I am a published author. WHOOPIE-DOO!
Let me try again. I am a writer. Yea, that feels better. My first attempt at being a published author died in glorious flames when my publisher, Tate Publishing, turned out to be a crooked, fraudulent, and....well....not. nice. So when I tell people I'm a published author I'll confess that internally I'm CRINGING a little bit because I feel like my work fell flat. But when I say I"m a WRITER it feels more natural, more authentic. In truth.....that is what I am. I have mentioned it before but it resonates enough to bear mentioning again; I write, because I MUST!
First, let me put to bed the notion that because I'm a writer I must be rolling in dough. NEGATORY good buddy. Writing and publishing are a long slow journey and surprisingly few of us actually make it big. My royalty checks are laughable sometimes. However, if I had a nickel for every time I was asked the SAME question by people who hear I was published, I would be a BILLIONAIRE! And not like the kind of billionaire people THINK I am when they envision me sitting in my mansion on my stack of dollar bills cause of my fat royalty checks (pardon me while I choke on that) but an ACTUAL billionaire. Almost everyone I've EVER met who discovered I was an author immediately follow-up that revelation with the same statement, "I've always thought I'd like to write a book!" I can also allow for variations like, "I've ALWAYS had this idea for a book about...." and "Oh man, I have the MOST awesome book idea, let me tell you all about it!" Typically people then enthusiastically tell me about their idea, and how long they have been working on it. I LOVE these kinds of conversations since I myself AM A WRITER so talking about peoples ideas is exhilarating for me. Inevitably, though, the conversation steers round to the big question I get asked over and over and over.
How do I become a Writer?
What people are REALLY asking (without coming out and just asking me) is "how can I get my book published as fast as possible and become the next Stephen King or JK Rowling?" They want to know NOT so much how to be a writer but rather how to get published. That's a post for a different time but for today....I'm going to pull back the veil on this great mystery and share with you my Number 1 trick to becoming a WRITER. The one thing I tell anyone, everyone, every time I get asked "how do I become a writer?" or "how do I write a book?"
Are you ready for this? It's a gold mine of advice I'm about to share here people. Pearls of wisdom I tell you! Get out a pen cause your going to want to write this down on a post-it and stick it on your fridge so you see it every day and never ever forget it. The # 1 trick to becoming a writer is this...
JUST. START. WRITING!
I'll wait while you scroll down and look for bold lettering that outlines something more....and then return back to here. go ahead....take your time.
NOW That your back, please allow me to expound on this incredibly powerful three word
sentence. It seems overly simple but it couldn't be MORE accurate and true. I began my writing career simply enough dabbling with internet content creation for my job. Then I wrote a particularly powerful letter that was emotional, and cathartic. That became a journal, then a blog of sorts within a private community. I had a little following, people I hold dear to me to this day. From there a book idea was born. I literally sat and wrote my entire first book in about a month and I received my first publishing contract in 2009. My book hit the shelves in 2011. After that I did a brief stint as a columnist, took up prayer journaling, dabbled in children's book writing, and have most recently returned to blogging more aggressively as I attempt to rebrand myself. Wanna know what was consistent in all that time. I NEVER STOPPED WRITING.
I can almost guarantee that for each and every person who shares their lofty literary dreams with me, they answer me the same way when I ask them "so, how much have you drafted out so far". The answer is almost always NONE. They have THOUGHT about writing for years. They have toyed with the idea of a book. They have a plot, title, characters, even an idea for a whole series of books. In their mind it's so tangible they can almost TASTE the literary success. But they haven't committed a single word to the page.
Folks - I can't stress this enough - to become a writer, you must write.
Write anything and everything you can. Pour your mind onto the pages of a fresh new journal until your pen runs out of ink and your hand cramps. I personally LOVE the tactile process of crafting in a soft leather journal so I always have this one on hand! (seriously small enough to have in my purse but weathered and worn and soft and makes me feel all writery!) Toss in some super pretty Pens in bright colors and I could hole up for days feeling like Sylvia Plath! But I digress....
Bust out a vintage typewriter (yes, THEY STILL MAKE THOSE) and blow thru a ream of fresh paper until your trashcan and your completion pile are equally full. Open your laptop and a blank white word document and type so much you look up and realize you've lost track of the day. Commit yourself to putting down something, in WRITING, every day. If you wish to become a writer - START WRITING! A Journal, a blog, a book, a novel. Something public, something private, something on social media. The end result is irrelevant....if you wish to become a writer, you must WRITE. If you never ever begin with this one basic step then all your ideas aren't worth the effort you put forth to CREATE them. WRITE darn you, WRITE!
Secondary to that is you must READ about writing. Learn your skill, hone your craft, don't just sit back and trust your memory to pull out that grammar lesson from 8th grade English class. Be careful not to get caught up in the minutia of editing lest you lose your momentum. In this day and age it doesn't have to be perfect and polished thanks to the invent of spell check and Grammarly and more. LEARN what you can about writing, but stay committed to the act of writing.
When you write, your creativity flows more freely and the ideas you begin with will change shape and develop almost as quickly as you put words to page. What you BEGIN to write about may change so much that the end result looks nothing like what you started out as. You may begin writing a sci-fi novel and end up with a romantic one. You may start out writing short stories for a magazine publication only to determine you have a whole novel series in the making. You may think you wish to simply journal privately and determine that you want to now SHARE those thoughts in a blog. Or you will begin a blog only to find out you are kind of AWESOME at it and don't care to ever do a full blown novel. WAHOO!
Or....you may begin writing only to realize you really DON'T want to write. And that's okay. YOU DO YOU. Not everyone has to play the same note. Our world is beautiful because of the music we make TOGETHER, in compliment of one another. If you have grand dreams of becoming a writer, then write. If you decide it's not for you...that's cool. You go find your own bliss and then pursue the CRAP outta THAT. Just as you must first WRITE to be a writer; The actor must ACT, the baker must BAKE, the architect must DESIGN, the artist must PAINT, the singer must SING, the blogger must BLOG, and you must do YOU before YOU will EVER achieve your dreams. Don't sit idly by and let your dreams die. GO AND DO!
Dream your big dreams in the quiet of your life....then move your feet in the direction of those dreams as if the very life blood of your world flows from them. And let's be real. What is the WORST that can happen....... You try, you fail. Well GOOD ON YOU. If you try and fail you are already a leg up on the eleventy-billion people who sit around talking about how they have a great idea for a book, and they'd like to sit and tell you all about it. And be gracious if they do...for if they are sitting there telling you all about it, then YOU are a writer. Welcome to the family. I welcome you to the fold and encourage you to JUST KEEP WRITING!