Write, Baby, Write

If you would’ve told me 10 years ago I’d be receiving letters from people who wanted to be writers, I would have laughed and asked you to refill my Ovaltine.

But the truth is, I receive messages about this very thing from aspiring writers all the time. Nearly without fail, most of them actually use the word “aspire” in their letters.

Here are some excerpts:

“I’m an aspiring writer, please help me figure out how to go about this.”

“I an aspiring author… I’m 18, I’d like to know what my next step should be.”

“I’m 71 years old, I aspire to be a writer, do you have any tips…?”

So I wanted to depart from my usual subject matter and take a moment to address these letters. Because I know from my own pitiful experience that there is nothing more frustrating than wanting to BE something but not knowing how.

Which leads to my first point. And this is the main thing I want to tell the good people who have contacted me: Quit calling yourself an “aspiring writer.” You are not an aspiring writer. You are a REAL WRITER.

Simply put, if you write, you’re already the real deal. I truly believe this.

After all, you don’t aspire to be alive, do you? Nobody living in New York aspires to be a New Yorker. Birches don’t aspire to be trees. Episcopalians don’t aspire to be Episcopalians; they simply open a Pabst Blue Ribbon and shout, “And also with YOU!” ‘Piskies are fun!

Skill has nothing to do with who you are. Who you are is who you are. And if you like writing stuff, you are a writer. Not an aspiring one. A true writer.

Now you say it.

See how easy that was? You’re legit now. Identity crisis solved. Now you can go on with your life.

I realize you probably think I’m being lighthearted here, but I’m sincere. And the reason I tell you all this is because sometimes what people are really aspiring for is fame.

Our culture emphasizes fame when it comes to making life goals, which can screw everything up. We Americans are told from birth that we’re supposed to want two things: (a) to be rich, and (b) to have LOTS of people like us.

Well, it’s bologna. Pure and simple. The truth is there is a huge difference between success and fame, and a lot of people confuse the two. So don’t make that mistake. Success is Mother Teresa. Fame is Kim Kardashian.

All right. That’s enough speech for one day. Let’s get into the bare bones of being a writer.

Step one. Get a typewriter.

Good. Now stare at it unmoving for 14 hours until you are filled with self loathing and insecurity because you CANNOT THINK OF A SINGLE FREAKING SENTENCE TO WRITE.

Perfect. Step two. Cry bitterly about your own un-productivity so that snot leaks onto your shirt.

Doing great. Step three. Find your nearest Episcopalian friend.

Congratulations. You’re a writer. Fun isn’t it? Pass the Kleenex.

But hey, don’t feel bad about having writer’s block. The act of writing ain’t easy. Just getting started is half the battle. Again, I realize this all sounds oversimplified, and there’s a very important reason for this: I am a hack writer. I freely admit it.

However, in my small career I have spoken at lots of schools. So many, in fact, that my soft-serve ice cream privileges have been revoked in 19 rural school districts. Whenever I enter a classroom, I always ask the following question beforehand:

“What is a writer’s primary job?”

You’d be surprised at the wild answers I get. Grade schoolers are incredibly introspective. They are also loud. The classroom usually erupts with kids raising hands and shouting answers like:

“A writer’s job is to make people think!”

“To sell books!”

“To change the world!”

“To make people like reading!”

“I have to pee!”

“I want a pickle!”

“Are you that guy from ‘The Hangover’ movie?”

Then, once everyone has petered out, a whiz-kid in the front row usually answers: “A writer’s primary objective is to provide commentary on global change with an authentic voice relevant unto the age in which they live.”

Whereupon all other students load their spit-ball air rifles and cover the aforementioned student in wads of chewed-up paper and saliva because, let it be stated here, all teacher’s pets bring this fate upon themselves.

This is the part of my presentation when I tell them, “Nope! You’re all wrong! A writer’s main job is to WRITE!”

At which point they all groan and point their spit-ball paraphernalia at me.

But I’m not kidding. Writers write. It really is that simple.

And that’s why I have written this to you. I dearly want you to know that you—yes you!—have all the tools you need. You lack nothing to get started.

I don’t care how under-experienced you think you are, I don’t care how insecure you feel. You are ready to take the greatest adventure of your lifetime. And you should. Right now. Go write.

Listen, I am a middle-aged putz who used to hang drywall for a living; I am a middle-school dropout who received his high-school equivalency education at age 25; I am the poster child for failure; but I am a writer.

And there is one thing I know about you. I know with all my heart that John, Trisha, Erin, Allan, Todd, Darius, Erica, Michelle, Elaine, Aerial, Joshua, Amelia, Sanford, Hank, Cheryl, Mark, Matthew, Aria, Larnell, Marie Ann, Jessica, Tamara, and all others who wrote to me are all real writers, too.

