#129: Is ‘writing’ the wrong word?

Writing is a confusing term. Why? On one hand, almost everyone in the developed world can write. Most people have been taught to make readable marks on paper in the first few years of school. It’s all good. On the other hand, only very few people can reliably produce dozens of books or thousands of articles throughout their lives. Yet both of these groups are apparently doing the same thing.

Running also suffers from similar ambiguity. The person who dashes the final 30 yards to catch a bus is running, as is the athlete competing in an ultra-marathon race. Almost anyone can do the former, but it takes several years of training and perhaps a lifetime of dedication to do the latter.

Nobody expects to be able to win or even finish a marathon without proper training. Yet there’s a lot of confusion about what it takes to write books. Writing a book is a marathon. And writing a best-selling book means finishing at the very front of the pack.

I’m not saying this to discourage folks — that would be weird from someone who runs a writing motivation blog. Plenty of people write amazing books, and it’s absolutely possible for you to do it too. But I feel that it’s important to have the right expectations coming in. I also don’t mean to elevate authors to a position of superiority over people who merely write. There’s nothing inherently noble about writing books.

The writing that we talk about when we talk about writing books isn’t an act. It’s a discipline. Doing it deliberately over and over again is at the very core of what it means to be a writer. I wish writing a lot of emails and shit would set me up for success as an author. Sadly, that isn’t the case.

Want to write a book? Expect to work hard and train regularly. Expect to be exhausted and out of breath. Expect to be wanting to burn the bloody thing (good thing that I don’t live in a posh place with a fireplace). It may take years before you finish one and many more before you go on to write a bestseller.

If none of the above deters you then welcome, stranger, you’re among friends. And we’re delighted to have you.

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