It’s not your writing

The mental shift that separates young writers from old writers.

“I wish I had more time for my writing.”

“I quit my job to work on my writing.”

“My writing is very important to me.”

What do all these sentences have in common? It’s that little word, MY.

MY words.

MY stories.


But it’s not your writing.

Are you a young writer or an old writer?

It’s not about age. Some old writers are 24, some young writers are 64.

Young writers are clinging onto the belief that somewhere inside them is a special piece of writing that will express who they are to the world. It’s uniquely theirs. And one day, they’ll write.

Old writers know this ain’t so. Old writers know that what they have is skill and technique, a knowledge of the craft. And the tighter their craft is, the more of all kinds of writing will come through them.

Old writers write. All the time. They can’t stop. The craft is like an engine inside them that needs to produce words every day.

Young writers struggle to get started. They’re looking for that special piece of writing. Once they find it, they’ll write it. Because it’s theirs.


Such neuro-linguistic cues can be useful. Oh sure, you might say “my writing” in total innocence. But 9 times out of 10 it’s a clue that your emotional attachment to that special piece of writing only you could ever write is greater than your clear headed commitment to the craft.

In the words of the Bhagavad Gita.

“You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.”

This is a religious attitude that likely strikes us as strange in our secular, and capitalist, day and age. Work without reward? What kind of communist nonsense is this?

But like all the best spiritual teaching, the Gita is trying to help us grow. As long as we’re writing for the reward of being a special writer, we’re not there for the writing itself.

The eternal irony is that when we stop working for the reward, it has a tendency of showing up anyway. And the harder we struggle towards it, the further away it remains.

It’s not my writing. It’s not your writing. It’s just writing.

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Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.