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?