Not to long ago a friend of a friend of a friend asked me how to become a writer. Not a published writer (although that was the final goal), but a writer.
Simple question- right? How do you become a writer? Well, you just start writing! My first response wasn't really all that helpful. Akin to telling someone to learn how to ride a bike by just riding ;).
However my reaction was valid- like bike riding, once you’ve been writing for a while (and lets face it, for many of us this has been a VERY long term disorder) it’s automatic. We can’t think of that vague, distant time when we didn’t write.
For example- right this moment, without stopping to ponder- describe how to tie a shoelace. Unless you’ve got a small child you are currently teaching how to do that, chances are you’re going to have a hard time explaining it quickly. It’s something we do all the time and it’s become automatic. But we don't think about the process.
So, how does one become a writer?
I thought it might be interesting to toss this question out to the lurking masses on this blog. If you were talking to someone who had never written, they had the longing, but hadn’t put pen to paper yet, what advice would you give them? To that lost, long ago self who first decided they needed to start creating their own worlds to play in? When I first started writing there was no internet, writers didn’t have the same resources they do now. But they still need help ;).
My comments to that friend of a friend of a friend (once I got the idea settled anyway ;)) would be:
1)Write. Seems simple really, but there are still folks out there who think that they can come up with ideas and work with someone else who will write them down. I once had a boyfriend who seriously thought they hardest part of writing was coming up with the idea, “anyone can just write”. Needless to say he’d never actually written anything- and we broke up a LONG time ago. Lots of folks will give you writing “rules”- the only one that really matters is that you have to write.
2)Read. Ah- the flip side. Read in your genre. Read out of your genre. Read about writing, with the caveat that you take “rules” with a grain of salt. You’re going to get conflicting information. You can’t let it make you quit or give you self doubts. Just bring in as much legit writing info that you can- eventually you’ll start to realize what feels true for you. NEVER stop reading or learning- EVER.
3)Be realistic. You aren’t going to get rich. Seriously. Your odds are akin to winning a lottery big enough to quit work. DO NOT look at the exceptions and think they are the norm. You write because you love it, or just don’t even start.
4)Build your craft. Go to conferences, join groups, pick up writing mags, books, webinars, whatever- but constantly improve your craft!
5)Don’t give up. This is a brutal field equal to acting in terms of rejection. You are going to get the emotional crap beaten out of you- that is a promise. BUT you can survive. Don’t quit your day job, but don’t give up either. A screenwriter friend once told me “You can’t fail, you can only quit.” In other words, as long as you keep up the fight- you’re never a failure.
So now it's out to you fine folks- what would you tell a new writer?