I have been writing on and off, without really paying attention to it, almost impulsively, since I was sixteen. It's been mostly therapeutic, for me. I found recently that putting dreams to paper helps flesh them out and give them life. The themes in the dreams are recurring, and have roots, I think, in childhood trauma. The writing helps me parse through the concepts that otherwise lay strewed in my psyche and emotions without my conscious awareness and understanding.

My question is this: how do you know if you should pursue writing?

I have absolutely no ability to tell stories in person. I want to say ten different things at once. I lose track of where my narratives are going. That said, I do write frequently and impulsively. I do think in bizarre characters and hold dialogues by myself between them. I do think in narratives and themes...

Does this mean anything?

Can someone with an inability to tell stories ever become a good writer? What does having a compulsion to write without an ability to tell stories leave for the writer to work with, and for the reader to enjoy?

How do I know if I should be a writer? Should this just remain a private, therapeutic hobby?

  • Have you thought of running a blog? This could be a great way to write the way you like to write, get the therapy it provides (although it will be public of course), and see if you build a fan base of any size. You can write because you enjoy it, or you can write because people want to read it, and a blog might be a way to figure that out. Personally, I write because it is a new thing to take on, a new thing to learn, it enriches my life to (begin to) master language and storytelling in a way I hadn't before. Also fun to have a finished novel (unpublished) that people enjoy.
    – DPT
    Dec 13 '18 at 17:22
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    I did that in the past, but deleted it. Everything I would put on there I write locally on my computer now, or on paper and throw it in the garbage. Thats a great idea. When I feel like I am good enough, or have something that I want to make public, I will do that again. Thank you for the suggestion!
    – socky.feet
    Dec 13 '18 at 18:32
  • I'll link this related question. Give it a look: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/14404/… Dec 13 '18 at 20:52
  • Telling stories out loud and writing stories are two completely different skillsets. Lots of people are good at one but not the other. Dec 14 '18 at 0:42
  • I am super glad to hear @Cyn.
    – socky.feet
    Dec 14 '18 at 23:24

One advantage of actually writing is you can edit, revise, add and delete to the story. You don't have to have a whole story in your head, or a plot, to start writing a story and finish it.

Read this answer of mine, to a different question The Psychology of Starting a Piece of Writing. I am a discovery writer, that begins stories without a plot and without all the characters, and that answer describes how to begin such a story.

You may be a discovery writer, too: The notion of coming up with some character and having a conversation with it: That can be part of a character driven story. Even if the conversation never makes it into the final work, developing a strong and unique character in your mind is the first step in beginning a novel, you have a protagonist, or an antagonist that needs a protagonist to stop his evil plans.

The Primary Distinction of a Writer.

Stephen King was once asked in a live interview, "What advice do you have for people that would like to write?"

His answer: "Write!" However, he went on to say (and I paraphrase) that most people that ask him that question don't really want to write, they want to have written, so they are getting paid royalty checks, and making movie deals, and being on TV (he waves at the camera) and getting interviewed. But to be a writer, you have to really love to write, and would like to write all day, and you are willing to give up your mornings or evenings and use your entertainment time to write because for you writing is entertainment. So his advice is, if you love writing, then write, and write, and try and try again, until you are good enough to get published. Then keep writing and getting published, not for the money and fame, but because writing is fun.

  • 1
    Hell yes. I write that way in everything, from proofs to essays to poems to stories. I usually just go in whichever direction seems most natural. I never knew that there was a word for that! I also like this almost distanced approach of writing to write, and then writing some more, without ever focusing on why you're writing or what you're trying to write. You write because it feels good, and if it becomes good one day, that's cool. If not, it still felt good, so that's cool too.
    – socky.feet
    Dec 14 '18 at 23:19
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    @low.pants I do still aim to get better, and read books (Including Stephen King's book, On Writing). I've taken the trouble to learn the 3 Act Structure, and see how that works in actual books I really liked: The inciting incident should be near the 15% mark, so what's there? Sure enough... The normal world setup is in the first 10%, so what's there? The MC "leaves" the normal world at the end of Act I, 25% or 30%. Can I see that in, say, the first Harry Potter? Yes! Making the points more concrete makes me see kind of where I'm headed; what's next as I discover my story.
    – Amadeus
    Dec 15 '18 at 0:17
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    I've actually already ordered On Writing off Amazon, and I have Elements of Style, which I've yet to read. Okay, sweet. I know nothing about those things, but it sounds awesome and I hope to dive more into that after I graduate. @Amadeus
    – socky.feet
    Dec 15 '18 at 0:21

