I’m a writer which, in short, means I treat writing like a job. Many people don’t understand this concept or look at it in awe. To me, writing is a job I never applied for. It’s something that’s always been apart of my everyday life, but it wasn’t until I made the conscious decision to constantly put it at the center or forefront of my day-to-day that I felt like I was advancing.
Many writers or people who have a passion for writing have a hard time seeing how to find the time to do the actual writing bit of writing. We’ve all heard it before or probably even said it at one time or another: “I just can’t find the time.” To people on the outside, it may appear magical in how writers who do “find” the time create their fictions or nonfictions. But for those on the inside, we know it’s far from magic.
What it comes down to is dedication and commitment. At some point if you want to become a writer or any type of skilled creator, you have to make the hard choices that create the time for you to work. That means taking away some things you may enjoy like playing games, sleeping in, going out, or lazing around on the couch. All those things eat up time and, in some cases, even kill creativity.
Many authors have jobs that they have to show up to—commonly referred to as day jobs. It’s a necessary burden for those who want access to healthcare or a steady and reliable paycheck. Don’t fall into the trap where your day job becomes the excuse for why you can’t become a writer. When researching into famous authors who made their living off their craft because they were so damn good at it, all—not some, or a few, but all of them sacrificed their off time and sleep to devote another moment to their craft.
Be like those authors, don’t be like the people who wish they could be writers.
There’s a lot of advice and articles out there for writers about what to consider before you take the dive, but honestly, none of that advice matters. The most important thing to remember at the beginning is to write. Of course, read and read widely, consuming whatever type of literature you can get your hands on. But during that reading, also be writing. Write about what you’ve read. Analyze the text. Question it. Expand upon it.
Don’t worry, though, none of that writing is for anyone but you and your future self. At first, just write to get the hang of writing. Write to get your body used to the feeling of putting words down and of designating time to put those words down. Put them down, and move on. If you’re the type who likes to look back at your progress, save the pages you’ve written during the early times so you can look back at how you’ve grown.
This period takes a different amount of time for different people. Some spend years in this phase of reading and writing and reading and writing and reading and writing. It’s an easy stage to also find yourself trapped in. To think that this is the only stage or step to being a writer. It’s not. Far from it.
At a certain point, you have to leave the practice mat and hit the course running. That might be a mixed metaphor, but my point is all of that writing and reading is only practice for the main hurdles of writing.
The shaping of a story into an evocative, powerful narrative is where being a writer takes over and leaves being a hobbyist in the dust.
Once you’re ready to start telling stories of your own, all that writing prep and consuming of literature will show up in the way you chose to put your piece together. While not “really” writing, you’ll have Mr. Miyagi’d yourself into a lean mean writing machine. The words will flow from you like they’ve just been waiting for you to give them permission to take form. Now, don’t be alarmed. They probably won’t be that great, but they’ll be better, and what you wreck in the first draft, you can take out in the wash of the second.
The best thing to do at this point is continue writing. In fact, when in doubt, continue writing. Except once you’re done with your pieces, read over them, edit and critique them as though they were someone else’s texts that you came across. Try and be as objective with your art as possible. It’ll make the next stage a lot less harsh.
Once you’ve written, edited, and whipped your piece into as much shape as you can. You’ll end up looking at it like a masterpiece or close enough. Unfortunately, you’ll be wrong. But either way, at this stage you’re going to need to show your work to other people. Steer clear of close friends, family, and spouses. Sometimes even the smallest critique can cut like daggers when said by someone you care about. The importance of ripping off the band aide of outside critiques is simply to prepare you for the competitive and discouraging world of submitting for publication.
Not every writer will respond well to these steps. Some writers will want to dive right into the last step and start submitting the first stories they write without any real edits or critiques from others. Who knows, maybe those people will succeed. Maybe all the fame and glory will go to the unprepared. Doubtful, but maybe. Others will say that it takes more than these steps. They’ll be right. It takes so much work, time, and practice to get to the point of being a successful creator. One thing is for certain, in doing anything less than these steps will produce nothing of merit.