How I Became A Professional Writer And How You Can To

How I Became A Professional Writer And How You Can To

By Neal Martin/ September 8, 2014
Last Updated April 27, 2023
writing tips

Don’t give up on your dreams.

I’m sure you’ve heard that said a million times before, to the point where it’s become so trite and clichéd as to be totally meaningless.

The fact is though, people give up on their dreams all the time, and it’s sad.

It’s sad when I meet people who have resigned themselves to a life of drudgery, people who have made their lives a creativity free zone. It makes me sad because I can see the sadness in them. They’ve let themselves get beaten by negativity or setbacks in one form or another.

When you suggest to some people that they should maybe start going after those dreams they once cherished so much, they just shake their head (sadly) and shrug. They tell you its too late, or that they are happy enough with how things are.

For the most part, these people just exist, they don’t live.

I only say that because I used to be one of those people, for a while anyway.

Then I caught myself on.

It’s hard to live with purpose unless you have a dream to follow or a goal to pursue. Life can loose its color very quickly if it isn’t infused with purpose and the determination to pursue that purpose no matter what.

You may think that right now you will never fulfill your dream of becoming a professional writer. I’m here to tell you that you should never give up on that dream.


The fact that you even think about wanting to write professionally is proof enough that such a goal is within your grasp,  if you keep relentlessly pursuing it and don’t ever give up on that relentless pursuit.

How My Dream Came True

Since my very early teens, I wanted to be a successful (professional) writer. I have Stephen King to thank for that. Ever since I first read a very dogeared copy of Salem’s Lot that I pinched from my Dad, I was inspired to become a writer. I wanted my words to have the same effect on people that Stephen King’s had on me.

That was the beginning of my rocky road towards publishing success. I spent my teens trying and failing to write stories. I was never able to finish anything, but despite that, the need to write became a compulsion that never left me.

After many failures at trying to write fiction, still in my teens I wrote some non-fiction articles and sent them off to magazines, where they got promptly rejected. That was disheartening but I kept on writing.

I wrote mostly when the mood took me, which wasn’t that often.

It was around that time that I started reading books on how to write. I devoured hundreds of such books over the years (and still do), even though I wasn’t doing much writing.

Those books however, helped me understand the principles of good writing, even though I didn’t do much to put those principles into action. The information, although I may not have grasped it fully at that time, has stayed with me. It’s partly why I have a good grasp of the craft now.

My most serious attempt at writing came when I was nineteen. My Dad got me an old typewriter that weighed about the same as a small car. I stuck it in the shed out the back of our house and sat there every night writing. I made three attempts at writing a novel. On the third attempt I managed to finish a first draft, but despite this breakthrough I soon lost interest and gave up on fiction writing.

Then I moved into journalism. I spent a year or so pursuing that, hanging around with local reporters and occasionally getting the odd piece published in local and national papers. But again, I soon lost interest.

Over the next several years I would occasionally make an attempt to write again but those attempts all ended in failure, or what I perceived as failure at the time. I rarely finished anything and what I did finish was generally derivative crap.

After that I spent a decade wondering what the hell I was going to do with myself. I had no purpose. I thought being a writer was my purpose but that never worked out, so I ended up going from one job to another, doing everything I could to try and fill the existential hole that not being a writer left in me.

Then in my early thirties I started writing non-fiction again after a burst of motivation gleaned from self-help books and Steve Pavlina’s personal development blog. I wrote a few articles around martial arts (which I was heavily into at the time) and to my surprise I managed to get them published in the big name martial arts magazines.

Needless to say I was ecstatic. I felt validated as a writer finally.

It was Steve Pavlina who gave me the idea of going into blogging in 2008. I started a martial arts blog that achieved moderate success, but I shut it down after a year and quit writing again for another while so I could concentrate on my martial arts.

Then, in 2012, I started another blog and that’s when things really started to take off for me. This turned out to be a major turning point. The blog was based around self defense and it did extremely well. My writing got better thanks to the practice gained on that blog and people were telling me how much they loved my articles.

