Monday, December 24, 2007

So you want to be a writer?

A few days ago, a high school classmate that I ran into mentioned to me that she wanted to be a writer. Let's call her Ann. She'd seen the newspaper article about me and that got her to thinking about how she'd written back in high school, but how life had conspired to get in the way of that over the last twenty years.

She asked a couple of questions, but the holiday rush kept me from being able to answer them. We exchanged email addresses, though she only half-jokingly said she didn't figure she'd ever hear from me again.

She did. Below is a portion of the email I sent to her. It is a message that I would send to anyone who aspires to be a writer. If that is you, then so is this post.

Dear Ann,

I'm writing to you as one writer to another, to encourage you a little bit. In reply to our discussion over the counter...

If you want to write, do it.

If you think you have writer's block, just start writing about anything -- fiction, non-fiction, a journal, bad poetry, anything. Put words together in a meaningful way.



Read some more. It's like doing push-ups for writers.

Believe in yourself. Every time you write with purpose, you get better. Every time you submit something for publication, you are closer to being published.

Don't worry if you're any good or not. You are. But that doesn't matter, because the more important thing is that you are writing. So you are getting better.

Read Stephen King's book On Writing. It is perhaps the best book on the subject that I have ever read. If you like, I can suggest another that touched me when I was eighteen. But beyond that, don't get too caught up in reading about writing ad nauseum. Instead, write.

Take a class, if you want. I don't put much stock in those classes, unless you use them as a vehicle to get you writing. While I'm sure the craft of writing can be taught (I hope it can, or I'm in trouble!), it is somewhat of a junkyard dog skill. You plug away, you get some feedback, you do some reading on the topic (and lots of reading in general) and you plug away at it some some more. The blend of natural ability (what I believe is the "art" side of writing) and technical skill (the learned "craft" side) come together to create the final product -- your story, article, poem or novel.

Just write, Ann. Don't be one of those people at a party who say, "I always wanted to write." Be the one who writes. I have no doubt you'll write well. The only question is just, will you write?

Carve out a small chunk of Ann time each day. Fifteen minutes, even. Just enough time to write something. That will be a good start. From there, you go as far as you want to take it.

So now you've heard from me, in spite of your expectations that you never would. [wink]. And I'd be happy to help you in any way I can in your journey. A word of warning, though. Writing is like cocaine -- it is addictive. And when you are published, even just a short story in a tiny online magazine? Well, that is like moving up to crack cocaine -- highly addictive. Just a little disclaimer for ya.

Don't let that deter you if you truly want to write. If you truly want to write...write. Don't allow any excuse to stop you. Even if you miss a day or a week or a month, put that pen to paper again. And again.

Be a writer.



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