Passionate Writing Isn’t Enough

Message Stomes

“Write what you are passionate about.”

I’d wager that almost every writer on the planet has heard this gem. It (like it’s more mundane counterpart: “Do what you love.”) is frequently followed by “The money/success will follow.”

Pfui.

Ask any writer who’s been a writer for more than a year and they will tell you there is much more to being a successful writer than just passion. What they won’t tell you is that what that “more” is, and even your passions are subject to change. In fact, they may change so fast and so frequently that you have trouble identifying what you are passionate about let alone how to be a successful writer.

Perseverance is more important than Passion

When it comes right down to it, successful writers are the ones who keep writing. Read that again. Think about it. Successful writers keep writing.

If you think that I, or any writer, has been passionate about everything they have ever written at the time they were writing it, you’re fooling yourself. Many of the things I have written, I really wasn’t all that interested in, let alone passionate about.

So why write them?

The easy answer is: someone paid me to. Sure, the topic, project or client had to interest me in the first place or I wouldn’t have taken it on. But I could have written about something else. Something I was passionate about. I didn’t. The truth is I will take an interesting paying assignment over writing for free about my passions any day of the week, even now. Why? Because getting paid keeps me writing. It’s why I show up every day and put my fingers to keyboard or pen to paper.

The better answer is: everything I write teaches me something, hones my skills and proves I am still here, writing. Good writing isn’t written in a vacuum. Projects I am not passionate about still get me and my name out there is the world which increases the likelihood that someone will stumble across me, discover my passions and pay me, either by hiring me to work on a project or buying my books/content, to write about them. The more I write, the better I write and the more people have the opportunity to read what I write. That, in a nutshell, is why I persevere and why “just showing up, day in and day out” is more important than loving what you write or what you are writing about.

Passion is a tool

So why do so many people advise others to be passionate about what they write? Do they want them to fail, leaving more assignments up for grabs? Hardly. I’ve never met a writer who wanted another writer to fail. Sure, writers can be (and often are) professionally jealous and some may not be as encouraging or supportive of their fellow writers as the could be. When competing against other writers for contracts or jobs we are as capable as anyone else at sabotaging other candidates (unfortunately, that’s also a great way to sabotage ourselves), but generally speaking we don’t want other writers to fail as much as we don’t want to compete with them for scarce resources and readers. If they can succeed elsewhere, great, just not in the same space that we want. Encouraging others to pursue their passions seems like a great way to move them out of our space but still encouraging them to follow their dreams or becoming a successful writer.

Passion is also important to perseverance. Although you don’t have to be passionate about everything you write if you hate all of it pretty soon you will hate to write and eventually stop writing altogether. For me, if I’m not getting paid to write something, I better be passionate about what I’m writing about or chances are, I’m not going to write it.

The best reason for writing with passion, however, is that those are the subjects you know the most about and have the strongest opinions on. Expertise and attitude give your writing an edge. If you’ve ever read something flat and boring, you know why writing with passion is important. Passion attracts readers like nothing else can and will whether you’re writing a novel, an article, a press release, instructions, a letter or anything else. Passion draws people in because you are deeply and enthusiastically engaged in what you are writing about and sharing that with the world. Can you think of a better tool for becoming a success than having others interested and excited about what you have to say?

More…

Perseverance and passion are two of the cornerstones of any successful writing career. They aren’t the entire foundation.

To succeed as a writer you also have to have solid business skills from managing finances to knowing how to hire employees to marketing, sales and public relations. Most writers I know are jacks (or jills) of all trade in that they know a little bit about a lot of things. For many, myself included, that is their greatest advantage. It can also be their greatest challenge because it makes it so hard to focus and establish expertise when you can and do move easily between topics, projects and industries. Versatility is great but, believe it or not, it can get boring if you don’t have the passion and perseverance to support it.

Yes, successful writers write with passion. More importantly, they have the business skills they need to succeed without many of the things others need (like a regular paycheck, insurance, a boss or a defined career path). Most importantly, successful writers write. Every day. They may not put everything they write out there for the world to see but they produce and publish enough to demonstrate that they are writing today and will still be writing tomorrow. When it comes right down to it, writing is the one thing every writer is passionate about.

