I have met all kinds of would-be writers—those who have always wanted to write (and may have been closet writers for years), those who never wanted to write (but have had an experience that must be written), those who are looking for a creative outlet (and think writing might be it), and those who don’t have a clue what they are doing, but feel God is leading them in this direction. Most of us have arrived here through one of those doors.
It doesn’t matter which door brought you here, the important thing is that you are here and want to learn more about the craft of writing. The problem is in knowing exactly where to start this whole process. There are a lot of different segments of the writing business, many of them equally important, so I have never identified what is truly the first step. For that reason, I am going to start with a lot of general, background information that will set the stage for more specific information to come.
Although we are meeting at this beginning place with different backgrounds in writing, in order to keep us on level ground I will assume that you know little or nothing about the writing business. I will also assume that you are experiencing the same doubts most new or would-be writers are experiencing. At some point we all ask the same questions: How do I know if I really am a writer? How can I tell if my writing is any good? Will people laugh at me if I tell them I’m a writer? Such doubts are common.
At this point I would only try to encourage you by saying that the fact that you have come this far in pursuit of a dream gives it validity. If you care enough about this desire to write to start learning more about it, you owe it to yourself to pursue the possibility until the doors close or you decide this writing business is not for you. By the time you work your way through this series of blogs, you will likely have a strong sense of whether or not you are pursuing the right dream at the right time.
We all start with doubts about our writing ability as well. As you get into the process, watch for or seek out opportunities to get some feedback from experienced writers on how you are doing. This can be done through writer’s groups or organizations, mail or e-mail round-robins (where you critique each other’s material), or by paying someone for a professional critique. We will talk more about these options throughout the book.
Now it is time to put aside the doubts and move on to learning all you can about the business of writing so you can make an informed decision about moving on or opting out. However, at some point you will need to decide in your own mind where you will go from there. Being a writer does not take a special degree or formal training, but it does take the same kind of commitment that you make to any other endeavor.
Many years ago when I first started writing, I was complaining about deadlines and editors or simply about having to write, when my daughter asked why I did it. Why didn’t I quit? I had to start asking myself the same question. About that time I was reading one of my favorite columns in The Writer magazine, written by Leslie Conger, when she made me face the question head on. She asked this: “If you suddenly came into a million dollars, could you walk away from the typewriter (computer) of yours without a backward look, sail around the world, live it up, and not care a moldy fig if you ever write another word? Think about it? And think about libraries, bookstores and stationary shops—think about the smell of a new book, reams of blank paper, freshly-sharpened pencils.” The images have changed somewhat over the years, but she contends you are ready to quit only when these things lose their magic—when both the dream and the part of you that was the dreamer are stone, cold dead.
It was then I realized I was a writer because there was no way I could not be a writer. Over the years I’ve discovered that most people fail, not for lack of talent, but for lack of commitment. It’s interesting that once you know you won’t quit—no matter what—that’s the point you start becoming a professional—the point when you know you are a writer.
MORE TO COME.