So, You Want to Be a Writer…

“Don’t be a ‘writer.’ Be writing.”William Faulkner

Ten steps to being a writer. Five rules to writing a great novel. Or seven rules. Or fifteen. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many rules, how many steps, how many lessons, who gives the advice, and what intentions they had behind it, because most of you don’t even see the staircase.

You want to know the truth?

No one ever sees it. No even gets to see the end of the staircase. No one knows what they’re doing either.

A part of me wants to tell you that you do not become a writer. You are a writer. If you are searching for the right kind of information to point you in a certain direction, so you may one day become a writer, then you are not a writer. If you are not writing your heart out each and every day, you are not a writer. If you do not dream about stories and characters, if you do not play them inside your mind, day in and day out, then you’re not a writer.

If you are not obsessed about writing the perfect phrase, that wonderful paragraph that makes you cry when reading it aloud, then you’re not a writer.

If you do not admire the beauty and grace in other people’s writing, then you’re not a writer.

Can you become those things? Maybe. In time. Who knows?

I already gave you the only sensible piece of advice: no one knows what they’re doing.

But if I were to read the first stuff I ever wrote, then I could tell you that you do become a writer. No one is born a writer. Even though sometimes it feels like magic, it is not.

I’ll believe in talent the moment someone writes a fantastic first draft. Until then, talent is just how the lazy define hard work.

I believe that the thing that matters most is to write and to read. Sounds like a useless piece of advice, but the true calling is to be a writer. All else is secondary. All the marketing gimmicks, the target audience, the social media, promoting, finding an agent, or self-publishing. All that is secondary.

Why?

Because if you had something you truly believe in, if you knew it was that good… would you find a way to sell it?

If you pour your heart and soul into a piece of art, people can see it.

And you do that by writing. A lot.

How much?

A lot more than you think you have to. About ten times more than you think you have to. If you think it’s going to take one or two years to write a book, to write the book, the one that’s going to change everything and make everyone around you understand that you’re truly a writer, then it’s going to take ten or twenty years.

I’ve been writing for fourteen years, and only in the past six did I manage to finish stuff that was okay. Not great, mind you. Not fantastic. Only okay. Sometimes I get lucky and write something a bit better than okay, but I have still a long way to go.

That is something that people who want to be writers tend to ignore. The process. It is a process, a journey, it takes time and energy.

You are not a writer. You are writing.

And you are always becoming better.

Trust the process of becoming great, because the moment you stop trusting it, it is the moment you congeal yourself into a writer… and no one should become a writer until after they’re dead.

“If you hear voices you’re a lunatic. If you write them down, you’re an author.”

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19 thoughts on “So, You Want to Be a Writer…

  1. Perfect. You’re either doing it, or you’re not. Even if all that comes up on the screen is garbage, you’re at least taking steps towards a goal (even if you are stumbling). Todays garbage has a tendency to become tomorrow’s treasures.
    Need an example. Last night I had a throw away line I wrote in which Will Diaz asks an old friend how her lungs are. She smiles and says, “Still missing a piece.” I didn’t realize it opened a door for a prequel to the Lawman in which she takes one in chest.
    To me it was line that meant nothing. But it opened a door I wasn’t expecting.

    1. Inspiration works in mysterious ways. Don’t know. Sometimes nothing seems to fit, and then it all makes sense. Like solving a puzzle. It’s not until you fit all the pieces that you understand what you’re looking at.

  2. Wise words indeed, and those who think this is some easy gig they can do to avoid real work should take heed! I’ve been writing since my 5th-grade teacher exposed me to the joys of writing to entertain others back in 1958. For the mathematically challenged, that’s sixty solid years, and I still don’t know what I’m doing, and you almost certainly don’t know me, even though I’ve written eight novels and have three in print.

