Aspire?

Earlier today I tweeted, “You’re not an “aspiring writer”. You either write or you don’t. Do, or do not. There is no try.” I added the hashtag “meantwithlove” since I did not want to appear overly harsh. It’s just that, I saw the phrase on the profile of someone who I know IS an author/writer and it maddens me to think that they don’t believe that about themselves.

Now to be fair, it’s possible that they are defining “writer” as “a writer who has been published” and perhaps that’s a valid definition. It was even proposed by Indiana Jim that “author” was the word for that and that the person might be an aspiring author, not having been published yet. I could, and am tempted, to quibble and say that Webster makes no such distinction, but as a writer I know that words have connotations separate from their dictionary definitions.

Rich Asplund is probably being a bit more honest when he said “that’s why I call it as it is I’m a wannabe soon as I get off my ass and do it consistently I can remove wannabe”. Being a consistent writer is part of being a successful one, but even if you’re not consistent you are still a writer if you write, an author if you are creating. What “consistent” means may vary from person to person, but I think that writing a few hundred words daily is a good place to start. With that your writing should improve and it will become easier to write more. Are you in the place Rich is, and do you wanna stay there? He doesn’t.

If you aspire to be something, whatever it may be, and the power is in your hands, then stop aspiring and do it! Arguably the “getting published” part is not something in your control, but if you aren’t writing regularly and submitting what you write are you really aspiring? If not, that’s not a bad thing by itself. It just means you should leave that word in the dust collecting at your feet. Remember that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.

The problem with the word “aspire” is, too often it’s used in the past tense. “He aspired to a career in medicine.” (Maybe he just should have gone to med school?) I would hate for anyone who wanted to be a writer or a painter or a doctor to never arrive simply because they took no steps towards the goal. So to you, writers, I say strip that word from your profiles. Write! Paint! Cut people op- Go to med school! If you aren’t going to do something about it, then you have no recourse when you fail.

To put it another way I will quote J.C. Hutchins:

Step 1: Do nothing.
Step 2: Complain about results.
Step 3: Do nothing.
Step 4: Wonder about same results.
Step 5: Whine.
Step 6: Repeat.

Is that who you wanna be? No! So, get out there and do, or do not. There is no aspire.

13 thoughts on “Aspire?”

    1. Excellent Lisa! I don’t even aspire to be a runner, but I’ve gone from wanting to be a fencer to actually fencing.

  1. Absolutely. The whole thing is ridiculous. Do you write? Fine, you’re a writer. Next item. Now I suppose if one had never completed a work, one could say aspiring writer. But even that would be questionable – no short stories, etc?

    And these days, even the traditionally published thing doesn’t work. Are we gonna tell one of the dozens of writers making four figures a month on kindle without any traditionally published books that they aren’t even authors?

    Nah, you nailed it, Scott, it’s about attitude. And we all can use an adjustment from time to time.

    1. Thanks Ed! Yeah I want people to realize their dreams. That sounds cliche, but the only way to get to where you want to go is to put on your boots and start walking.

  2. JKR (you might remember 7 books and 8 movies) didn’t write a few hundred words a day to get better at it. She spent, what, 18 years gathering ideas for the story, and THEN wrote it. It’s about content. If there’s nothing to say, it’s not going to be epic, no matter how good you are. At the time, I, and probably lots of others, had the same basic plot, was (were) excited about it, but failed to develop it.

    I have specific goals, and writing is one of the tools i’ve needed to make headway towards them. These goals are unusally motivated, so it won’t be a surprise if i don’t get success in the usual ways. I’m afraid that “aspiring writer” is often said by someone who’s goal is to be paid for writing.

    At the moment, none of my stuff (including this comment) are for sale. That doesn’t currently get me towards any of my goals.

    1. So, just to clarify, you’re saying that Rowling didn’t write a word before word one of the first book? Even if that were true she had to write some number of words per day to get the book done.

      Personally I think every word of fiction you write (assuming you want to be a fiction writer) will put you one step closer to being a good writer. So while your comment isn’t “for sale” (an odd thing to say) I hope one of your goals is to be a good writer and that you realize that practice will get you there.

      What are your goals, if I may ask?

  3. We writers love to talk about writing, hear about writing, listen to writers giving interviews, read books on writing. We really need to just write more 🙂 Nice post Scott.

    1. Thanks Dan! Since this is writing about writing I’m not sure this doesn’t fall under the “wanking” category, but it was worth the risk if it encouraged you.

  4. I’m in the “if you write your a writer; you become an author when a publisher pays you for your work” camp.

    You can be an aspiring author, not writer…

    Because I do place a greater emphasis on author and publication I have started to draw a distinction between self published writers and authors…

    In my mind you don’t become an auhtor until a publisher buys your work…

    1. Michael,

      Is it a quality issue? Is your thinking that the barrier to entry in self-publishing is so low now that it somehow makes your work less legitimate? I’m also curious if something like a single short story sale to a magazine would male someone an author in your eyes?

      Thanks for your comment!

      1. Re: Self publishing vs traditional publishing. More that someone else thinks your works is good enough to risk their and their shareholders money on your work.

        I am not sure about one of sales, but multiple sales yes. 🙂

        But then it is a highly personal view on how I/we view the writing profession. Being a writer and author despite official definitions all comes down to how you view those terms and what they mean to you….

  5. I remember I once helped an assistant professor of commercial law editing a legal book for publishing. Somewhere working, I joked that he now was an author, considering the amount he wrote.
    He was almost upset and told me that it wasn’t cool calling someone working and publishing in research an “author”.

    I am writing and I enjoy it. I won’t let technicalities, labels and drawers stop or even hinder me. Never have and never will.

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