 

 

What makes a writer?

I’m a writer. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. I am fortunate enough to make a living at it.

Like many writers, however, I find myself defending my professional choices to those around me including clients, friends, family and yes, even myself. There have been times when I have found myself “hating” what I write or worse, not “writing” at all. Times when I question what I was thinking when I set out to be a writer and why I stuck with it this long. I’ve felt like a fraud because I wrote rather than doing. On the other hand when I did something rather than writing I felt like a fraud, too, because I let myself be in the moment rather than capture it on paper.

After nearly a quarter of a century and half my life I have finally come to the realization that almost every writer I know has experienced these same ups and downs and sideways and front ways and back ways for themselves. So what makes me and my ways different?

Nothing.

Oh the circumstances are unique to each writer as are the lessons they learn or don’t learn. The experiences, however, are pretty common. If you call yourself a writer and you haven’t had one or more of them yet, relax. You will. And if you still call yourself a writer when you get to the over side or better yet in the midst of them well then welcome to the club. You are not alone.

What makes me, or anyone, a writer isn’t whether they have been published or had their work produced or even had it read by someone other than themselves. A writer may not even earn any money from what they write. They may not ever finish a book, a script or even a haiku. They are still a writer. They may even be a successful writer depending on how they define success. Because for most writers it is the writing that matters. It is that act of putting words together on paper or on a screen that drives us and keeps bringing us back to what and who we are: writers.

Simple as that sounds, it can be hard for people to understand. It can be hard for us to understand. So the next time you find yourself wondering what the hell you were thinking when you became a writer remember this:

A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood. (Leo Rosten)

To be a writer is to want to be understood and not be ashamed to admit it. To be a writer is to look for answers everywhere.In documenting our search, we discover what we believe is true and share it with others. To be a writer is to boldly go, not where other have not gone, but where they have been, see it with new eyes and find something different. To be a writer is to be brave and unique, especially when that is the last thing we think we are.

I am a writer. It is all I want to be. I am lucky. My words give me wings.

Writer vs. Blogger: Who are you?

blogging tools

Wednesday’s Word isn’t just about a job title. It’s about who you are and how you see yourself and your career. It’s also about the keywords you use to attract and sell others on your work or company. So it’s important that you know whether you are (or want to be) a writer or a blogger or something else entirely.

Writer

A writer is someone who develops written content. That content can be for just about anything from ads to films to books to television to periodicals to websites. It’s a very broad career category that nonetheless is forecast to grow slower than many other professions between now and 2020 according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook produced by the U.S. Department of Labor. Despite this, it seems like more and more people are calling themselves writers every day. What do they mean?

They can mean almost anything, however, successful writers will often define themselves even further as copywriters, screenwriters, authors, grantwriters, technical writers, journalists or, you guessed it, bloggers. Each of type of writer has their own particular skill set, focus and career path. There are similarities and overlaps, which is why some writers do a little bit of everything. For the most part, someone who says they are a writer is saying they are a generalist capable of creating written communications for a variety of audiences across a wide range of media.

Blogger

A blogger is a specialized type of writer who produces content for online audiences. Their work is intended to be read on a screen and in many cases interacted with directly.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (part of the U.S. Department of Labor) includes bloggers with reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts, a profession whose occupational outlook appears to be declining through 2020.

This classification gives the impression that all bloggers write about news and report on events as they happen. It also implies that the information they provided is short and not intended to be relevant for very long. This is misleading. Bloggers, like writers, produce a wide variety of content including technical materials (how-to articles, online help, wikis) and even fiction! Since it is almost impossible to remove any content once it has been posted or published online, what a blogger writes will be around much longer than the work of other types of writers. It may not be relevant, but it is likely to exist in perpetuity. What’s more, many bloggers write in the first person, something most reporters and other types of writers do not.

So the next time someone asks what you do, take a moment to think before claiming the title of writer or blogger. Not because you are not entitled to use either, but because you may be both and much, much more!