When I taught my class on becoming a writer at two of the colleges in the Twin Cities, I asked students to define what it means to be a writer. Almost to a person, they included being published as a requirement for being a writer. I explained that writing and being published are two very different things.
Then I told them they could not be published unless they had written something. That concept brings me to my definition of what it means to be a writer: A writer writes and sometimes gets published.
Here are some tips to help you get (and stay) on track with your writing.
- Realize there is a mental and a physical connection to writing. Most writers think about writing, but forget to put the seat of their pants on the seat of their chair in order to start moving their fingers over their keyboards (that’s the physical part).
- Understand there’s power in conditioning–by that I mean conditioning by creating a writing place that triggers the writing impulse whenever you see it (remember Pavlov’s dog?). If you’re conditioned to eat at your kitchen table, it’s likely you won’t be conditioned to write there as well. Your writing place doesn’t have to be large, but it does have to be conducive to making you write in that place.
- Collect the tools you need for writing. I live in the country and my best option for Internet access is satellite. With the spring thaw, my dish sunk over an inch (the technician told me), which meant I didn’t have Internet for a few days until the technician could come out. I typically look up definitions, etc. online, but I have other tools (reference books) I can use and was happy to have them available during my “down time.”
- Decide what you want to write–then read everything you can in that subject or genre and read critically. I’ve said before that I think fiction is the hardest writing to do (at least for me), but I love mysteries and read them constantly. I found two errors so far in the mystery I’m currently reading (one was a missing word that was important to the sentence and the other was a spelling error that turned pubic hair into public hair during a discussion of rape evidence). Should an editor have caught that? Sure, but the reflection is on the author, not the editor.
- Write something every day. What counts as writing? Ideas jotted in your notebook. Revising yesterday’s writing. Research. It all counts if it contributes to you committing words to paper.
- Consider that all large projects are simply a combination of smaller ones. Novels are written in chapters. Chapters are written in dialogue, scenes, descriptions, characters. Non-fiction books can start out as articles, research in one topic that leads to another, etc. It’s okay to write small, as long as you write.
You might want to keep a copy of these tips handy in your writing space. It’s so easy to put writing aside while you do something else, but I urge you not to do that. Only you can write from your perspective. If you claim you want to be a writer, you have to write. Writers write, right? Happy writing!