A lot of people say they’re writers, but not a lot of people actually write. I say this because that was me for many years. Sure, I had “written” things—even a few unpublished novels—but I was not writing regularly.
In one of the first conversations that I ever had with Chris Hansen—back when I had asked him to train me in story—he told me that I needed to be writing for at least three hours a day. This was one of his requirements for working with new writers.
“Three hours a day writing?” I couldn’t believe it. “That’s not possible. I have a job. I work eight hours a day.”
“It is possible,” he told me, “people do it all the time—people with families and careers. Sometimes it requires them to get up really early and write before going off to work. But they find time to do it.”
And then he said the words that would haunt and challenge me for months to come. “Writers write, directors direct, actors act, animators animate, etc. If you want to be a writer, then you need to be writing regularly.”
Hmm. I wasn’t writing three hours a day. I wasn’t even writing three hours a week! Had I been deceiving myself? Was I really a writer?
As I examined that question, I realized a hard truth. I wasn’t a writer. I was someone who wanted to be a writer.
But wanting to be something and actually being it are two different things. So I sat down and challenged myself to try and write a little bit each day. I didn’t exactly think that Chris was right when he suggested that three hours a day was realistic, but I figured I’d try to do at least an hour a day.
It took time—a lot of time—before I was able to build a routine around writing and develop the discipline required to sit down and write daily. At first, it was difficult to last even an hour before I would get distracted and seek some other kind of stimulation (I watched a lot more TV back then.)
There were many blocks for me—insecurities and self-doubts that kept me from writing regularly. I was afraid that I would be judged, that people wouldn’t like my writing, and that the things I wrote would expose me. Worst of all, I was afraid that I wasn’t any good.
But as I worked on writing regularly, I gradually developed more and more focus. Soon, I found it much easier to get to that blissful place known to artists as a “flow state.” I was writing for hours at a time without any issues.
And best of all, I felt refreshed and energized while doing it! Writing daily became like breathing to me. Once I got into the habit of writing every day, I found it difficult to stop. On days that I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing.
That was what it took for me to realize that, yes, I could truly call myself a writer. Writing was now, without a doubt, something that I would be doing for the rest of my life. Before I came to this conclusion, I wasn’t really sure. I guess it was just more of a hobby for me—something I pursued on weekends or whenever I felt like it. It took me awhile to see the need to make writing a routine.
So, my advice to other aspiring writers is the same advice that I was given. If you want to be a writer, then just start writing. Don’t wait for inspiration or for that lucky break to come around. If it’s in you to write, and you can do it for long periods of time without feeling miserable, then you’re a writer. You don’t need publications, a career, or public recognition to make you one. Create because it’s in you to create. Imagine because your mind is a wonderful place. And most of all, write without fear and love the things you write. If you can do all this, and do it regularly, then—woo hoo!—you are a writer.