Why it Takes More Than Just Your Mind to be a Writer

be a writer

About a year ago, when I finally decided to be a writer and write my first novel, my biggest problem with the writing process wasn’t that I was a bad “proofreader,” or a bad “goal-setter,” or a bad “blog monetizer.” No, my biggest problem with the writing process was… my life.

About a year ago, I had already come out of the long and arduous process of trying to get into a Graduate School for Creative Writing. After giving my graduate application my all, and after turning it in, a few months later, I received a response in the mail. I unfolded the letter and then folded it back up again as soon as I saw the word: “Unfortunately” in the second sentence.

About a year ago, I had been let go from my job as an English Tutor because the company I was working for had gone bankrupt after the recession hit. The company loved me, but they could no longer pay me. My mind sort of checked out as soon as my boss shifted the conversation and started with the word: “Unfortunately…”

About a year ago, I had come out of my fourth failed relationship, and for anyone who has ever had a heart-broken more than once, you’ll agree that a consistently broken heart is a vastly underrated phenomenon. It can get the best of you, if you let it. I think I went into shock when my ex-boyfriend pulled over his car and began to say: “You’re a really great guy, but unfortunately…”

Finally, a year ago, someone close to me, who I love very dearly, and who I had been taking care of for two years, fell into another bout of her Depression. For those of you who don’t know, Depression takes over the body of the person you love until you find yourself living with the disease itself. Living with Depression is like coming home and discovering a black hole of grief and sorrow greeting you at the door. The best–and only thing–you can do in that situation is to orbit the edge of this black hole, spin frantically like a lesser version of Mars, and try not to be torn out of orbit and swung into the dark abyss.

That was it. That was the last straw for me. I was no longer in an “unfortunate” situation. I was in a crisis.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had to become wise, and I had to become wise fast.

Why? Because I knew that if I didn’t gain the wisdom I needed to survive in that moment, I would end up drowning in my own ignorance.

Now, the only way I was going to gain that wisdom was to take the steps necessary to vastly transform the way I approached my life.

These were the necessary steps I took in order to go from being 1/4 of a writer to becoming whole again:

  • I began meeting regularly with a therapist to learn how to deal with my emotions
  • I trained for a 5K to learn how to deal with my body
  • I kept a daily journal to learn how to sort through my heavy thoughts and clear the way for the lightness of my truth
  • I developed a daily meditation routine, hiked in the mountains, and began to pray so that I could learn how to reconnect with the universal, sky-bound spirit that unites us all.
  • Most importantly, I reached out to friends and family, wrapped my arms around them, and allowed myself to burst open with the greasy showers of pain, letting all that was broken slice through me, until the release of life’s vicious shrapnel lubricated my blackened, rusted heart. It was this “reaching-out” that taught me how important it was to be part of a larger community.

It was all of this work, and this work only, that allowed me to continue my writing, and helped me survive a very challenging year.

So, Then What Happened?

Don’t worry. You’ll be happy to know that at the end of that tumultuous year, not only did I finish the first draft of my novel, despite everything that stood in my way, but I wrote a blog chronicling this journey that went on to become one of The Top Ten Blogs for Writers.

Oh, um—what’s the word for when something good happens, unexpectedly?

Ah, that’s right. Fortunate. Haven’t heard that word in a while. Nice to hear it again.

What does this have to do with my writing?

“I’m really happy for you Ollin, but, what’s the point? I mean, what does this story have to do with me being a writer?”

Fair enough. Here’s the point:

After everything I went through, the most surprising thing I learned was that being a writer requires MORE than just your mind.

Why? Because you don’t write with only your mind. You write with your heart. You write with your spirit. You write with your body. You write as a member of a community.

Now, you can ignore all these aspects of your being, sure, but then you would only be about 1/4th of a writer.

On the other hand, if, every now and then, you listen to the intelligence of your heart, or to the intelligence of your spirit, or to the intelligence of your body, you might find the solutions to about 75% of your writing problems—problems that your mind told you were impossible to solve.

This “well-rounded” approach to writing isn’t always easy. I still struggle to master the skill myself

Take this year for instance. Although the challenges I faced last year are all resolved, this year I am faced with a whole new set of challenges.

Once again, I am being forced to become wise—fast—or risk drowning in my own ignorance.

But this is the journey of life and the writing process, isn’t it? Both require that you have infinite patience. Both require that you fall in love with the painfully slow progression of things. Both require that you face a set of problems one year, master them, then face a whole new set of problems the next year, master those, and keep this going until you’re forced to accept the humble truth: that no matter how much you learn, you will, forever and always, be a novice.

If you want to BE a great writer you need to LIVE a great life

Let me conclude with this thought:

You, as a writer, are FAR more complex than your ability to write flawless grammar.

You, as a writer, have a life to live, and you need to live it well.

Because when you ignore your life, you become like a concert pianist who has been given the best training in the world, the best piano to play, the best musical score to follow, the best audience to bear witness, but who does not show up to his own concert.

On the other hand, when you do pay attention to your life, you not only become the artist who shows up, but the human being who relishes his moment in the spotlight.

much love,


About the author

Ollin Morales

Ollin Morales's blog, Courage 2 Create, chronicles the author’s journey as he writes his very first novel. His blog offers writing tips as well as strategies to deal with life’s toughest challenges. After all, as Ollin’s story unfolds, it becomes more and more clear to him that in order to write a great novel, he must first learn how to live a great life.