How to Become a Professional Writer

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Richard Bach

This quote caught my attention earlier this week.

My apologies to you whose blog I “stole” it from because I didn’t make a note of where I saw it when I copied it down and now, can I remember where it was?? Of course not! This is the life of reading so many words from too many places; and getting old. There’s a lesson here about citing sources, I’m sure. Thank you unnamed author. May you be justly rewarded in some fantastic way! (If you are that blogger, and read my blog as well, would you be so kind as to let me know so we can settle up?)

My response to the quote above was, “Wow! Really? Then there is hope for this amateur writer because I will not quit!”

Seriously, the quote may seem facetious, but it holds a simplistic truth. Sometimes, all it takes to succeed is us not giving up. I think of my daughter, Ashley, who recently ran a half marathon in Vancouver, Canada. It was her first, and she didn’t quit. She crossed the finish line (in a relatively decent time even) and became a marathon runner. Still, she had put in training time.

While the simple theory of the quote encouraged me, I also considered all I’ve been doing to become a professional writer. Nearly a year and a half ago, I finally decided to take writing seriously and began doing everything I was told.

Here’s my list:

  1. Take writing seriously. I know I already wrote that, but that is how important the step was for me. I had to choose to write for real. Not just say it, or dabble in it, or read a lot and dream about it.
  1. Learn to write well. In high school and college I was told I had a gift for writing. For some crazy reason, I believed that meant everything I wrote and sent out for publication would be snapped up with a grateful “Thank you for gracing us with your wonderful work.” After a dozen rejection letters, I felt crushed and indignant. Then I decided I must not be any good after all. When I humbly accepted that I had things to learn about writing, my writing improved. Imagine that! I’m still learning. We can always learn something new or perfect what we already know. Mt Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference has been invaluable.
  1. Write. Seems like a no brainer, but honestly I can spend a lot of time doing “writing” tasks without typing a word. 10,000 words or hours or something… Bottom line: we need to put in a lot of hours actually writing.
  1. Build a platform. What’s a platform?? Honestly, this has been the hardest part for me. First to understand the need, then to be genuine about it and finally to simply put in the time to learn the technology and make connections. I’m currently reading Michael Hyatt’s book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. I’ve already learned so much in just a few chapters! (Like now I know that I’m supposed to write a disclaimer–according to FTC rules–saying I’m not being compensated for mentioning Michael’s book or Mt. Hermon. I list them simply because I think they’re so helpful.)
  1. Learn to write fabulous book proposals. So my book is done and in the final stages of editing, but how’s someone going to hear about it unless I can pitch it well to an agent or publisher? Guess what? I’m reading a book about that too.

It seems like a lot of work because it is.

I’m fortunate to be able to work full time (ha! I use that term loosely) on my writing, but it’s still a challenge to spend so many hours doing something without being paid and think of it as a “job.” Explaining to people what I do for a “living,” that I write…for nothing, presents a challenge in my mind. But I’m trying to see it as an investment. As in a startup company. Like a professional. One day it will all pay off.

What’s your list? How have you turned pro by not giving up?

8 thoughts on “How to Become a Professional Writer

  1. Oh, Laura. I can’t believe how you and I are always on the same “page”. I struggle with the exactly the same things. Only I do have to do other “work”. One day, soon. I hope I can devote all my time to writing.
    I just blogged less than half an hour ago on perseverance. Great minds think alike…don’t finish the last part of that sentence. 🙂
    By the way, with regards to posting others photos, tread lightly because there’s been a huge uproar over this. One writer was sued and the person who sued won. And all the writer did was post a photo on her blog and even gave that person credit. So because of that I’m now taking my own “wacky” photos. And you know what. I’m loving it. It pushed me out of my comfort zone.


    1. Good to know! All the photos on my site I have taken myself. Except the ones of me which were taken by my best friend, Carol and my son, Blair. I think I’m safe there 🙂 But, hopefully my “stolen” quote won’t cause an issue…
      And yes, it’s kind of cool how we seem to be on the same track! Like kindred spirits in Anne of Green Gables 🙂


  2. Hi…i think that comment came from either Kay or Joseph Bentz…i remember seeing it as well and it grasped me….and yes as an artist I know I have to ‘ask’ permission to use someone else’s photo, to either paint it or use it on a social media such as web site or blog…

    Thanks for helping me see I have a job as a writer, that is what I am doing, writing my book and devotions and articles to get published…it feels a little like I am naked if I don’t write every other day or so…but what i love most is keeping contact with my writer friends from Mt. Hermon (disclosure granted!) on facebook..i can’t wait to see them again next march…you included, hey do you want to room together again??? i know you can take my snoring! miraim


    1. Thank you so much Miriam for your kind and encouraging words! And, YES, it must have been on Kay Strom’s site that I saw the quote. Bless you!! Kay, thank you for letting me borrow the quote from your site!!

      I’m impressed by your perseverance and how you jumped into pursuing your writing so tenaciously. Way to go. I can’t wait to see what comes from your hard work.

      Yes, rooming together next year could very well be possible. I’m also hoping my critique partner will be able to come too! We’ll see what the new year brings.


  3. How I wish I was writing professionally! I love my blog, love to write, but am having trouble figuring out how to make it a “real job.” I’m determined not to quit, but it is hard to stay the course!


    1. I so understand! Some days are really hard and feel like I’m not moving at all. One little step at a time still takes you in the right direction. Keep walking–you’ll get there!


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