Every one of us has a life to shape, to give meaning to, to use as we wish. For writers, there is never any One day I am going to write an amazing book. For writers, there is only writing the book…
It’s true. Anyone can write. Anyone can dance and sing and paint as well. But not anyone can do it professionally or even semi-professionally. To do that, you need to start with the basics. You learned to walk and talk before running down the footpath or holding a conversation.
I did not go to university to study creative writing or literature. I read a lot of books, took weekend courses, and joined writing groups. At the same time, I also completed courses in editing and proof-reading. I wanted to do play-writing as well, but every Saturday for six months was far too much commitment for a woman who is also the mother of three active children.
Before you do any courses though, you must start writing. This is stating the bleeding obvious, I know. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they,
a) could write too if they had the time
b) have a great idea for a book (fiction or nonfiction), or
c) “so and so” told them to try writing
None of those people went so far as to pick up a pen or open a word document. They might know they could be writers, but have already missed the point. The baby steps are missing. They’re not writing and have not realised the commitment, determination, and learning required before their first novel can be released upon the world.
The earliest pieces I wrote are pretty much crap. I used to attempt poems. I’m not good at it but sometimes thoughts, ideas and feelings just require short sentences that rhyme. Now I write rambling articles…. Anyway, where was I. Oh, yes… crap! I’ve kept it all (maybe one day tastes will change). I realised, part way through one crappy poem already three A4 size pages long, that I should be writing stories. I’d outgrown poetry (now all breathe a collective sigh of relief). What I’d been doing was toying with concepts and styles; playing around with sentence structure and coming to grips with words.
Moving to fiction was like a light going on in my head. I filled notebook after notebook. I bought a computer and a modem. Then spent hours more of writing, reading, researching, and sending snippets of my work off to people on the other side of the world who provided feedback.
I joined the local writing centre to make use of their courses and started going to evening college classes, etc to extend my knowledge and skills.
I’ve entered short story competitions (and won a few prizes) and had articles published. My travel over the past 20 years has included research side-trips and my bookshelves groan under the weight of all the history books. All of this, plus writing, rewriting and submitting, and it still took almost ten years to obtain a publishing contract.
Yes, anyone can write. But not anyone can keep at it like a dog to a bone. It’s those people who will eventually (hopefully) see their name on a book cover.
If you believe you can write here’s my advice to you in three simple steps.
- Stop thinking about it. Start writing
- Understand that what you are writing is probably crap. Start learning how to write
- Take every piece of feedback you receive and use it to improve your writing.
Becoming a writer is easy. Staying a writer is another matter entirely.