There are a lot of words that offend, anger, or just irk me, but each and every one has a place in an author’s work.  Their appropriateness may be up for debate, but that’s a contextual argument. It’s very possible that the words are there to offend, anger, or irk the reader, and there’s value there. So which word is it that I think a writer should never use?


Seriously, fuck this word.

Too many writers (and authors) use this word to describe themselves. I see it all the time in Twitter profiles: “Mom of 2.8 kids and one giant pangolin. Ukelele trapeze enthusiast. Aspiring author.” I cringe every time I see the a-word, and you know I’m about to tell you why.

So we went off the rails pretty quick here, but I want to make it absolutely clear why using this wishy-washy descriptor is hurting you as a writer, and maybe even as a person.

In essence, saying that you’re an “aspiring” anything is an admission of failure before you’ve even started. It’s in the same category of evil as the word “try.” You are planting in your own mind a seed of doubt, and there are plenty of people in the world who will do that for you. You’re admitting to the world and yourself that you’re not what you want to be, and that’s tragic. Despite my foul mouth and curmudgeonly attitude, I’m your biggest fan and believe in you. Even if your writing sucks, I’m still a fan of you just for doing it. Because here’s the thing: if you’re writing, then you’re a writer.

It doesn’t matter that you haven’t finished anything yet.  It doesn’t matter that you haven’t sold anything that you’ve finished. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t made it onto a bestseller list. You write, therefore you are a writer. You’re not aspiring at all… You’re fucking writing!

(Still, I wouldn’t put “writer” down on your tax returns until you’re making a living off of it, which is a difficult proposition for all of us.)

No other profession does this. No one says they’re an aspiring doctor, an aspiring accountant, or aspiring ferret trainer. Either you have a medical licence and practice, or you don’t. Either you have an accounting degree and a desk job, or you don’t. And either you teach furry turds with teeth to fetch slippers, or you don’t. There is no aspiring to be had anywhere in here.

Now, if you want to say that you want to become a professional writer or a full-time author, then we can reach some middle ground. Those are clear distinctions that we can make. In fact, I tend to define “author” as someone who has published at least one book. However, ebooks and blogs have lowered the barrier to entry in the publishing market. If you’re written something, there’s no reason not to publish it. (Even if it sucks. I’m constantly amazed at how many shitty books are on bestseller lists. I’m looking at you Fifty Shades of Grey.)

If you want to find success as a writer, an artist, or even as a human then stop aspiring. Just do. Even if no one else is in your corner, I will be there with words of encouragement (liberally seasoned with f-bombs, of course).

Now get out there and write, dammit!

If you’re writing and want to share it with at least a dozen other people (Hi, Mom!), leave me a comment below or get in touch on Twitter.

Working on a novel? Is it your first? Maybe you should check out my series How to FINISH Your First Novel. (On second thought, you should definitely read it.)

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