Accepting my father’s lesson was like learning to swim in cold water — painful at first but invigorating after I got used to it. After the initial disappointment of giving up the delusion that the state of becoming a writer was as good as being one I had no choice but to jump over the becoming stage and simply be.
I did that by writing. Every day. And when I learned the secret of getting up early and writing first thing in the morning – hours before other people trailed into work – then I began to really live my dream.
These days I usually get to the office between 6:30 and 7:00 and the first thing I do is brew a cup of coffee and fire up the computer. There is no better feeling for me than to get going, sometimes by writing in my journal but more often by tackling something tougher, like a book chapter, first thing in the morning when the office is dark and quiet.
Of all the many pleasures of being a writer – the finishing of the manuscript, the collaboration with editors, seeing the book for the first time and even the best seller lists and parties – the purest and finest for me has always been the first few hours every morning when I am in a writerly groove.
What I am saying is that the best part about being a writer, I have discovered, is the writing.
To enjoy that best part, you don’t need to be working at a certain level nor do you need to have taken so many hours of classes or received any diplomas, certificates or degrees. All you need to do is to do the thing you want to do. Just do it!
Here’s a bonus thought: the best way to become something special is also the fastest and the easiest: just start doing it. Don’t wait for the proper time. Don’t wait till you’ve finished your education. Don’t insist on getting all your qualifications first. Just start doing it.
That, I realize now, was the other side of what my father was telling me. If a writer is someone who writes – and not someone who has an MFA in Creative Writing or even someone who collects a check for writing – then I could become a writer simply by starting to write! I didn’t have to take any courses or complete any qualifications or get someone to pay for my writing.
All I had to do was write.
I become a writer the moment I start writing and I cease to be a writer the moment I stop. From an existential perspective, this is exactly right. And if you can think existentially, you will see that this is exactly how it should be. If you live by this existential perspective, nobody can stop you from becoming what you want to be and you don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval or acknowledgement. You just make a decision to become and then you become.
Two great American poets, Emily Dickenson and Charles Bukowski, became writers this way. Neither had any formal education in writing or was qualified to write poetry in any way. They just began writing and kept writing and eventually their writing became better (which is really not the point) and recognized as great poets (which is also not the point.) They became writers by writing. Nobody could stop them. And they didn’t have to wait.
This idea may apply to the dream of becoming a writer, one might argue, but what if your dream were to be a doctor or a lawyer or a professional basketball player?
Here is where we run into a little snag. Certain professions require degrees and certifications. And others require extremely high levels of skill. You can’t become a doctor simply by doctoring. Can you?
I’d say yes you can. If your dream of being a doctor (or a lawyer, etc.) entails getting paid for your work, then you will have to go through the officially sanctioned process that the people in charge, in their infinite wisdom, have established for the good of the community. But if your dream is to do what doctors are supposed to – to help heal people, then you can become a doctor, albeit a non-professional folk doctor, simply by starting to help people heal.
In choosing the doctor dream I am purposely pushing this idea to its limits to make a point. I recognize that being a good doctor, as in being a good healer, requires a good deal of knowledge and skill. But I’m not talking about becoming good at something (Just as my dad was not talking about becoming a good writer.), I’m talking about becoming what you want to become, about living your dream.
If you want to be a doctor in the sense of healing people then nobody can stop you. You can be thrown in jail if you are prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license, but if you want to heal and are careful about staying legal then you can go ahead and become a healer immediately.
Just start healing!
Before you write in to tell me how irresponsible I am, let me say that I am not advocating that PJ’s readers practice medicine without licenses. What I am saying is that if you want to be anything, even something that in the regulated world requires education and certification, you can become that person simply by doing the thing you want.
- So what is the best way to become a guitar player? Start playing that guitar.
- And what is the best way to become a lyricist? Just write those songs.
- And what is the best way to become a basketball player? Start shooting those hoops.
Don’t worry about not being qualified. And don’t worry about not getting paid for it. If you have a dream that’s been long deferred, don’t spend another day talking about what you will do one day, just do it.
[Ed. Note: Make sure to let me know what you think about this contribution from Michael Masterson. He has developed a loyal following through his writings in Early to Rise , an e-newsletter published by Agora, Inc. that mentors more than 450,000 success-oriented individuals to help them achieve their personal and financial goals. To sign up to receive this free newsletter, just go here: www.earlytorise.com.
Masterson is the author of several Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Amazon.com best sellers, including Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat, Seven Years to Seven Figures: The Fast Track Plan to Becoming a Millionaire; Automatic Wealth: The Six Steps to Financial Independence; Automatic Wealth for Grads… and Anyone Else Just Starting Out; Power and Persuasion: How to Command Success in Business and Your Personal Life (all published by John Wiley & Sons); and Confessions of a Self-Made Millionaire and Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business (with MaryEllen Tribby).]