So you wanna
writer when you grow up, huh?
Don't become a writer. Not for money. Not for
glory. Not for any reason
unless you have a passion in your gut that is
so strong that nothing
can prevent you from writing. Unless you have
stories in you that you
must tell, and writing them is as important to
you as eating and
sleeping and breathing. And sometimes more
With that out
way, I assume you have
passion. So, what do you do with this life of
yours to pave your way to
the writing world? Read. Observe. Write. Live.
Those are the four main
ingredients to preparing yourself to write.
can get your hands on. Read classic
literature, read literary
fiction, read commercial fiction. Read books
on the craft of writing.
Read books on writers. Read dictionaries. Read
cereal boxes. Just read.
there is one attribute a writer must have
(other than his passion to
write), it is the ability to notice details.
What is it about the way a
woman walks that captures your attention? Is
it her clothes? Her
figure? Her wiggle? What words could you use
to describe the preacher's
snorts between shouts? What do his eyes look
like when he says "Hell"?
What keeps his hair from falling into his eyes
(or onto the floor)?
Look at your
surroundings as though you're showing
them to someone who's never been to your area.
Notice the sounds you
would hear if you listened. Notice the smells,
the colors, the
textures, everything you normally take for
granted. Think of new ways
to describe old things.
It doesn't matter if it's a dozen words or a
dozen pages, write.
And don't limit your writing to your passion—try
writing poetry, fiction, journal entries, or
essays. Keep a journal or
notebook with you at all times and jot your
thoughts as you think them.
you write about New York City if you've never
been there? Probably —if
you've seen enough movies and read enough
descriptions, you could write
with integrity about a city you've never seen.
However, you would not
be able to add new insight. As a writer, visit
as many places as you
possibly can, but also consider actually
living in as many different
types of places as you can. Yes, you can get
superficial impressions of
cultures during a seven-day vacation, but to
truly understand a
culture, you need to experience it more
deeply. The places you go will
leave an imprint on you and on your writing.
aspects of life as you can. Can
you really understand the pain of heartbreak
if you've never been loved
and left? Can you understand the intensity of
a mother's (or father's)
love if you've never experienced it? Can you
understand the thrill of
surviving the bunny slope on downhill skis if
you've never put your
life at stake?
This isn't to
must become an alcoholic to
understand alcoholism (although it does help)
or a bank robber to
understand a thief. What it does mean is that
writers need to take more
chances than the average Joe, need to
experience more of life in order
to write more knowledgeably. It also means
that writers must have empathy to
understand people and
situations beyond their personal experience.
What kind of
should you hold while waiting to
publish? Well, many successful writers have
had successful careers in
business, law, medicine, education or any area
you can think of before
becoming published. However, I think it is
best if you don't get too
comfortable in another career; work at
something you don't like and
change jobs often. This way, you will never
forget your passion for
writing or your drive to publish. (Just don't
go into debt. Live humbly
and within your means, because once you sign
that car loan, you are
obligated to your 8-5 job.)
- Work with people from diverse
as those you can meet in airports, resorts,
hotels and restaurants.
This give you plenty of characters to draw
- Work physically. Manual work doesn't
mind. Let your creative juices flow while
you wash dishes or mop
- Work where you have free time to write.
jobs such as a night desk clerk, a night
guard at a business, a bowling
alley clerk (on the slow shift), a car lot
attendant, and so on.
There are two
and the art. The craft is that which you can
active voice, the basics of dialogue, and so
forth. The art is
the God-given talent that a writer is either
blessed with or isn't. It
is the ability to "see" the details in a
setting and relay them in
interesting, unique words to make the reader
feel the location. It is
the ability to understand human nature and
empathize with even the most
dastardly villain. If you have that talent,
and if you have that
passion to write no matter what the odds, you
are a writer.
that away from you.
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