“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.
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.
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.”