The Self-Sabotaging Word “Aspiring”

What do you dream of doing? Writing? Filmmaking? Painting? Theatre? Well stop dreaming, and just do it.

That’s the message of Jeff Goin’s You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One). If you haven’t head of Jeff Goins, I recommend checking out his blog. He’s got a lot of cool stuff on there and a free book called “The Writer’s Manifesto,” which jives with everything I’ve been talking about.

I just started reading You Are A Writer, and I’m so glad I did. It helped me to quiet the Buddhist “mind-monkey” in my head, which had start lapsing into worrying about, non-relevant things. (Marketing? Who needs it? An agent? What agent? A budget? Ha! You’re joking, right?)

Before we start, we sabotage our work and subvert our genius.

And how, pray tell, do we do this? With words. Subtle but serious words that kill your passion before you can pursue it. Words like “aspiring” and “wannabe.” Words like “I wish” and “someday.”

– Jeff Goins, from You Are A Writer

To me, the wannabes are those who have sold out. Who are only doing it for the money. Who don’t really love what they do, but love maintaining appearances. The real artists are the one who sacrifice for their art. Who put their heart and soul into it. Who continue to press forward no matter what the world tells them. And most of all, they do their art because they love it—not for the money, not for the praise, and not for any external reward.

Whatever you decide to do it life, do it passionately and without apologies. Accept the fact that your family and friends aren’t going to “get it” at first. In fact, they may never get it. That’s because they’ve known you for a long time and they don’t want you to change. They think that you changing will somehow change your relationship to them. (Which it will…for the better!)

Here’s a quote from a personal hero of mine, Robert Rodriguez. What makes him a hero is that he rose up from mediocrity and became who he was without asking anyone’s permission or waiting until “all the stars aligned.” He just did it. He had never made a feature film. He had no budget, no crew, no nothing. He didn’t even have film equipment. He borrowed someone’s camera and went and filmed El Mariachi.

So you want to be a filmmaker? First step to being a filmmaker is stop saying you want to be a filmmaker. It took me forever to be able to tell anyone I was a filmmaker and keep a straight face until I was well on my way. But the truth was, I had been a filmmaker ever since the day I had closed my eyes and pictured myself making movies. The rest was inevitable. So you don’t want to be a filmmaker, you are a filmmaker. Go make yourself a business card.

– Robert Rodriguez, from Rebel Without a Crew

So there you have it folks. Two shining examples of just going out and doing it. And just being what it is you dream of being. You are not aspiring. You are. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be anything. The last time I checked, you don’t have to have a license to write, to make films, to create art, to follow your dreams. So whatever it is you dream of being, starting being one today. And don’t forget to start acting like one, as well.



  1. I more or less covered this in Eat.Sleep.Write.Conquer back in TBOS.

    Basically, the biggest mistake artists can make in regards to their representation is say something like this. It makes you just another kid with a big dream and, quite frankly, a charity case. Nobody likes that. I mean, sure, it can make for an interesting way to introduce yourself to other people, but to the people who matter, those who can take you along and help you reach the top of the mountain, they need someone who is sure of who he is and what he does.

    Saying you are “aspiring” is not the way to go about that. I mean, years ago I had to learn the hard way that I’d rather say I’m an unpublished writer rather than an aspiring one. The first at least demonstrates I’ve done some work.

    1. Yeah, I remember reading that post Eat.Sleep.Write.Conquer. That was a really inspiring post.

      It’s just like I read recently (I think it was in War of Art?):

      “If you can’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others too?”

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