Writers: Burn Your Business Cards

‘Creative’ is not a noun…Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title, not the work.”

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

I read Chapter 3 of Kleon’s latest book this morning and it stopped me in my tracks.

Not because I didn’t know and understand what he said.

I have, after all, made a name for myself as the person who entices writers to actually write during May & September every year.

But because it made me wonder: am I actually doing the verb?

diary writing

What Do You Do All Day?

Austin Kleon, in this short chapter in his short book, says if you focus on ‘being’ the job title, you might focus on the wrong things. 

You might have cool glasses and a bunch of writer friends, but will you write? 

If you focus on the noun, you may feel constrained to do the work in a certain way.

If you say you are a short story writer, what if you want to write a poem today? Is that allowed?

But if you simply say, “I write” you can focus on the work, however it comes out.

Do The Verb

Job titles aren’t really for you, they’re for others. Let other people worry about them. Burn your business cards if you have to.

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

We often struggle with saying “I’m a writer” because it sounds so much like a job title.

If we’re not making a living from our writing (and very, very few people do, especially not from creative writing), then it can be hard to say “I’m a writer”.

And that’s why I love Austin Kleon’s reframing of this.

A Slightly Scary Question

If someone asks "what do you do?", do you say "I write"?

What if, instead of “I’m a writer”, we just said, “I write”?

I recently updated the StoryADay logo, and I was thinking about getting new business cards. After reading Austin Kleon’s comments, I was apprehensive.

What I would I put on my new cards, If I was being honest? What do I spend my time doing?

Julie Duffy: I answer emails (Bad)  

Julie Duffy: I help other writers be more productive (Better). 

Or do I have the courage to put, on my business card:

Julie Duffy: I write

Would that remind me to keep my daily promise that I will write creatively for the first 30 minutes of any working day? Not answer emails? Not fix things at StoryADay? Not find 1001 things that need to be done before I’m allowed to write?

Could You Say “I Write”?

  • Next time someone asks you what you do, could you say, “I write”?
    (Even if you have to say, “I sell cars for a living, but really? I write.”)
  • Now that the StoryaDay May challenge is over, would it be true? 
  • What would it take for us to be able to say that, without fear?

We’d have to commit to actually writing. (Not every day, perhaps, but certainly not ‘some day’!)

We’d have to do the work, play with words, allow ourselves to love it, no matter what.

And that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

What will you do, today, to make sure you are doing the verb, not trying to be the noun?

What’s the next, smallest step you must take to be able to say “I write”? Get the free Keep Writing Workbook, to help you figure it out!

8 thoughts on “Writers: Burn Your Business Cards”

  1. Very thought provoking and encouraging! No more shying away from it..when asked the simplest answer is “I write”..followed by ” because it challenges me and brings me joy”!

  2. Smallest thing? Write one low-pressure sentence for a fun constructed scenario in my head.

    Just because, no big deal. Doesn’t matter if it’s good.

    Then write another.

  3. I enjoyed this post and it got me thinking. I do write everyday but hardly ever answer “I am a writer.” I should start though.

    My business cards were a mindset shift for me and an easier to way to tell people about my blog rather than telling them the web address and having them write it down. They are reminders for people after you meet them. I also knew I had several large group functions this year where I could give them out.

    I have changed the main platform I am blogging on now though so that is cumbersome!

    If anyone asks me what I do this week I am going to answer “I write” it will be a lovely life experiment.

    1. Yeah, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do this, but it’s interesting to twist things around and look at them from a slightly different angle.

  4. You already know I love Kleon’s books. And I thought about the business card question. I have ideas about what I’d put on the card, but sometimes I wonder if it’s worth having the card in the first place. Do cards even work?

    1. Well that is a fine question. Probably not. But it’s more of a metaphorical business card…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The StoryADay

I, WRITER Course


A 6-part journey through the short story.

Starts July 28, 2023