Friday, November 1, 2019

So You Want to Be A Writer?

I get a lot of inspiration for these posts from the different writing workshops I attend. Questions come up from all kinds of writers, from those just getting their feet wet to those who have already been published. The process of writing is one of constant growth, so there are always questions to be asked, subjects to be discussed, and so on. However, after reviewing through my many posts, I realized I have stepped around one simple question: "How do I become a writer?"

This is a pretty simple question, but in my opinion, it's a deceptive simplicity. When any writer is asked this, there is the instinctive answer to start writing. That's true, but it's the easy way out. Rather, when I hear that question, I think about what the person is really asking. There is something more going on, and a satisfying answer will address that issue rather than the simple approach. So let's start there.

Whoever asks this question is likely fully capable of putting words to paper. When someone walks into my workshop, sits down, and asks that question, I go beyond those simple words. With a little exploration, the meaning of the question comes out. They are really asking, "How can I do what you all do? How can I become that person?" Those are questions I can work with. So let's offer a few simple steps on achieving that.

First, focus on one idea. Plenty of people want to write their personal story - but that's not just one story, so writing it seems impossible. Narrow down the life story to one message, one idea. Everyone has a life worth writing about, but explore it from one concept that defines the story you want to tell. My life story might be interesting, but spilling my guts out about everything that happened over the past 51 years would be confusing. Focusing on the stories that brought me from an economist's desk to writing fiction; that's more interesting.

Second, set aside all those hang-ups about not being that great. Nobody starts their writing career by being a great writer. Everyone launches their life of writing somewhere between horrible and tolerable. Even those with natural gifts still make simple mistakes, screw up the grammar, let stories wander, and all the other things that humans do. Accept the fact that your first works will need serious repair. You will fail. You will stumble and fall. You will feel genuinely dejected at times. These are all parts of being a writer.

Also, give yourself credit. Writing is not easy. It is brutal at times. The writer's development comes with plenty of growing pains, and plenty of scars from mistakes and missteps. All those cuts and scrapes, the skinned knees and bloodied lips, the constant bruises we acquire all teach us something. All that pain can be difficult to endure, so definitely give yourself credit for taking the beating that comes with growth.

Lastly, explore. If you want to write about your favorite memory, challenge yourself to explore what made it so special. Look for that deeper meaning. Examine it from all sides, and put the discoveries into your writing. This might not change the story you write, but it develops a habit of exploring the subject. As writers, our stories grow as we grow, and their details come forth as we develop that sense of exploration.

This is the long answer to, "How do I become a writer?" There's no easy answer; just many little answers. It's a neverending journey, so there is no one conclusive answer. This post merely offers advice, and there are my keys to starting that adventure.

Oh - and start writing.

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