And these people deserve my heartfelt words. So here they are:

Your friend Sean is rooting for you.

Sincerely yours,
An aspiring Episcopalian.


  1. Gordon over there in Africa - January 16, 2021 6:47 am

    As a lapsed Episcopalian, or Anglican in the civilised world, I forgive you those subtle digs. But only because I love you.

  2. Bob - January 16, 2021 6:52 am

    Just curious – do you really use a typewriter?
    Love your stories because you are an excellent writer.
    Aspirant, Bob
    PS, you didn’t mention my name.

  3. Christina - January 16, 2021 8:46 am

    You have a big heart Sean. And one of the most authentic, hilarious, and faithful writers I know. Now please keep writing 🙏

  4. Leslie in NC - January 16, 2021 10:31 am

    Write on or right on, Sean!

  5. Greyn - January 16, 2021 12:54 pm

    Us ‘Piskies, for the most part, do not drink PBR. Everything else, sure.

  6. Dee Thompson - January 16, 2021 1:24 pm

    As a cradle Episcopalian I can tell you, we usually drink imported beer, except for my dad. He was a Baptist and became Episcopalian, and he liked a cold PBR. Most Whiskeypalians drink wine or imported beer.

    I also wanted to say you are my writing inspiration. I have been a semi-professional writer for years but I only got the courage to try writing novels a few years ago, seeing how many books you self-published before getting a real book deal. I figured if Sean can do it, I can. Check out my novels Ghosts in the Garden City, Leaf Season, Heart of My Own Heart [all on Amazon]. I also recently published a small cookbook [What’s for Dinner, Mom?]. The only way to learn how to write is to sit down and do it. God Bless You.

  7. Molly Mitchell - January 16, 2021 2:35 pm

    Well I finally found my first tattoo. Not sure how I’m going to fit this whole thing onto me somewhere but what’s life if not a challenge? I’m gonna change bologna to balony though for comedic effect. 😎

  8. Jane - January 16, 2021 2:43 pm

    Thanks…..A Writer.

  9. Jenny Young - January 16, 2021 2:48 pm

    Sean I’ve been a writer since middle school. I’ve half-heartedly thought about trying to publish but I don’t really want it that much. I don’t want to have to correct my punctuation, spelling grammar…….I just love to write. I write letters & family stories.

    I do a series on my husband Charlie because he is so hilarious. It’s why I fell in love with him. Here’s one from this past week.

    Life with Charlie:
    Charlie came down the hall ready for work. He looked at me with a disappointed look & said, ‘You know, when I look in the mirror with this new haircut….I have to remind myself that I am NOT a Navy Seal.’

    He was dead serious.

    That’s it! I share my ‘Life with Charlie’ on Facebook for our family & friends who know & love him so much. Most of them are longer.
    For this to make sense…Charlie & I have been married 33 yrs, so we’re not young….even though we are Young. When covid hit he asked me to buzz his head & I’ve been his barber since last summer. He had such beautiful hair but I can’t do a decent haircut…but I can use clippers!

    Oh & when I can’t think of anything to write I just go spend some time with Charlie!

  10. Gail Bohlman - January 16, 2021 2:53 pm

    Thank you for starting my mornings with a series of chuckles. But entangled in those chuckles are precious bits of wisdom and inspiration. (Don’t accept the pressure).

  11. lfry1220 - January 16, 2021 3:03 pm


  12. nebraskannie - January 16, 2021 3:23 pm

    My husband write poems and stories in his head on the dust on his tractor while he plows. Yes, some still do that. He’s been published many times. People come here to do interviews and write THEIR stories about him. He’s like Mother Teresa, he couldn’t care less. He writes because that what he does to express his thoughts. He doesn’t do it for anyone else. The rest, to him, is gravy. I think you give wonderful advice about writing and about life. Just be who you are….

    • Martha Black - August 3, 2021 5:12 am

      Yes indeed

  13. JACKIE LEON DARNELL - January 16, 2021 5:16 pm

    Enjoyed the post. I tried that “Imma Writer” thang, I am not sure it will work but I will give it a try.
    Thanks. I do enjoy your writing. A friend said I would enjoy your music, but I doubt it since I am deaf., just sayin’.

  14. Marlene Willis - January 16, 2021 5:20 pm

    Dear Sean, I am a writer. I have never been published except for a poem in a University literary magazine. I don’t want to publish or be published, maybe posthumously. I am a poor conversationalist and oral communicator;yet, I have no difficulty putting my thoughts on paper. I have written many poems, thoughts in journals, filled prayer journals, Bible study journals and occasional diaries. I think more clearly when writing. So I am a writer, not a journalist, columnist, novelist, or historian, but a writer and I believe there are many more like me. I enjoy reading your thoughts especially those about human beings being kind to one another. Those stories lift my spirits even when they engender tears.

