Seeing Yourself as a Writer

A lot of people have a hard time imagining themselves as full-time writers—and that is often the only thing that holds them back. You might be a lawyer, a dentist, a coal miner, or a waitress, and you define yourself as that. Yeah, you love writing, but you don’t think you’re free to write. You may be wearing golden handcuffs, stuck in a high-paying job that you really don’t enjoy. Or maybe you’re working rather desperately at a dead-end job that won’t take you where you want to go.

I’ve met several fine writers who have medical conditions—back problems, anxiety, or depression that seem to define them. I think that authors need to begin defining themselves. They need to begin “seeing themselves as writers,” much as a basketball player can prepare for a game by imagining himself making shots.

So the real question is, “What is the life of a writer like?” Is it worth working for?

Twenty years ago, I got a call from the Deseret News, the largest newspaper in our area. They had heard that I was a writer, that I had a hit novel out, and they asked if that was true. I said “Yes.” Then they asked, if I could have any job, any dream job, what would it be? I was dumbfounded. I said, “I already have it. I’m a writer.”

It turned out that the article was for “Career Day.” The interviewer asked a person what their dream job would be, then called someone with that job and asked what their dream job was. They’d interviewed a senator, an astronaut, an actor, and so on. I was the last one interviewed. Writing was my dream job.


1) Writing is fun.

I find that any job where I create things—from pizza to painting is fun, but I get a unique sense of fulfillment when I finish the final draft of a big novel.

2) I get to work when I want.

If I wake up at two in the morning and have an idea for a scene, I can go to work at two in the morning. I don’t have to wait for office hours. If I want to go have lunch at my favorite restaurant, I can work it into my schedule. If I’m sick with a cold, I can sit down in my recliner with a blanket wrapped over me and write anyway. And since I love to write, it feels more like a reward than real work.

3) I can write where I want.

I used to take writing retreats down in Cabo, where I would get up at dawn and go out and wrote while the sun rose over the ocean. Some people like to write in coffee shops, others in bookstores. I like to compose in airports and in restaurants. Where would you like to be? In a cabin in the Rocky Mountains? In a swanky hotel in Berlin, in the tropical highlands in Fiji? Or a castle in Scotland? I’ve written in all of those places and loved it.

4) I’m my own boss.

I don’t have to worry about office politics. If one of my employees wants my job, I encourage them to give it a try. As my own boss, I get to choose what project I’ll work on next.

5) Your work can be as meaningful and challenging as you want to make it.

Would you like your next novel to change the world for the better? Please, make it so.

6) There’s no dress code. I’ve worked white-collar jobs where you have to shave everyday and wear a tie. I don’t mind that, but right now I’m wearing some casual sweatpants and a t-shirt. No one is going to see me today, and nobody cares.

7) I get to keep all of the money I make. When I was young, I stopped at an acquaintance’s house. He was a tax lawyer, and he came home from work and told his wife, “I just figured out how to save the company $14 million today.” His wife said in a deadpan tone, “Great, how much of that do you get to keep?” The answer was not much. If I make my company $14 million then I get $14 million because I am my own company.

As a writer, your books can sell in dozens of countries—the US, the UK, Australia, and into translations in places like Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Japan and China. Your books can go into movies, television, videogames and other mediums.

It often surprises nonwriters how much money a writer can earn from various sources. You can have mediocre sales in the US but make a fortune in Poland, and your neighbors will become convinced that you must be a drug dealer.

Years ago, when I recommended Harry Potter to be the book to push big at Scholastic and outlined the advertising campaign for it, I really didn’t imagine that it would make Rowling a billionaire. Several other writers that I’ve trained have made millions, too. One has made hundreds of millions. Making money is not that hard if you understand the business.

It really shouldn’t be too hard to imagine yourself in a job you love, making good money. You just need to begin inching toward what you want to do. Take little steps: write each day, research your next novel, and study new techniques. Work hard, and in no time at all, you can find yourself doing what you love.

I heard a story yesterday about a freelance comic artist. He said that when he left his full-time job working at McDonald’s, his boss put a fatherly arm around his shoulder, glared into his eyes, and wished him luck. He said, “Remember, if things get rough out there, you’ll always have a home here with us.”

Two of my online workshops Writing Enchanting Prose and the Advanced Story Puzzle will be starting again on Dec 14th!

The Advanced Story Puzzle: How to Brainstorm and Outline a Bestseller

The Advanced Story Puzzle covers the steps involved in prewriting and outlining your novel.

Learn to identify what pieces you need, what pieces you’re missing, how to find the elements you lack, how to know if a piece to your story puzzle is worthy of being included, and how to know if you’re even working on the right “puzzle”.

There are six lessons on setting, character, conflict, plotting, theme, and treatment. You will also have weekly video conferences where we can discuss your story and answer any questions. Turn in your weekly assignments and I will grade them and give further advice.

Writing Enchanting Prose
You’ve read stories that absolutely swept you away into another world, stories made you forget you were reading and ultimately left you changed. This workshop is designed to teach you how to enchant your readers.

Similar to the Advanced Story Puzzle, there are eight lessons with weekly conference calls and assignments.

These workshops are each $399, but you can get audited versions of both with the Superwriters’ Bundle. However, this would be without the weekly conference calls and advice on the assignments.

You can find more information on both workshops here: http://mystorydoctor.com/online-workshops/

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Advanced Story Puzzle Course