(Feature) You’re probably not really 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, just that if you’re busy hacking yourself into authorhood (using “tips and tricks” found all over 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.

I suspect there are so many would-be authors because almost everyone possesses the basic raw materials. The state not only compels us to learn how to read and write, it also forces a rudimentary literary education in the form of English class.

The state does not compel everyone to learn how to read and write music, let alone force rudimentary music theory. If it did, literally everyone you meet would be “working on an album” (versus the mere millions who say it now).

Unlike math and music, we all make words and sentences every day, which seems like practice. We write emails and texts and stupid posts like this. We even think in language.

And we all enjoy stories. Stories are popular — TV, movies, comics, books are the most popular forms of entertainment, so writing good ones brings high social status, and who doesn’t want that?

More than that, we all daydream. (Thank heavens!) Our brains are spontaneous story-making machines that forge entire narratives out of any odd collection of facts and experience.

So if we make words and sentences every day, and we make up stories everyday, surely we can put the two together and make authors of ourselves.

Writing feels easier than other potential pastimes. Rock climbing, for example, is physically demanding. You don’t come out of high school with the raw materials necessary (unless you pursued them yourself), which means those who do it well are afforded no special status. They do it for fun.

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. It’s an act of self-improvement completed without an audience.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write a book. People climb mountains and run marathons every year simply for the challenge, not because they want to be professional athletes. And I believe in the indie revolution, which gives everyone a voice independent of the gatekeepers.

But writing a book as an act of self-discovery, like playing golf for fun, is entirely different than doing it on the expectation that people will pay you for the pleasure of watching.

On the numbers, 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.

So it is people are busy right now setting writing goals for the year and sharing clever hacks to trick their brain into doing something it patently doesn’t want to do on its own, all on the hopes that 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. The same is true of reading. You at least learn something, if not see the world from a different perspective. So if you’re going to force yourself to do something with your state-sponsored literacy, read more books!

If, on the other hand, you find yourself perusing articles on writing hacks and motivations, if you regularly suffer “writer’s block,” if you don’t read as much as you write, I’m sorry to say being an author probably isn’t your passion. It’s a dream.

You’re free to pursue it anyway, of course. But I would suggest instead that the very best thing you can do for yourself and your long-term happiness is to spend that time discovering what your true passion is.