As Come Write With Us grows, Alex and I have been giving a lot of thought to the kind of writing community we want to cultivate. It’s pretty simple, really. We want Come Write With Us to be a place where writers of all backgrounds and experience levels feel welcome and inspired. We want to learn from other writers and share what we’ve learned, too. We want to help writers feel more like writers.
With that mission in mind, below are seven truths we believe about writing. These principles have shaped the work we put into this platform and into our own personal writing.
1. If you’re writing, you’re a writer.
Having a day job doesn’t make you less of a writer. Writing blog posts instead of in-depth articles for the New Yorker doesn’t make you less of a writer. Not getting paid for your writing doesn’t make you less of a writer. Getting paid for your writing doesn’t make you less of a writer.
If you’re writing, you’re a writer.
2. Not all writers are starving artists.
Upholding the myth of the starving artist lowers the bar for all writers. There’s money out there, but the more we uphold the idea that writers are destined to a life of low pay, the more those companies, publications, magazines, and outlets get away with paying us peanuts for our hard work.
3. Making money as a writer isn’t easy.
Don’t let anyone tell you there’s some bulletproof formula for making six figures as a writer. Sure, there are some foundational rules and guidelines, but making money as a writer still takes hard work, persistence, and thinking outside the box. Working writers have different ways of earning income. Some writers find staff jobs at publications. Some writers freelance and do consulting work. Some writers have full-time jobs and write at night. Some writers are professors.
It will always be hard to do what you love for a living. To pull it off, you have to be resourceful and determined.
4. Everyone has a story to tell.
You might think your story isn’t very interesting. You might think it’s not worth telling. Maybe nobody will care. But some of the most interesting stories take place in life’s seemingly mundane moments. Alice Walker wrote a deeply powerful essay about a quilt. David Sedaris wrote a laugh-out-loud essay about his Fitbit. Writers of all backgrounds have written stories, essays, op-eds, or how-to pieces on everything from apples to celebrating birthdays to being a messy human being.
You have a thousand stories to tell, writing is just a matter of finding the best way to tell them.
5. Great writers are made, not born.
To some extent, writing skills are innate. Some writers do seem like they have a natural instinct for good writing, but often enough, that instinct was actually honed from years of practice, even if it meant keeping a journal as a kid. Even if you’re born a good writer, it takes work to be a truly skilled writer.
The best writers spend an inordinate amount of time reading, practicing, and learning.
6. Writing is something you do, not your entire identity.
Being a writer does feel like a badge of honor. It’s a highly romanticized profession, after all. But identifying too much with the title “writer” can have consequences. It can keep you from looking at your work objectively. When people give you feedback, maybe you take it too personally and find it difficult to improve your writing. Overidentifying with the “writer” title can also spiral you into a deep depression if you lose a writing job. Trust us, we’ve been there — you feel like you’ve not only lost a job but also lost part of who you are. Finally, when you’re more interested in being a writer than you are with writing, you might not be as willing to do the work it takes to, well, be a writer (see #3).
There’s a difference between calling yourself a writer and doing the work of writing.
7. Writing communities should be inclusive, safe, and empathetic.
Writing is inherently empathetic. When you write for an audience, you’re trying to connect with your reader. You’re trying to communicate with them and illustrate a feeling, opinion, series of events, or point of view. You’re explaining something to them, and that means understanding how your words will land. It also means you have to feel free to be vulnerable and allow your reader to be vulnerable enough to open their mind to your words as well.
With that in mind, writing communities should be inclusive of the experiences of all groups, but especially groups that are so often underrepresented and overlooked. In fact, all communities should be inclusive. This doesn’t mean we should accept groups that promote hate speech, or discrimination, however. These groups often weaponize tolerance by using it as an excuse to promote intolerant ideas. That is the antithesis of inclusivity, safety, and empathy.
As a writer, you know that words have power. It’s up to you to that power responsibly, graciously, and kindly.