  15. Linda Moon - January 16, 2021 5:43 pm

    It’s “baloney” to some of us. It’s probably “balogna” to culturally-aspiring others. You spell balogna, I spell baloney. Listen, Sean, you are an excellent writer with a good lesson-plan for us writers who just did what you simply told us to do: WRITE. I used that plan with lots of fourth and fifth graders. And, you made me think about a good Stephen Bishop song!

  16. Mark Pollish - January 16, 2021 5:57 pm

    Well said Sean. After Mark Twain you are my favorite writer. Both of you capture, with humor, what it’s like to live in America. Just common folks who want to live in peace and freedom. I want to plagiarize you. Oops, I meant emulate. Another aspiring writer.

  17. niobrarariverrat - January 16, 2021 6:06 pm

    As an already-aspired Episcopalian, I must say I am delighted with the press you give to our denomination!

  18. Deanna Dean - January 16, 2021 6:28 pm

    Hi Sean. I am not a writer. But I am a reader. And I absolutely LOVE reading your writings. You stir emotion in me that I thought I had lost. Bless you! You and Jamie have a standing invite to come to Tulsa Oklahoma and enjoy a meal with my family and friends. (Bonus: you can stand at the center of the universe because it’s located right here in T-town!).

  19. Helen De Prima - January 16, 2021 6:32 pm

    In high school, I aspired to be a writer — and did nothing about my aspirations until my late sixties. Shame on me! Now at nearly 77, I have four novels published and a fifth in my agent’s reading queue plus a mystery in the works that’s running away from me. Never too late to write, but don’t waste the years as I did.

  20. Andy Gartman - January 16, 2021 6:35 pm

    Success is Mother Teresa. Fame is Kim Kardashian.
    One of the greatest lines ever!!! I’m stealing it.
    Your pastor buddy.

    • Martha Black - August 3, 2021 5:16 am

      I agree whole heartedly. Best, clearest, well understood explanation & clarification ever……

  21. Andy Gartman - January 16, 2021 6:37 pm

    Success is Mother Teresa. Fame is Kim Kardashian.
    Best line ever!!! I’m stealing it.
    Your pastor buddy.

  22. Susan - January 16, 2021 7:50 pm

    Most inspiring!

  23. Dwight - January 16, 2021 8:00 pm

    Absolutely awesome! Thank you for this amazing insight. (A formerly aspiring writer 8^)

  24. Bob Brenner - January 16, 2021 8:12 pm

    Classic advice from a “Classy Wanna Be Episcopalian” ⛪️

  25. Allie Brown - January 16, 2021 8:23 pm

    Dear Sean, As a former Southern Baptist turned Episcopalian 10 years ago, please visit The Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, TN!! Better yet, I invite you to join our 120+ Zoom Sunday School class tomorrow. See our church website for how to join! Love your blog and especially love your honesty and authentic voice! Keep on keeping on!

  26. marilynbarnard - January 16, 2021 11:49 pm

    Any time I every mentioned something along the lines of …”I want to…” my husband would look at me, raise his eyebrow, pause long enough to get my attention, and then say, “Then how come you ain’t started yet?”

  27. Roberta Beach - January 17, 2021 5:05 am

    Oh, good. I AM a writer! Thank you.

  28. Ann - January 17, 2021 3:50 pm

    Simplicity.. encouragement .. and humor, Sean. You’ve done it again 👏🏻😄

  29. The Marked Van - January 17, 2021 5:44 pm

    Episcopalians don’t aspire to be Episcopalians; they simply open a Pabst Blue Ribbon and shout, “And also with YOU!”

    That absolutely made my day! (As I sip my Silver Bluff Mexican Lager…)

  30. Debra - August 3, 2021 3:05 am

    Dear Sean: Besides being a middle aged putz and a writer, you’re also a good artist. I aspire to draw an old typewriter as well as you do.

  31. beachbumpoppy - August 3, 2021 3:08 am

    Grew up without a television, but read like crazy. Discovered Steinbeck and knew I could never write like him. Then one day discovered I can write as myself, just for me if no one else!

  32. Elizabeth Swindall - August 3, 2021 5:28 am

    Thank you, Sean. Just what I needed to hear.

  33. Helen De Prima - August 3, 2021 8:38 pm

    And anyone who perseveres to The End is already a successful writer. And when your characters grab the bit and take off in directions you never foresaw, the high is better than sex or chocolate.


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