(Nearly) Everyone needs to be a writer

Research mathematicians write papers. Corporate workers draft emails and reports. Software engineers write documentation. Basically any educated worker needs to be able to write clearly and proficiently. Very few people write as well as they should, regardless of their occupation.

Obviously, you were talking about something else.

The world has a glut of writers

There are professional fields which have trouble finding enough people interested in the work to get all the work done. Database Admins are in short supply, I hear. On the other hand, there are already more books than anyone can read, and more people who want to write new books than the market could possibly bear. Writing for other's entertainment is more like professional sports than like being a classroom teacher - 20,000,000 people can read the same Harry Potter book, just like 20,000,000 people can watch the same World Series.

Only a few can be the stars. Very few people will ever make a living either writing novels or playing baseball. The brutal truth is that the world doesn't need you to write (said the bitter unpublished novelist).

If writing is good for you, then write

I have been writing on and off, without really paying attention to it, almost impulsively, since I was sixteen. It's been mostly therapeutic, for me.

The single most important thing to get better at writing is writing. And if you are already writing - you're ahead of many of the people who imagine they are writers.

In my own bitterness, I would discourage others from dreaming big. But you don't have to have unrealistic dreams to work at writing and become better at it. (Those epic poems I'm writing on the train ride to work will likely never get published, but I keep writing them...)

Don't quit your day job, though. Even if you could afford to, well... I've always seemed to be a better writer when I had things to do and problems to solve that were unrelated to just working out the next plot twist. If you want to write, let your other life be your fuel.

Still, don't quit your day job.

  • Can you lack in linearly recounting events and progressing logically through a plot verbally in person, but still be able to somehow write stories... I, for example, have trouble telling any story to anybody, even if I know the story, because I forget the order of events, or whatever. Does that translate directly into poor story writing? Could that ever be overcome? Could someone, with time, write an incoherent babble of a story, but edit it into a good story? Could you be unable to tell stories, but write great stories?
    – socky.feet
    Dec 13 '18 at 18:22
  • Writing a coherent story is a significantly different exercise than communicating realtime. You can always go back and adjust in writing.
    – Jedediah
    Dec 13 '18 at 18:27
  • As much as I appreciate my answer being accepted, it would be better to un-accept, and re-accept me if my answer is still the best after 24 hours. That's considered best practice on the site (to give others a chance to see and answer your question).
    – Jedediah
    Dec 13 '18 at 18:50
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    I was going to do that, but then felt bad. I'm glad that's considered best practice, lol.
    – socky.feet
    Dec 13 '18 at 19:04


Q How do you know if you have what it takes to be { name of profession }?

A You do an internship and find out if you like it.

So write a novel.


After you wrote your first novel, decide whether you want to do that for a living.

Keep at it

If you want to write for a living, keep at it.

Most aspiring writers never get published because they eventually give up. Most writers who keep writing one unpublished novel after another, eventually get published.

  • "Most writers who keep writing one unpublished novel after another, eventually get published." This is a nice sentiment. I'm nevertheless rather doubtful.
    – Jedediah
    Dec 14 '18 at 20:14
  • @Jedediah I was being brief there. "... and seek feedback, understand criticism as a chance to learn, read a lot, work hard at becoming better at their craft" and so on.
    – user34178
    Dec 14 '18 at 20:49

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