Letter to a Writing Friend: Five Steps to Becoming a Writer

How to Become a Writer

Dear friend,

Several years ago I had given up my writing dream as impractical, embarrassing, and impossible. On the rare occasions when I had a burst of inspiration and typed it out quickly into a Word document, I always felt hollow afterward. Pointless, a voice would whisper in my head. Not that good, another would whisper as I reread my own words, starving for something that would show me I should keep writing.

Years passed and life happened--I worked full time as an English teacher, was married, eventually had my daughter. As each role landed on my plate, writing slipped further away and I felt almost comfortable with it. It wasn’t meant to be. There were lots of hobbies out there. I didn’t need to write. It was easier not to want to write actually. 

One day I was talking with a friend who unabashedly pursued her writing dreams and I found myself judging her: Who does she think she is? Does she really think she will get published? What an arrogant assumption. I stopped myself. My vicious inner critic had turned on others. And when I thought about it I realized what was really going on was simply this: I was jealous. I wanted to write too. I wanted to believe in my writing dreams too. I desperately, almost primally, wanted to hold a book in my hands that I wrote.

I started writing again, but my writing was inconsistent at best. Constantly attacked by doubt and self-criticism, writing wasn’t very fun. It often left me depressed. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t want to pour my heart into something and fail. I was constantly second guessing whether my writing was “any good.”

Then life happened (as it does) and I found myself in a therapist's office, relearning how to be an adult human. Learning for the first time lots of things that I should have known all along: Things like my innate value as a human being and that we do things for love of the process not to prove ourselves to anyone.

And then I entered a writing contest for a very small online magazine--and I won. People cared what I wrote? People actually wanted to publish it so others could read it? Something flipped in my heart and I began chasing this writing thing for real. It took another few years of growth and learning and being in the writing community, but one day I woke up and thought: “I’m a writer.” And I felt its truth in my bones. There were no voices bickering with me about it. It was just simple truth.

My next step was to make writing a habit. For a long time I’d left writing on the sidelines of my life, like a scarf I was knitting, there to be picked up when I wanted something to do and left languishing the other 349 days out of the year.

I didn’t follow a process as I tried to build my writing practice. It was messy and all over the place. But on the other side, looking back I know that there were several steps I took to get to this place: Where writing is a grace-filled and purpose-filled constant in my life.

Want to know how I did it? Here are the exact steps I took:

First, I tackled my inner critic and writing misbeliefs. I addressed those noisy voices and subtle subconscious misbeliefs that were directing my actions.

Second, I looked at what I wanted from my writing. What were my goals? What was my vision for myself as a writer?

Third, I made writing goals and planned for my writing. Where did writing fit in my life? How flexible could I be with it? How could I make real progress on it?

Fourth, I learned that a thriving writing practice went way beyond just getting words on the page. It included sharing my work with others, gathering inspiration, and learning about the craft.

Fifth, I realized I needed to accept that I wasn’t always going to meet my writing goals--and believe that I was still a writer, even on the days I didn’t write. I had to learn to give myself heaps of grace so that writing didn’t become connected with shame but with joy.

I wrote the course Build Your Writing Life based on these ideas. There is so much good work to be done if we decide to claim our identity as writers and create a writing habit that lasts and brings us great joy. You have so much to offer the world my writer friend. Don’t let shame or self-doubt or insecurity rob you of even one more day. 

If you think this course might help you defeat the gremlins, you can get more info on the course at this link

And if the course isn’t for you, that’s no problem. Take the steps above and work them out for yourself. Gather resources and support for yourself. Don’t stop until you’ve built yourself a writing practice that you love.

I can’t wait to hold your book in my hands some day. Here’s to becoming the writers we were meant to be. So happy to be on this journey with you.

Much love,


Ashly HilstComment