There Is No Try: Why I Won’t Take “Aspiring” as a Label

Don't say try.

Don’t say try. Yoda gets PISSED.

Last night I mentioned on Twitter that I thought I’d pinpointed my issue with the word “aspire.” Or rather, as it applies to writing and authordom. I feel like I’ve blogged about it before, but I couldn’t find the post.

Anyway, what I said was that I don’t like being called an “aspiring writer.” I write every day. At least 1000 words a day. Pretty much without fail. I don’t spend that time knitting rainbow jumpers and hoping. If I did, I would have an awful lot of rainbow jumpers. I get shit done. I aspire to get paid for it.

There are three books and as many almost-books that I’ve written. Some people have read them. If they walked up to me and said, “Oh, are you the author of this?” (which would admittedly be daft, because they already know), I wouldn’t say, “No, I’m an aspiring author.” I wrote them, authored them, whatever you want to make into a verb. The first one felt kind of like being in labour for four years. The others have been less pop-out-a-babyish and more type-y type-y until it’s done.

If you write, you’re a writer. If you hammered at your keys for 50,000 words last month, you’re a writer. You might not be a great one yet, and you might not get paid for it, but you’re a writer. If you were an aspiring writer, you’d be that guy who hears you write books and goes, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” THAT is what an aspiring writer looks like.

The verb aspire to me implies hope and fuzzy feelings, but it isn’t, as my primary school teachers would say, an action word.

Aspiring doesn’t get a whole lot done in and of itself. You eventually have to say you’re going to knit that rainbow jumper and actually bust out the needles and yarn.

I think that people try to use the word aspire (in addition to “writer” and “author”) to delineate between those who don’t make money doing it and those who do. To an extent that’s fair. Writing is art, yes, but it’s also business if you, like me, want it to be your full time gig. (Or if you, like me, have it as a full time, unpaid internship in addition to your full time gig.) 99% of the time, the people who make their living writing have worked a lot of thankless years to get to that point, and they deserve distinction for it. They do. Absolutely.

For that, I think the word “professional” comes in handy. Professional implies that little addition of moola to the equation. It’s the difference between meeting someone on the street who cackles and says they start fires for the funsies and hiring a professional to do a controlled burn on your property. Okay, most of us in the pre-professional stage aren’t that mental.

We just hear voices and sometimes try to put the Brita filter in the microwave because we’re too busy listening…



If you want to call yourself an aspiring writer, that’s fine. I can’t make you drop the a-word. But if you really want this to be your career, if you’re committed to this long and thankless path, own it. You spend your days looking for the right words for things. If you also spend those days writing stories in whatever form — fiction or non — you are a writer.

Write till your fingers bleed. But don’t tell me they’re bleeding from aspirations. They’re bleeding from action.

Make Yoda proud.


Yoda (Photo credit: davidyuweb)


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on December 4, 2012, in Terror Tuesday, writing business and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. this is a fantastic distinction.

    i call my self a “wanna-be writer”, because i can’t do the 1000 words daily. [except lately… it’s weird] the effing meds i’m on get in the way. but i WANT to, hence “wanna”.

    you, on the other hand – i am in utter AWE. just sayin;

    on the OTHER other hand, i? have all but 2 german classes and a second internship of a BS in journalism. translated: i’m a mostly-professional EDITOR [no, really – i edited an ebook for Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill] so if you EVER need editing [or beta-ing, but it really, really is different] let me know. i adore editing.

    [i know. i’m WEIRD!!!]

  2. na da 🙂 like i said, i enjoy editing. also, i’m addicted to reading. so. it works 🙂

  3. It’s a tough thing, because so much of the initial process of making a career of writing involves doing it for free — at least, when it comes to long-form fiction. When I started making money writing for newspapers and magazines, I felt I was finally fitting the shoes of being a freelance writer — working with editors, taking assignments, seeing my work in print AND getting paid. However, I don’t feel comfortable calling myself a novelist until I actually have a published novel. Maybe because if I did refer to myself as a novelist, and then someone (logically) asked me to read my novel, my first answer would be, “No, it’s not ready yet.”
    Anyway, a crucial part of any discipline is just that, the discipline, and writers working without an agent or contract or whatever on something huge still need to take it as seriously as if they did have all those things, IMHO.

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