There are two theories of thought when it comes to answering the question “when can I consider myself a writer.” The first theory is that you become a writer when you feel so compelled to tell a story that you begin typing a narrative; the other theory is that you become a writer when you present your work for public consumption. Whether or not you get paid to be a writer is a different case entirely. The short answer is: you are a writer when you feel like you feel like a writer.
Since I’ve been on this journey, a lot of people have been super supportive of my work, but then some of them will turn around and say “…I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I could never do that.” This week’s blog is dedicated to cramming opportunity up some collective backside for those people who say they want to be writers, but don’t pull the trigger.
Objection #1: I don’t have the talent – Fact: writing is a skill that is learned like any other trade. Babies aren’t born with knowledge of engineering or blacksmithing, people have to work for those skills. This is in the same vein as the folks who feel like they’ll never be able to draw – if you aren’t willing to practice, then yeah, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It helps to have a healthy appreciation for language and usage — read a lot, that’s how you get exposed to language and usage. I used to read dictionary.com every day for the “Word of the Day,” and that really helped build my vocabulary. Every day, write. Start a blog, write in a journal, take direction from the creative writing assignments that your kids are bringing home for homework.
Objection #2: I don’t know where to start – “Chapter One” has always been a good jumping off point. There are two kinds of writers: “plotters” and “pantsers.” If you are a plotter, then you are making an outline of where your story is going, the twists and turns, the important details — if you are a panster, then you are writing by the fiery seat of your pants, hence the name. “Broken Promise Records” was a pantser effort. Some authors have been known to produce fifty plus pages of outlines. Here’s the real kick in the pants: you don’t have to start at the beginning. When Stephanie Meyer began writing Twilight, she started at the scene where Edward Cullen revealed himself to Bella as a vampire, and built the whole story around that. That’s perfectly okay! It’s your story, as long as it makes sense to your readers, do whatever you like! Fear of a blank page is a very real thing and I am not trying to make you feel bad, I am trying to encourage you to just jump. Remember in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” when Indiana Jones had to step on that invisible bridge? That’s exactly what it’s like!
Objection #3: my computer doesn’t have Word, Word Pad, etc. – http://drive.google.com – All you need is a Google Account (free), an internet capable computer, and an internet connection. The Google Docs suite is fantastic – I write all of my blogs in Google Docs, my short stories, and I’ve taken a swing at a few novels. It’s easy to navigate and can export your works into any format that a publisher may need. If you haven’t explored the Google Docs suite, it might just change a whole lot of games for you — it has spreadsheets, power-point-esque presentations, file storage. Honestly, I swear by it. If that’s not the case, then consider making a small investment in Scrivener. I don’t know enough about Scrivener to make a recommendation about it, but a lot of the authors in my network enjoy it. So there’s that.
Objection #4: I don’t have anywhere to write – By that, do you mean a room that you can call your writing room? Stephen King wrote his early works in the furnace room of a trailer. All your writing space needs is to be a place where creativity comes to you easily. Growing up in backwoods Pennsylvania, I have seen a lot of great conversations and a lot of great ideas come from the kitchen table. Jenna Moreci writes from her bed (I think; it’s going to be super creepy if I’m wrong). If you want to write, you’ll find somewhere to do it, I have faith in you!
Objection #5: I don’t have the time – Do you know how many people work two jobs? Three jobs even? If you want to be a writer, you have to work at it — even if it doesn’t pay, it’s still a job because it requires your work. Guess what? You’re hired. Writing is your second job now. Come home from your first job, kiss the family, get some dinner, and get ready to go to your second job. Even if you start writing at 7 PM and went to bed at 12:00 AM, that is five consecutive hours you are dedicating to your craft. To that end, let me share one of my favorite quotes with you:
“Between goals and achievement are discipline and consistency.” -Denzel Washington
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Aren’t I just creating more competition for myself? Absolutely not. As a writer, I believe there should be even more writers — we are all contributing to a greater collective work and I really believe that there is a space for everyone who wants to tell stories and create legends. The truth is, your voice will be different than mine, as mine is different than those who inspired me to write. I sincerely hope that this has kicked in some doors for you, I hope you are scribbling ideas for stories, and are getting started on your opus.
Here are a few other important things that may be useful along the way:
- Marketing is essential – you have to have an idea of how to get the news about your work to those who will want to read it. Do some research on social media networking, on how to get noticed. A blog is an excellent marketing tool and creates regular opportunities to engage with your audience between works.
- You are never too good for any type of creative work – raunchy romance novels might end up being your wheelhouse and you’ll never figure it out unless you try it.
- Get Beta Readers, people you trust to give you an honest opinion about your work.
- Create social media profiles – a facebook page, a twitter account, an instagram. Get to know other authors and see how they are marketing their materials.
- Suffer in silence – rejection sucks, sounding off on social media about it is an instant turn off to agents and publishers. Your goal on your social media accounts is to create engaging content and to reach new readers, not to soapbox about your views on the crooked world of big business.
Best of luck to you, new wordsmith. I hope to sit next to you at the Pulitzer Prize ceremony!