There is no such thing as an ‘aspiring writer.’ You are a writer. Period."
The above quote comes from one of Australia’s most successful, bestselling authors – Matthew Reilly. Although it may seem like simple, idealistic advice, it could in fact, be one of the most important lessons a new writer can learn.
But what makes this such an important lesson? After all, you’ve heard the term ‘aspiring author’/'aspiring writer' thrown about in literary circles without anyone giving it so much as a second thought.
Not to mention, the Internet is filled with websites plastered with the term - all claiming to have the Holy Grail of writing advice for so-called ‘aspiring writers.’
It certainly seems like a harmless enough phrase. You’ve no doubt used it yourself. But harmless as it may seem, the term ‘aspiring writer’ is actually quite problematic, and could even be holding you back in your writing career. So the sooner you quit employing the phrase, the better.
Here’s why you should never refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring author’ ever again.
1. ‘Aspiring’ is an abstract term
Aspirations exist only in thought, not in actuality. To ‘aspire’ is to think, not to do. In this way, the term ‘aspiring writer’ allows for a state of inactivity. Or, as author Chuck Wendig puts it,
Aspiring is a meaningless, null state that romanticises Not Writing."
By dropping the term ‘aspiring’ and stating instead ‘I am a writer,’ you confirm to yourself, and to the world, that yes, you are actively working on a writing career. You are writing. You are a writer.
2. ‘Aspiring’ takes the pressure off
By describing yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’, you are essentially stating ‘I am not a writer now, but I would like to be one at some vague point in the future’. In doing this, you are reinforcing the notion in your head that all your writing efforts - all your physical, and actual hard work in pursuing your dreams – all lie beyond the present moment.
The pressure is taken off to write right now. In other words, what you are doing is permitting a ‘diet-starts-tomorrow’ mentality for your writing. But as a little, redheaded orphan once reminded us, ‘Tomorrow’ is always a day away.
Thus, ‘tomorrow’ never comes. So, if you truly want to be a writer, don’t wait until tomorrow, start today.
3. ‘Aspiring’ undermines self-esteem
Think of all the times you have described yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’. How often have you employed the term out of a lack of confidence or self-belief? Because you didn’t feel ‘qualified’ to call yourself a writer? But even if this is not the case, the term itself could be eating away at your self-esteem, without you even realising it.
As we have already established, ‘aspiring’ implies that the state of actually being is a thing of the future. In other words, stating you are an aspiring writer implies that you will not actually be a writer until some, unknown, future date.
In this way, when you use this term to describe yourself, you nurture the subconscious belief that your goal of becoming a writer will always lie just beyond your grasp - just out of reach. Such a belief is extremely demotivating, and can thus undermine your self-esteem.
So the next time you describe yourself, try using a more reaffirming phrase. Don’t say ‘I’m an aspiring writer.’ Say ‘I'm a writer.’
4. ‘Aspiring’ is a term to hide behind
Writing is a very difficult profession. Unfortunately, not all who turn their attentions to the written word succeed. For this reason, those of us who do feel the yearning to construct worlds out of words carry a great deal of anxiety.
We fear failure. We fear others seeing us as failures. And if we admit that we are writers, we must then own up to how much or how little success we have actually found.
Therefore, when we are faced with the judgemental eyes of a long lost acquaintance, probing us with the question, ‘And what do you do these days?’, we feel the need to apologise for the fact that we are not J.K. Rowling. We fear being labelled a failure or pretender, simply because we haven’t sold a million copies of that novel we’re drafting.
So we hide. We hide behind the term ‘aspiring.’ Because if we are merely aspiring, it’s okay if we haven’t found success yet. Because ‘aspiring’ means we aren’t necessarily trying. We are thinking, not doing.
But here lies the problem: if we never accept our title, if we do not stop hiding from our passions and begin at last to pursue them wholeheartedly, we will never find the success we so long for. It’s time we admit what we are. We are writers. No more aspiring. No more hiding.
5. Take yourself seriously
The moment you stop calling yourself an ‘aspiring writer’ and start calling yourself a writer, is the moment you begin taking yourself seriously. This is extremely important, as writers are constantly required to make others believe in them.
We must convince agents, editors, publishers, and readers that our writing is worth their time – that they should take us seriously. But this, of course, is impossible to do unless we take ourselves seriously, first.
So the next time you need to explain to anyone 'what you do', don’t shy away and hide. Have confidence in your abilities, and never refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’ ever again.