With the act of writing, you’re a writer

havingjustwrittenMany writers feel this stress that if they aren’t published anywhere, then they aren’t a writer. They worry they won’t be taken seriously. They worry that’s just a hobby and will never be anything more.

I want to reassure everyone that with the act of writing, and consciously sitting down to do it, you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been published, or you still have a day job, you’re a writer.

It’s up to you if you take yourself seriously as a writer. It can move from a hobby to a job. It can become something more than scribbled scenes, and half-written novels. The act of writing isn’t a science, it’s an art, but the only way to accomplish it is butt-in-chair.

My client Taylor Jenkins Reid recently wrote an article for Shelf Pleasure about how she wrote FOREVER, INTERRUPTED. There is no secret formula and no secrets all the published writers have been hiding from the unpublished ones.

If you take it premise by premise, word by word, and chapter by chapter the magic starts to happen. There will be days of epiphanies and there will be days of shredding. Some of the best writing advice on this topic is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott–specifically, Shitty First Drafts.

Somewhere in the editing process is when you know if you have something. If you massage the text, ask yourself the tough questions, and learn what to cut and what to keep you’ll be on your way to a second draft, and a third draft. It’s isn’t ready to be seen by publishing professionals until then anyway. So take your time. Create. Get beta readers. Research.

Agents aren’t reading between the lines, we’re looking for outstanding storytelling. We want to be moved by the words on the page, not how many journals you’ve been published in.

[Image via Book PR Company; Shitty First Drafts via UCLA.edu]

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

15 thoughts on “With the act of writing, you’re a writer

  1. Are you psychic or something?! This post came at exactly the right time. I have been struggling with writing. Specifically, I have been procrastinating about writing more picture books after receiving several rejections from agents for previous attempts. I told myself I AM OBVIOUSLY NOT A WRITER. Rubbish! I just need to get more comfortable with writing shitty first drafts and stop expecting to produce a masterpiece off the bat. Thank you for reminding me of this little fact!


  2. I’m so thankful you mentioned Beta readers. At my first book signing, I made sure my Beta readers were at my side because I know with 100% certainty that I would have not only not finished my first novel but it would not have been nearly as wonderful as I believe it is. I shared my moment with them because their feedback was without a doubt, the flames that kept my pot boiling, long after I thought I’d run out of water.


    1. Every writer needs that external support. Whether it’s beta readers, agents, editors and more. The act of writing is a solitary activity, but it’s a team effort after that.


  3. This is a great post. Thank you so much for sharing it! I have two questions for you. I’m wondering how one goes about getting beta readers? And I also would value your perspective on creating a Facebook page for a blog – is this something one can do as part of trying to reach readers before any book is published? Or should it be used primarily to promote a book? I’m trying to figure out what things I can do that don’t hinge on actions from an outside source. Thanks for your time.


    1. Beta readers are critique partners. Many meet them online, through writing circles or creative writing classes.

      Outside of writing some other activities like blogging is a great idea. A Facebook page for a blog is quite a bit of work for yourself, but if Facebook is more natural to you than Twitter then go for it. My advice with social media is always that you should only do what you’re inspired to do, and what you will have time for in the long run. Remember you have to be able to keep it up.


  4. And may I add that it’s OK to call yourself a children’s “author” too – even if you haven’t been published. I was given this advice from an award-winning author friend of mine. I have always been hesitant to refer to myself as a children’s author as my manuscripts are still only of my own, but as she pointed out, “You wrote a book. You are an author”. It took me awhile to try it on, but once I did, I have to admit, it feels very good indeed. :)


  5. Wow! What a timely topic, because this mindset probably plagues so many “writers”.
    I for one, at one point or another have felt, and on occasion still feel like I am not a . writer, although I have been writing for many years. I didn’t feel much like a “real” writer at all and wouldn’t have dared to call myself one for the simple fcat that I Initially wrote because it was how I expressed myself best, and for my own thought purging purposes. But it wasn’t until I began to share my writing with others (Family & friends) and thinking about it as a gift and a profession, that I started to say out loud that I am a writer. Seeing myself as a writer, thinking like a writer, and calling myself a writer made me go at it with more enthusiasm. I do however slip back into thinking the opposite since I am not officially published, in terms of a book, but I quickly remind myself that I am indeed a WRITER…


  6. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be what precisely
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