Friday, January 31, 2014

Are you a hack?

Anyone can be a writer. In fact, according to a survey in 2002 about 80% of Americans have aspirations to write a book. And there's nothing stopping them. Unlike another profession such as surgeon or lawyer, there isn't a degree, certificate or test that you need to have before you can write. Just pick up a pen and start.

Sometimes I wish there was a certification. Not because I want to thin out the crowd or limit the profession to only those who can succeed. I wish for a certificate for my own frail ego. With a piece of paper, I could hang it on my wall and say yes I am qualified to be a writer, agent, marketing expert.
I don't have that piece of paper to frame and hang next to the college diploma that I have also never framed or hung on a wall. So, there are days when I feel like a hack.

These are the days when someone points out a plot hole in my latest WIP that is big enough to be seen from the moon. Or when I get several editors all responding at once that they won't be offering on what I consider to be my client's masterpiece. There are a lot of days when I look at the stats for this blog and wonder why anyone should listen to a word I say about marketing.

What kind of audacity do I have to consider anything I say worth something to another person?

I guess the good news is that I have quite a bit of audacity. I'm a bit brazen that way. A psychiatrist might say I'm subconsciously overcompensating for my extreme lack of height, but let's save that for another day.

I'm a writer, because I write. End of story. I'm an agent because I worked my tail end off as an intern, and then an apprentice, to learn everything I could about being an agent. I'm still learning. I hope I never stop. Sure, I spent a lot of years in the professional world of marketing, so I've got experience, but I also make it a point to stay current on trends, follow the big names, and read at least four new marketing books every year. And yet, I still have moments when I feel like a great big fraud.

I'm telling you this, because, if I had to guess, I imagine you have days like this, too. No matter where you are in the journey. Regardless of whatever successes and failures you've had. There are probably days when want to throw your hands up in the air and quit it all.

Because, surely, if you weren't such a hack, all of this would be easier.

Am I right?

We all have those moments. Moments of complete and utter devastation. When we tell ourselves "No wonder I can't finish this manuscript/get an agent/sell this book/get more reviews/get on the NY Times list/stay on the NY Times list/meet Oprah. Obviously, I'm a hack."

You're not a hack. It isn't supposed to be easy. If it were, there would be a lot more books showing up from that 80% of Americans who want to write one. If you start thinking it's easy, you will be a hack.

You're not a hack. You aren't supposed to know it all. There is so much information out there about everything you couldn't possibly know even half of it. If you stop learning, you will be a hack.

You're not a hack. Everyone has to start somewhere and there will always be people who do it better, smarter, faster than you. If you stop trying, you will be a hack.

A lack of knowledge, experience or talent doesn't make you a hack, fraud or failure. If you stop thinking you need more knowledge, experience and talent, then you will be a hack.

Embrace the you right now, wherever you are in your path. The one that can see both how far you've come and how far you still have to go. That you, right here, is perfect.


  1. I so needed to read this just right now. I have spent some time tonight on my blog. edits, and edits and edits. getting it just right. Your blog reminds me that I am a writer because I write, that this is normal to feel this way. thank you.

  2. Must be in the stars today. We just started a forum thread in +Copyblogger 's Authority program on the topic. It felt so grand hearing +Sonia Simone and +Chris Garrett say the same sort of things. We all need that bit of confidence to do our best...even as we NOW know enough to know that there is always SO much more to know?

  3. I definitely have my moments. Thanks for this post!

  4. Thanks for the post. This writing journey is a difficult one, and one that requires the same fortitude as the professions you mentioned at the beginning of your post.

  5. A hack writer is someone who writes formulaic, unoriginal, or banal work that he/she believes is commercial (like the tons of people who write vampire love stories or fan-fic). I'm sure you aren't a hack, Sarah. But there are hacks who make good money and original, talented writers who cannot sell. Thanks for the encouraging post. :)


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