This post is all about figuring out what it means to “get serious about writing.”

It is different for everyone and can vary from simply writing every day to publishing, from sharing our words with a larger audience to taking the time to learn to writer better, from self-publishing to landing an agent. Figuring out what it means for you will help you to set manageable and meaningful goals.

A Question of Regret

The Bean, by Alyssa L. Miller (CC BY 2.0)

The Bean, by Alyssa L. Miller (CC BY 2.0)

My own understanding of being a serious writer has changed in recent years. I used to think it was all about being published. Not until I was published (first with articles as a food writer and then books on education and parenting), did I realize that publication alone was not the answer, at least not completely.

Part of getting serious about my writing has to do with writing regularly, part with allowing myself to fall in love with creative work. What I began to ask myself is this:

What do I regret about my writing so far, and what do I need to do to prevent regret I would feel in ten or twenty years if I continued on the same path I am on now?

It is a powerful question. The trick is to use the answer as a way to grow rather than as yet another reason for wallowing in shame, which can lead to not writing. I agree with Kathryn Schulz that regret can be very useful: “Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better.”

My Regrets

Most of my regrets have to do with holding back, going part-way and then—usually because of over-thinking others’ real or imagined reactions—stopping too soon. I regret caring too much about whether my friends would silently roll their eyes at my writing. I regret pretending I didn’t care about it as much as I do. I regret writing what was easy rather than what was difficult, what I thought was expected rather than what I wanted to write.

In short, I regret not having given my writing my all, not trusting it and committing to it the way I would a dear friend.

I regret not being loyal to my writing, which has always been there for me, fueling my inner life for as long as I can remember.

No (More) Regrets Writing

For me, then, getting serious about my writing means giving it the respect it deserves, treating it like a treasure rather than an embarrassing tic.

If I can look back in ten or twenty years and know that I wrote and submitted or self-published my writing without holding back, with courage and persistence, I truly will have no more regrets (at least about writing), regardless of publication or sales or reviews. As nice as those things are, they don’t pass the regrets test for me. For someone else, though, having no regrets might mean keeping a journal for thirty-seven years as did my great aunt Hattie or finishing a novel or publishing in literary journals or having a bestseller or earning a specific writing income.

What does it mean to you to get serious about your writing? How can you prevent future regret by “doing better”?

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