That felt awesome and I began to feel like a real writer at last.

The success of that blog spurred me into writing fiction again. For the first time in my life I managed to complete writing a novel. I actually wrote three short novels and published them as a series. They weren’t very good and didn’t sell much, but I didn’t care. Just the fact that I had managed to finish them was enough for me. Still, I gave up on fiction again.

I didn’t find any real success until I started writing non-fiction books. I felt much more comfortable writing non-fiction than I did fiction. In the space of two years I managed to publish seven non-fiction books, some of which were best sellers and one of which, my book on writing, is still a bestseller in the writing category on Amazon.

A few months ago I made the move back into fiction and finished writing another novel in the urban fantasy genre. It’s the first fiction I’ve wrote that I’m actually happy with. That book, part one of a series, will be out soon.

And now here I am, having started another blog that’s doing quite well considering its young age. I have eight books under my belt and a few hundred blog posts and magazine articles.

Finally, I am a professional writer and it only took me twenty years or so to get here.

Never Give Up On Your Dreams Or You’ll Miss The Opportunity For Success

I told you all that because I want you to understand that your dream of becoming a professional writer can come true if you just refuse to give up on it.

I also need you to understand that the journey to becoming a professional writer can be a long one.  It can be paved with much disappointment and doubt that you will never get there.

But you will.

It took me over twenty years to get to where I am now, to the point where I can finally say that I earn my living as a writer.

If you are like most people who write or who want to write, you probably can’t help feeling that way. Writing is a compulsion and once the idea of becoming a writer gets a hold of you, it never leaves you.

Even if you don’t pursue that goal and spend ten years doing something else entirely, that need to write will always be there under the surface. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It refuses to let you go and eventually, it will spur you into action.

That’s what happened to me. My need to write compelled me to take action at different times over the years. Those periods of action never lasted very long, but they had a cumulative effect that I could never see during those times.

Looking back, I see now that every time I tried to become a writer, I got that bit closer to becoming one.

Until finally, here I am.

I’m not even sure if I had any choice in how things turned out for me. I’m not sure if I could have done things any differently. Not to sound pretentious, but my journey feels like it was fated somehow.

From a young age, when I first got the idea of wanting to write, something told me that I would never find real success until I hit forty. That might sound strange, but it was a feeling I couldn’t shake.

That feeling was backed up when I read Think and Grow Rich. In that book, Napolean Hill stated that most people didn’t become truly successful until they were in their forties and fifties, mainly because they are more focused by then and less distracted by the things that hold our interest when we are younger.

As it turned out, that gut feeling of mine was correct. I never found success until my late thirties. Next month I’ll be forty and I still have the feeling that things are really going to take off for me as a writer over the next year of my life. Of course, that remains to be seen, but my gut feelings in these matters have never been wrong.

More than that, these days I’m putting in the work. I’m doing everything right, so there is no reason why that premonition of mine can’t come true.

Success Is There For The Taking If You Keep Working Towards It

I know how hard it can be trying to pursue a goal. It can seem impossible, but trust me, it isn’t.

You may feel now that you have a massive mountain to climb before you make it as a professional writer, and you may do, but the point is you will get there if you keep at it.

Maybe I could have found success quicker if I’d tried harder, but I don’t think I could have done things any differently. It took my over twenty years and that was the way it was meant to be.

It may not take you that long. You may find success much quicker. Whatever happens, it takes as long as it takes and there isn’t much you can do about that.

Greater opportunities exist today for budding writers, thanks to the self-publishing revolution. That may just shorten your journey by a long margin.

It may also re-energize your passion for writing if it has waned in the face of lack of progress, as the self-pub revolution has done for a lot of people. There are no real barriers to entry anymore. All you have to do is finish something and then publish it.

Whatever happens, never let your dream go. Keep coming back to it.

As long as you keep coming back to your dreams, they will eventually come true.

I am proof of that. So are millions of other people.

You can be too.

I’d love to hear about your experience on becoming a writer. Tell us about your journey so far in the comments below. 

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