Why Telling Yourself You’re a Writer Will Ultimately Transform You Into One
Without having written a single word to begin with
In June 2020, I made a significant change in my life that’s led to my earning thousands of dollars doing what I love — writing.
I shifted my mindset.
At that point, I didn't have any writing portfolio. I hadn’t had my work featured in any magazines, I hadn’t published a book, I wasn’t earning any money from writing whatsoever.
I mean, I was even barely writing.
But I decided to call myself a writer nonetheless.
And this completely changed my life. Here’s why.
The Most Effective Behavior Change is Changing Your Identity
Sure, you want to be a published author.
Of course, you’d love to earn thousands of dollars per month writing.
Who wouldn’t want to spend their life typing away at the keyboard like they do in the movies and achieve success overnight?
The issue is that all these wishes and dreams are outcome-oriented. In Atomic Habits, James Clear says:
“There are three layers of behavior change: a change in your outcomes, a change in your processes, or a change in your identity.”
Changing outcomes is about having a book published. Changing processes is about sitting down to write every single day. Both of these are important for reaching your goals.
Changing your identity, however… that’s the very core of the debate. Your behaviour naturally wants to go hand in hand with what you identify as because, as James so pointedly states,
“The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.”
He shares a brilliant example of two smokers who want to quit and the way they phrase their goals:
- Smoker 1: “I’m trying to quit.”
- Smoker 2: “I’m not a smoker.”
While the first person sees themselves as someone who is addicted to nicotine and is trying hard to let go, the latter doesn’t identify as the kind of person who smokes.
If you’re not a smoker, why would you smoke?
While this is a very simplified version of what’s actually going on in your head when you’re trying to quit a bad habit, it’s an excellent example of what a mindset shift can do.
When you want to become a writer, don’t just say, “I’m trying to be a writer.”
Instead, embrace the identity you want to achieve by already inhabiting it. Tell yourself you’re a writer.
If you identify as a writer, you will automatically start asking yourself, “okay, what does a writer do? How do they spend their day? What do they mainly focus on? What are the traits that make them good at their job?”
These questions already mean you’re one step closer to earning your living writing.
Identity and Habits Feed Each Other Endlessly
Shifting your identity provides an amazing starting point.
Now that you’re a writer, you have to actually do what a writer does, right?
Writing. That’s the harder bit.
When I started identifying as a writer, my motivation to sit down and spill out articles skyrocketed. I felt like I almost lived in my own movie — I embodied the energy of my desired identity so much that it motivated me to take the first steps to becoming it.
Here I am writing this two years later, and I’ve published hundreds of articles, I’ve worked with some amazing clients, I have a large portfolio and I’ve also managed to make writing into a source of income.
I’m on the path to becoming a full-time writer when I graduate and there’s not a doubt in my mind I’ll achieve that.
It wasn’t always like this. There was the first article I published. And the second. And the fifth. And the sixtieth.
The more I wrote, the more my identity was reinforced, and the more motivated I felt to keep going. To quote James:
“The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior.
In fact, the word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your ‘repeated beingness.’”
It’s an endless feedback loop.
The more you embody the identity of a writer, the more you write — the more you write, the more you feel like you truly are one.
What you repeat is who you are and who you are is what you repeat.
You write. And you write.
Until one day, you wake up and you realize you’ve made writing into a habit, a hobby, a job.
You actually are a writer now, no matter how you started off, no matter if you’d had any experience before you embarked on the journey, no matter if your first articles were rubbish.
You’ve made it.
Sometimes, faking it does actually mean making it.
You tell yourself a story until you actually start believing it, and all your actions that follow only reinforce what you told yourself in the first place.
You can be a writer without having written a single word. What matters are all the words that come after.