    And that’s kind of the point. It’s easy to be a writer when you have a long string of blockbusters, maybe a few movie treatments, and light your candles with hundred-dollar bills. Sixty years in, I have a score of fans and maybe a hundred readers to show for my efforts, and I am thrilled to tears every time one of them comments on a blog post or sends me an e-mail. Sure, I’d like to be one of those big celebrity authors, but the fact that I’m not, and I still dig into my notebook, or grind down my fingers on the keyboard every day shouts to the world that I am a writer. I’ve looked at my minuscule book sales, and my tiny fan base, and tried to give it up as a waste of time that I could use for something else, but I can’t. I think that’s when you know that you’re a writer, when you can’t not do it. I’m still looking for that epic paragraph, that convoluted character that will define my Craft, that mystical plot that will draw in everyone and leave them changed. The smart money would say that at this point I’m never going to find it, but one thing I know is that I’ll never stop reaching for it. Are you driven the same way? Then congratulations, my friend; you are a writer!

    A brilliant post, well worth reading! I’ll make a note to include a link in my next blog post a couple of days off. Most of my friends write, and they need to read this.

    All the best in all of your endeavors!

  3. There’s some truth in what you write, but one can’t get too caught up in the process or craft. That will only lead to you being a professional writer or painter, but never an artist. I wrote a book of twelve short stories in three months and spent two and a half years editing and re-writing them to get the expression right, not the craft of it; though some may argue they’re inseparable. I have seen artist’s (painters or sculptors) statements stating that their work is all about “the process and materials”. What they are essentially saying, without realizing it, is that their work is all style over substance. An artist, whether a writer or painter, learns his craft and then tramples over it to get to where he needs to be.

    1. I think there needs to be a balance. Writing is art, but it’s also craft. Some are more biased towards the craft side of writing. Stephen King for instance. He’s a fantastic craftsman, and even the way he approaches the act of writing suggests that. But, in a sense, even those who spend ten years working on a novel, all they are doing is using the craft in order to become art. By sheer power of will, time, and patience they come up with fifty or so thousand words of brilliance.

  4. In order to be hyper-successful in any endeavor there must be the element of “A Burning Desire” for the skill, for the outcome, for the reward … the “Burning Desire” must accomplish every ambition if the ambition is to be realized, and the more difficult the field of endeavor the brighter the inner fire must burn. That is why only few succeed in the really difficult things … they allow their inner fires to burn low or go out altogether because everybody prefers the path of least resistance and the path of least resistance never accomplished anything worthwhile at all. Yiou are so insightful and so skilled at getting your point across. That is why I simply adore your blog!

    1. I agree. One must be simply obsessed with what you are doing. So much that the outcome does not even matter. And thank you for your compliment. I am glad you enjoy my writing!

  5. This was truly inspiring . . . Even though I’m only 13, I love writing and I have always dreamt of becoming a writer. Being an introvert there’s no better way to vent out, for me at least, than writing. And over the years I guess that was the only express what I was thinking or feeling.
    Great post!😊

  6. This was a fantastic post and I love the opening quote. Process driven work in writing and art and cross-over things are always very interesting and sometimes have quite a wide audience base / appeal that fiction readers/writers might or might not be aware of. I always enjoy your posts. Thank you. And writers, artists, creative people of all kinds are usually always their own most harsh critic. Perfection is impossible. It’s a concept meaning different things to each unique being’s experience of whatever the product is or is meant to be. Best wishes to you and for your writing and website/blog etc. Cheers.

    1. You know what Dali said about perfection, right? “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” Perfectionism, idealism, those things kill everything, including art. I believe that making art is a process of letting go… a work of art is never finished, only abandoned. And, yes, I agree. We are our own worst critics (I say worst because sometimes said critic makes us want to give up) and sometimes it’s best to silence the voices that tell us we cannot do something and just get to work. And thank you for your compliment. It matters enormously that you enjoy reading my posts.

  7. This was a great piece. I’m 22 and struggling to make sense of life, my thoughts and how I can translate the two into good writing. I’ve given up on many things, but not writing. I love it and I’m learning to love the process. Thank you

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