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Do You Take Yourself Seriously?

Cheryl's Musings: Do You Take Yourself Seriously?

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Do You Take Yourself Seriously?

Earlier this week I wrote about the skills it takes to succeed as a writer—and the ability to take yourself seriously as a writer was #1 on the list. It’s the foundation on which everything else rests. If you don’t take your writing career seriously, it’s darned hard to justify spending the time and energy you’ll need to grow as a writer.


When I first returned to writing, I had a high-energy toddler in the house, a husband working at a startup company, and zero money for childcare. Writing was what kept me sane, the thing that make me feel like a competent human being (yep, I had serious stay-at-home mommy syndrome) but it seemed impossible to find the time for it.

Baby Steps
I took my first step toward treating myself like a “real writer” when I enrolled my oldest in a cooperative (and low-cost) preschool one morning a week. I'd drop him off and drive a few blocks to the public library, where I’d plant myself in a chair and write nonstop until time to pick him up. By giving myself permission to spend time and money on writing—not much, but more than before—I could start to take this writing thing seriously. Those hours gave me the confidence needed to attend my first conference, to take my first class, to join my first critique group…I was on my way.

words TerryJohnston When Are You a “Real Writer”?
Years later, I’ve been published in several magazines, won a few contests, gained an agent, and am making slow progress toward breaking into the book market. You’d think I’d take myself seriously now, right? And yet, it’s still a struggle.

I realized this when I started working part time as a medical writer—and discovered that when I was working for someone else, I always found the hours to complete a project; but when I worked on my own projects, the time always seemed to disappear. Somehow, a hundred other tasks were higher priority when it came to “my” writing. 

Give Yourself Credit
When we don’t think of ourselves as “real writers”—because we haven’t been published or haven’t been published in a paying market, or haven’t been published enough or aren’t on the bestseller list—we aren’t giving ourselves enough credit. When I was in grad school, training to be a molecular biologist, no one asked whether I was a “real scientist.” I was a student, but I was still a scientist. Writing is the same: we begin as students, perhaps, but we are still writers.

How to Take Yourself Seriously
If you want to do this writing thing—if you want to be a real writer—then start by calling yourself one. Follow by treating yourself like one.

  • Plan time to write, read, and grow in your craft
  • Protect your writing time
  • Know that just because you’re working at home (or self-employed or unpublished or __________) doesn’t mean your work is unimportant
  • Invest financially in your careers by going to conferences and retreats, taking classes, and purchasing needed equipment

Are you a real writer? Why or why not?

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At September 16, 2011 at 8:14 AM , Blogger Jen Groepl said...

Very helpful advice in this post. Thanks!

You have been awarded a Versatile Blogger Award. See my blog for details.

At September 16, 2011 at 9:13 AM , Blogger J.L. Campbell said...

Insightful article. If we don't invest in ourselves and take ourselves seriously as writers nobody else will. Gonna tweet this.

At September 16, 2011 at 6:07 PM , Blogger Julie Musil said...

Cheryl, this is a sore spot with me because my brain keeps telling me real writers make money. I've made some money writing, but not much. But writers write, and I should be satisfied with that. My husband is much better about this than me, continually reminding me of your points.

At September 16, 2011 at 10:21 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi Jennifer, thank you! You're a sweetheart :) I already received this award, but I'm gonna head over to your blog and find out your random facts :)!

Thanks, J.L. It's so hard to take ourselves seriously sometimes, I think, especially when we're first starting out--but darn it, we're worth it! <<**stepping off soapbox now**>> <>

I feel your pain, Julie. One of the major reasons I started writing more articles and other freelance projects was because I needed to get the occasional positive feedback. Bringing in some actual income does HUGE good things for my self-esteem. It can be hard to hang onto your confidence without some external positives. Maybe that is why blogging is great for writers--it's another avenue for support.

At September 17, 2011 at 8:21 PM , Blogger Juliana L. Brandt said...

I think this is something writers always struggle with, no matter what. For some reason, I take comfort in that- maybe just because I know I'm not alone in it. Thanks for the tips and reminder.

At September 19, 2011 at 9:31 AM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Yeah, it helps to know it's part & parcel with being a writer. I just spent a weekend with writing friends and came away with the wonderful realization that half the things I'm hard on myself about, they struggle with as well. And these are really cool, talented, multi-published writer peeps! I guess it's part of the process :)

At September 19, 2011 at 1:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post! Being a writer is certainly something that you have to grow into. It doesn't happen overnight. ;)

At September 19, 2011 at 3:32 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Cheryl, what fantastic advice and reminders.

As women I think that we do this often when it comes to "our things" {How's that for eloquent?} and all the more so for those "things" that go unpaid. I love your bullets and simple steps towards treating writing seriously.

Or more succinctly: Thank you! :)

At September 19, 2011 at 6:08 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Thanks for the kind comments :). Galit, I know what you mean--I'm capable of discounting anything that's "mine", whether that's taking time to exercise, getting together with friends, or just taking an evening off. It's great to put others first, but not if it happens *all* the time. I wonder if the "real writer" insecurity is less of an issue for the males in the writing world?

At September 25, 2011 at 2:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Somehow, a hundred other tasks were higher priority when it came to “my” writing." Yes, yes, yes. This great post spoke to me and lets me know I'm on the right path in retooling aspects of my life to save time for writing. I'm sure all writers feel this at one point. Writing... it is a process.

At September 26, 2011 at 12:41 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi Barbara, glad to know I struck a chord! I hope you manage to eek out more writing time from your schedule. I think it's an ongoing struggle...the rest of life tends to creep into my writing time!


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