“I want to be a writer.” I hear this a lot, and every time that I hear it I have to bite my tongue. My impulse is to respond, “No, you want to be an author, but that goal isn’t important enough to you to actually do the work.” That would be rude.
Instead I say, “Terrific! What have you written?” or “How much time do you spend writing every day?” The answer is usually an abashed declaration that well, they want to write, they just can’t find the time. Balderdash. Writing is simply not enough of a priority, ergo see the rude answer above. The simple, awful truth is that to be a writer you must write. Not study writing, not take classes and workshops, not endlessly discuss writing on forums. This is not to say that these things aren’t useful, but what good do they do if you don’t write? Sooner or later you are going to have to plonk your butt down in a chair and get busy.
The funny thing is half a lifetime ago I had some short fiction published, but I didn’t consider myself a writer because I didn’t feel compelled to write all of the time. In my mind I wasn’t a ‘real’ writer. Then the internet really got going and I found forums about topics that interested me or were professionally relevant. I was posting every day, many times a day even. I wrote about my work, about classic cars, about history, cooking. Soon I was writing articles for my own classic car forum, and reviews, and professional interest articles. People said I needed to write a non-fiction book about my trade and eventually I did. I wrote blogs about swords, movies, gaming, food… But I still wasn’t a real writer, because writers write every… oh. Uh…
So when Linda and I started writing together on the Shield Maiden and found that we were really into it I was already in the habit of writing- it just took on a more singular focus. So much so that we had our first novel ready in three months from the time we started. I now write every day with the goal of producing 1500 words of new content per day. That’s a surprisingly modest goal, but even so I often don’t make that.
Oh yes, that’s the kicker– new content. Write- don’t rewrite. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of constantly rewriting, tweaking and redoing over and over until you stall out. Get it down, then get it right. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go back over your work and edit it, fine-tune it etc. But do it when you are finished, or it’s too likely that you never will.
Classes, workshops etc. can improve your writing- but nothing will improve it like practice. Say that you set a very modest goal- 1000 words a day. Between weekends, holidays etc. let’s say that you write 200 days a year. That’s 200,000 words– two complete novels– every year.
That’s a lot.
So there it is- writers write. Stop wanting to be a writer, sit your ass down and be one.