I have a startling message for you.
You can just write.
You don’t have to want to publish or build a platform. You’re allowed to just enjoy the art form and express yourself.
I own a meat smoker and I love it. During the warmer months, most weekends you’ll find me smoking something. I’m getting better at it. Sometimes people will even tell me things like, “this is so good. You should start a restaurant.” But I have no intention of starting a restaurant. It’s just a hobby that I enjoy.
I also play guitar. I’m not amazing at it by any stretch, but I regularly lead worship in a small group setting or sometimes for special events. I don’t have any aspirations to record an album or to one day be a full-time performer or worship leader in any capacity. It’s just a thing I enjoy, and I do it when the opportunity presents itself.
But writers tend to do this strange thing. As soon as we start talking about writing, we’re immediately sucked into a conversation about publishing. There’s an assumption that if you write, part of your goals must be to be a professional writer.
Where does that come from?
It’s OK just to write as a hobby.
Writing is a gift from God. The written word literally defines civilization. Christianity is defined by a collection of writings called The Bible. What a beautiful thing it is to be able to read and write!
Writing is an amazing way to express yourself. It’s an amazing way to engage creatively and have fun. Writing regularly, whether journaling, short stories, or poetry, will make you mentally and physically healthier.
So of course you should write, but that doesn’t mean you should publish. In fact, thoughts of publishing might just ruin it for you. You may take all of those positive health benefits of writing and overrule them with a bunch of superficial stress.
Writing is an art, but publishing is a business. That’s just the way it is.
I’ve met a lot of amazing writers who have no appreciation for the business of publishing. They don’t produce regularly, they won’t promote, and you’ll never read their work. They’re not willing to make it their top priority and do the hard stuff.
I’ve met a lot of poor writers who do love the business of publishing. They probably won’t be remembered for generations, but they make a living with their writing because they are obsessed with it. It is their only goal in life and consumes their world.
Whether you’re a good writer or a poor writer, becoming a professional author will literally cost you your life. It will have to be your everything.
One of the worst things you can do for your own happiness is to set an unattainable goal for yourself. If you set a goal that you’re not actually willing to make the sacrifice to meet, it’s a recipe for misery.
As recorded in Luke 14:24-35 in the Bible, Jesus once told a parable about counting the cost of following Him. He’s not actually talking about budgeting in this story, He’s talking about how following Him will literally cost you everything. Whether metaphorically or literally, you have to give up your life to follow Jesus. All of your time, money, even possibly your physical life, has to be laid down to make Jesus your number one priority.
Becoming a professional author is the same. It will require everything of you. In order to achieve real success, your time, your money, and your relationships will all come second to this goal. To have any shot at real success, this goal will consume you.
Fortunately, I think you can pursue your writing with Jesus. For some, writing is the way that Jesus calls you to lay all of your time, money, relationships, and priorities at His feet.
But it’s OK if that’s not you.
It’s OK to just write as a hobby. It’s OK to not aspire to be a professional author.
It’s OK to write for pleasure the way other people play tennis, collect coins, or play board games.
If it’s fun for you, you can even go to writing conferences and take writing classes. You can self-publish with the reasonable expectation that you’ll sell a few copies to friends and family. You can do a book reading at a local bookstore or your church, just for fun. You can have a Facebook page for your writing even. You can even wear a beret or a cape if you want.
You can do all of those things just for fun. Just as a hobby. Just for your own pleasure. And that’s OK.
Most of what I write about on this website is for those who have decided they’ll give everything to be a writer. They’ve decided that’s their calling and their life just won’t be complete without achieving those goals. I can write all of my advice for those people in good conscience only because I also believe that it’s good to just write for fun.
You can even use the advice you find on this website to whatever degree it’s fun for you. If something starts being more stressful than fun, just stop.
Today, count the cost. If you’re really willing to give up everything for your writing, then let’s do this thing together. Keep reading, keep applying. Take my Arche Year course over at The Company, or if you’re actually as serious as you say you are, come join my full-time writing apprenticeship for Christian writers. That’s the fastest way to lay down your life and get serious about reaching your goals.
Ask God, is writing and publishing His call on your life, or is it just a creative outlet—a gift for a healthy and happy life?
If you count the cost and decide that becoming a professional writer is not your calling—you enjoy writing and maybe even publishing, but you’re not willing to make it your absolute highest priority, then I give you permission to release yourself from all the junk you’ve picked up from the writing community.
Writer – noun; one who writes.
This can be your hobby. Enjoy it. Love it.
I’ve lived on the border between normal and overweight for my entire adult life. For 15+ years now, I’ve pretty much been the same weight. By the world’s standards, I really ought to lose about 15 pounds.
I lived with that for a long time and carried that goal. I knew I should lose this weight, mostly just for appearance sake, but I’m really not willing to prioritize what I would need to do to make that happen. In order to overcome this stable weight, which is consistent with my genetics, I’d need to eat every meal with that in mind and spend hours at the gym. For years I carried the weight of this goal that I’m unwilling to meet, which left me just generally feeling disappointed in myself when I looked in the mirror.
About a year ago, I asked God in prayer if I would ever look better than this. Would I ever reach that goal? He told me no.
There’s so much freedom in that no. I know I’m a healthy and active person, and that no gave me permission to release that superficial goal. Carrying a goal that you really have no intention of reaching is a recipe for misery.
Now I enjoy my food more, I live an active lifestyle and don’t sweat it if I’m not “working out” three times a week. I look like me in the mirror. And my weight stays exactly the same.
There was freedom in releasing that goal.
You might be carrying goals for your writing that aren’t from God. Maybe you don’t even really care for those goals, you just sort of accepted them as part of the package because other writers were talking about it. Talk to God about it, and I want you to know that it’s OK to release that. Stand on what’s important to you.
You’re good at lots of things. You don’t have to be a professional at all of them. You’re not squandering your potential or spiting your gift.
It’s OK to just write. In fact, it just may be the best thing ever.
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Your post is very spot-on for me, Brad. I enjoy writing (“scribbling”) much more now treating it as a hobby than in previous years. I enjoy the act or creating, of blending writing with music and art, of revising and changing the story up as it unfolds in my head. Writing is a great escape for me after the stress and deadlines of my day job, which I’m blessed to enjoy as well. Thanks for the informative and inspiring posts! ~ g
So glad it was helpful! Thanks for reading.