You’re probably not an author

I realize this is unpopular, but if you have to force yourself to write, then I’m not sure you really want to be an author.

I don’t say this to be mean. Quite the reverse. If you’re busy hacking yourself into authorhood with “tips and tricks” found on the internet, then you won’t be out discovering your true passion, which is whatever will fulfill you spontaneously.

That’s not to say there aren’t days when an author would rather be lazy. And of course I’m speaking here of would-be novelists, not marketing copyists or paid content producers. Those are occupations. They pay the rent and put food on the table. Content production is to novel writing what house painting is to the other kind. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but you better believe there’s a difference.

There’s something about novel-writing — versus rock climbing, or golf, or painting — that makes people want to do it professionally. In other words: for money.

The same is true of music. Lots of people also want to be musicians. The difference is, modern states do not compel music education. They do compel literacy. They also force a rudimentary literary education, which means everyone who graduates high school possesses the basic raw materials to write a book. Unlike music, we make words and sentences every day, which seems like practice.

To be clear, you CAN write a book, just as you CAN play golf, or paint. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Some people hunger for status. They want to discourage others to make themselves seem special. That’s not just mean, it’s stupid.

If you want to write a book, do it! I support everyone who wants to try. People climb mountains and run marathons every year for the challenge.

The difference is, there’s no audience for rock climbing. Indeed, the sport is replete with the mantra of self-improvement. The mountain is not “defeated” for having been climbed. Rather, what’s defeated is the climber’s own weakness and limitation.

Writing a book for the fun or challenge, like playing golf or painting, is entirely different than doing it on the expectation that people will pay you for the pleasure.

And yet, right now, millions of people are busy setting writing goals for the year and sharing clever hacks to trick their brain into doing something it clearly doesn’t want to do on the hopes that all that forced effort will nevertheless produce something people will enjoy enough to pay money for.

I try to trick myself into exercising, but then, the health benefits of exercise are virtually guaranteed. Same for reading. By contrast, you are about as likely to make a living from writing books as climbing rocks. No one accepts that — or rather, we each think we’re the exception — but it’s the truth.

That’s not a reason to stop writing. I’ll say that again. That you won’t make any money at it is not a reason NOT to write. But it is a reason not to write for money, especially if you have to hack yourself into it.

Only you can decide if you should pursue a writing career or not. But if you find yourself perusing articles on writing hacks and motivational tricks, if you regularly suffer that hypochondriacal malady “writer’s block,” if you don’t read as much as you write, then I suspect you’re not in love with writing as much as the romance of being a writer, and there exists some other passion that, if you can find it, will fulfill you in ways you’ve not yet realized.