Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Writer?

Find your terrifying longing to write

Smiling woman with a blue cup. Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Writer?
Smiling woman with a blue cup. Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Writer?

Joseph Epstein said, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them.” That’s about 275 million people who think they can write. But there’s a problem. According to a study by Statista, there are only 50 thousand writers in America, and of them, only 10,000 make a full-time living from their writing. So the question is, do you have what it takes to be a writer?

Do you feel you could live without writing every day?

When you get up in the morning, what do you think of first? Even if you are working a full-time job, do you think about your work for the day, or do you think about what you’ll write when you get home? And when you get home, do you excuse that day’s writing because you’re tired or don’t want to write for some other reason? Or do you drag yourself, no matter how exhausted, to your computer and write something, anything, not because you have to but because you need to?

If you can go for weeks without writing and not feel some regrets, then don’t pursue writing as a career. That’s not to say it isn’t ok to be a dabbler in the craft of casual writing, but being a writer in every sense of the word takes passion. It’s an obsession.

Writing is an obsession for writers

When people ask, “What do I have to do to be a writer?” It’s as if they are saying they want to be an author, but they haven’t committed to being a writer. Instead of saying, “I want to write”, an author will say, “I write because I can’t help but be a writer”.

With writing, authors feel there is no option but to write. Even if they try to escape it by doing something else they enjoy, when they return to their room, they pull out their laptop and begin composing something new or working on one of their unfinished stories.

Writing is an irresistible force that draws them to write.

Find your terrifying longing to write

David Brooks in The Art of Focus said, “Try to say “yes” to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”

Being a writer is a process of elimination. Writers “crowd out everything else” for their writing. Email, phone calls, visiting with friends, television, and movies, all are not essential. They come second to their crafting a story. And until the story is done, they obsess about it. Their thinking focuses on unraveling the story and writing it so other people can read and understand it.

Do you have what it takes to be a writer?

Do you want to write or do you need to write? 275 million people believe they have a story in them and want to write. But only 10,000 make a living at writing. They’ve found their obsession is to write.

If you feel an obsession to write, you have what it takes to be a writer.

So write.

What is your writing obsession?

Published in The Ascent, The Writing Cooperative, Illumination-curated, Writers’ Blokke.

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