So You Want to Be a Writer

This is an article I wrote last August but am re-posting again now.

I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how or where to start.

Yes, I’ve seen and heard this said by people for many years. And for anyone who has said that, I may have some answers for you. Though I do want to say right here and now, I didn’t say that at all when I started writing thirty-six years ago. I just picked up a spiral notebook and a pencil and began to write.

How did I know to do that? Simple. I knew what I wanted to write, which back then was poetry that I could turn into song lyrics. Sadly that dream didn’t come to fruition because I couldn’t find an Elton John to my Bernie Taupin. So I moved on and decided I wanted to be novelist then later on through my high school years, a screenwriter. After high school, I kept up with the screenwriting for a couple of years then went back to novel writing. Now I’m working on my novel, three book-length non-fiction projects, short article-essay type pieces like this one, the occasional poem, YouTube video, and short stories.

So now that you have my background let’s get back to the statement that started it all:

I want to be a writer.

Why? And I’m not being mean by asking that. I can understand if you’re not quite able to articulate your answer clearly just yet but you should have some idea as to what inspired you to want to be a writer. Because if it was just a thought out a thin air that sounded good, well you’ve got some work ahead of you here if you want to make that a reality.

I wanted to be a writer because I loved to read and I love words. I also have an overactive imagination and a brain full of thoughts and feeling. I discovered writing was a great way to get all that out of my head like other writers have done since the advent of writing.

But I don’t know how, or where to start.

This is actually doable though to get good at writing will take a lot of work. Some people are naturally gifted verbal storytellers but on paper, or in a digital format like most writers use today, not so much. But in order to know where to start, you do need to know why you want to in the first place. And also, you need to figure out what you want to write. Is it stories? Poems? Essays? You don’t have to stick to one thing and yes, you can do more than one thing at a time though I strongly encourage you to finish something before moving on to the next project. Whatever you decide to write should be something you want to do because if you’re making a conscious choice to write, you’re doing it for yourself first and foremost.

The ‘how’ part is just a lot of work. Basic writing should start with basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, which hopefully you will learn in your basic education in school. You can also find lots of books, articles, and even YouTube videos on the many aspects of writing. But in addition to studying, you’ll have to write. And keep writing, and learn how to edit, revise, rewrite, and keep doing it until you find the flow as I call it. And know there will many times where your words won’t flow out of you. When that happens, you’ll have to figure out a way to work through that.

My advice is don’t write for attention, approval, fame, glory, or to get a date. Trust me, writing doesn’t work like that. Successful writers write because they want to, they believe in what they do and they’re willing to put in the work to get good at it.

Many years ago when I started writing, if I had announced with joyful abandon that I wanted to write people would have said this to me in total seriousness with absolutely no joy: “Great, kid. Now get to work.” Back in those days, if you wanted to be taken seriously you had to put in the work. You had to study, practice, and really keep at it. Today… not so much to my chagrin.

Frankly, I’ve always been puzzled by people who just think they can dash off words and expect instant gratitude and adulation. Legends in their own mind, I guess. But trust me, past a certain point, they won’t have the long and storied careers of best-selling authors. Whether or not I’ll ever hit a best-seller list remains to be seen but it won’t be because I didn’t work my tail off to try and hit it with the best work I can produce.

So you want to be a writer.

Great. Now get to work because in the end, it’s the writing itself that matters most, not the title of ‘writer’, or just wanting to be one.

Nick of Time – A Moment of Clarity From a Title

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

A few days ago, I sat down to think about what I wanted to do with my writing. The first thing that came to mind was that I wanted to blog every day because I like writing every day. So I began to think of a title for the blog that would stick and the phrase, ‘Nick of Time’ jumped into my mind and has stuck there like Super Glue. It comes from the album by Bonnie Raitt of the same title that she released in 1989, an album I’ve been listening to for the past few days. There’s a particular lyric passage in that song has brought me here today:

When did the choices get so hard

With so much more at stake

Life gets mighty precious

When there’s less of it to waste

(songwriter: Bonnie Raitt, copyright 1989 Kokomo Music)

Coming up with a title that resonated clearly in my mind didn’t solve my problem of why I don’t blog every day, or why I haven’t put in the work on this website-blog that I should have. Coming up with this title made me realize something very painful about myself and my life:

I have never followed through on anything I have truly wanted to do with my life.

Over the next few days, I’ll be blogging in detail about why that was (The Three Fears, as I call them). I thought I’d faced most of my crap but it turns out I’ve got some more work to do. That’s not a bad thing as you can’t work on something if you don’t know what to work on to begin with.

When I set my website-blog up last year my goal was to find ways to get my writing up and running and find ways to monetize it and also find other ways to make money from being creative. That ground to a halt and I’ve been a spluttering mess ever since then.

I know I’ve held back and not followed through for a long time but I’ve never been able to put that into words like I’m doing now. Words are important to me because when I find them, I find clarity even though that clarity can bring a lot of pain. Once I find my words though, I never forget them. Words have power and meaning, very much so to me. In the last five years putting feelings into words has been a big part of my life. Doing that has lifted weights of guilt and shame off of me that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and it’s helped me remove the talons that were sunk into me over the years by cruelty and thoughtlessness.

Last July I wrote about what I called ‘My Moon Shot’. I talked about how my goal of being a self-supporting writer felt like the Moon Shot. And it still does but I don’t feel as overwhelmed by that now. What I am beginning to understand is how the original Moon Shot worked and how it can apply to me. The original Moon Shot started with getting an astronaut into orbit and back down, then getting two astronauts into orbit and learning how to fly in space, then finally getting three astronauts to the Moon and back.

So I would say I’m at Project Mercury stage, which is getting into the routine of writing every day and figuring out what content I want to produce. The next stage will be creating a routine or schedule to produce that content and fine-tune it. Then the final stage will be to figure out how to monetize it.

In 1961 in a joint address to Congress, President John F. Kennedy said this: “We choose to go to the Moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.”

I’m not going to mince words here and say things are easy when they aren’t. Also, I will freely admit here I don’t have all the answers nor do I know all the challenges I will face. But then no one does, despite the fact more than a few assholes have told me otherwise. My journey to this day began when I realized that everyone was just as full of shit as I was sometimes, but that didn’t make me a bad person either.

In the coming weeks you’ll be seeing changes here on this website-blog. I’m taking them one at a time and I’ll be sharing those with you. Eventually I hope to make some upgrades but those will come in time, too. I’m not a deadline here nor will I let anyone put me on one. My advice to anyone wanting to change their life for the better is this: take it one step at a time. The choices may seem hard but in reality, they aren’t as hard as some people will try and lie to make you doubt yourself and your abilities.

I’m through with wasting what little I have left in my life. And I’m hell-bent and determined not to go silent ever again.