Your problem? You’re dabbling. You write when you feel like it. You’re soft. You don’t want to do the work. That’s it.

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.

The idea of turning pro is about the simple fact that most people are just cry babies. They don’t want to do the work so they play the victim. This is a disease not just with aspiring writers, but with society as a whole.

Trust me, if you have an ounce of natural talent and you worked on your craft for years, you’d do just fine.

What’s stopping you?

Time? You’ve spent years going to that job you don’t like and it doesn’t seem to phase you. You can’t put that same amount of time into your dreams?

Resources? Medium is FREE. Stop.

Turn pro.

Show up.

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.

Have you ever gone to the gym when you didn’t feel like it? At first, you feel like garbage, but ten minutes into your work out the adrenaline kicks in. By the end, you feel great.

This can happen with writing, but only if you show up. I feel for new Medium writers, I really do. As Niklas Göke pointed out in a recent article, it’s simply much harder for you to get traction as it was for him and me. We have a definitive head start on you. Show up anyway.

Why do we have that head start? Because we decided to be writers years ago while you were on the fence about it. We turned pro and bet on a platform before it was popular. If you learn to show up often, you’ll spot the next trend.

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

It’s funny.

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?

Do you have your own self-hosted blog? Do you have an email service provider? Have you taken any online courses? Have you hired a coach? Taken a master class? Bought books for research?

You don’t have to do any of these things and technically you can find all of this information for free, but this route usually doesn’t work. My own career took off when I took two courses — one on professional blogging and another on self-publishing.

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 just published my third book.

I remember having two email subscribers. The thought of having 100 seemed unrealistic at the time. I have 18,000 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 superhuman. 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.

Five years into the game, and I believe I’m just as good as any New York Times Bestselling author. Maybe I’m not exactly where they are yet, but I’m a beast on this keyboard with a style that can’t be matched, who’s also willing to work until I die to get it right.

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 now know how to put a book together, package it, and sell it to the tune of five figures (maybe six come end of 2020.

Turn Pro

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.

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