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On Being A Writer
I can't remember who said it but a writer once pointed out that nobody will ever miss something you didn't write.
People don't walk around wishing they can find the genius they are unaware of, or the book that hasn't been written yet.
the harshest reality a writer must face. That nobody really cares
whether you finish your novel or magnum opus - or whether you even work
on it at all. A book is nothing until it's published - and even then,
given current trends, it's unlikely to set the world on fire or sell
more than a few copies.
must find their own reasons to write - and be self motivated enough to
continue without anything but selfish reasons to finish what they
start. As Dorothea Brande said in "Becoming a Writer", writers create
their own emergencies. They have to, because nobody else really gives a
It's funny. I was rereading a little of Stephen King's "On Writing" this week and I noticed something I'd missed previously.
said he used to believe that writing was a craft and that it could be
taught, a skill that, with enough training and guidance, anyone
could master. Note, he used to think that.
later in his career, after he'd written around twenty novels, he'd
changed his mind. He realized that the urge to write consistently must
be something you're born with.
about it - writing for no good reason (except personal compulsion) is
an urge that is so specific - even a little bizarre - that, without it
being somehow hard-wired into a writer's DNA, most people, no matter
how keen to learn, simply wouldn't bother.
It's not like it's always easy after all.
often said that if you find writing easy, you're probably not doing it
right. I know from experience that those writers who tell me they found
writing their novel a breeze, usually need some serious editing!
get me wrong. I do think that writing the first draft of a story or a
book should be fairly effortless or if not, an exhilarating experience
for a writer. That's usually how your best work feels. When you're 'in
the zone' and being productive and inspired, you're a writer, just like
any other Dan Brown, Emily Bronte or Tolstoy.
But that's not all there is.
editing too. And having something important to say. And having the kind
of mind that can hold an entire book in your mind - and to be able to
get it all down on paper. And, of course, the toughest call: being
able to arrange your life to find the time and inclination to write
everyone thinks writing is glamorous. Even many professional writers I
know have no great regard for the process, only an overwhelming
conviction that, in order to create something of value and importance,
you have no choice but to do it.
You and only you.
Of course, 'value' and 'importance' are relative terms. That's the point. Only Tolstoy thought is was important to write War and Peace.
It had no value to his wife, most likely, and none of us would have
missed it - or him - if he'd become an alcoholic and never got around
to writing more than a few hundred words.
So the next time you're tempted to write a book, think it through.
Is it important you get it all down?
And are you willing to spend 80% of the process on making it perfect?
like Mr King, I used to think that to be able to write half a page of
scribbled lines gave you the right to call yourself a writer.
now, after I've written a million or so words, I'm beginning to think
that being a writer is more involved than I used to believe.
It's somehow innate in a writer's makeup.
Perhaps practice is all it takes - consistent action and dedication to the art.
more likely you need to discover the writer within - that guy inside
who was never going to be satisfied until you gave him free rein to
take over your life.
But if he's not there, except as a vague yearning, maybe the best thing is to quit while you're ahead!
a full time writer is still one of the hardest ways to live. Ask any
writer. Even when you're successful, the motivation to write, stay
focused, inspired and clear for long periods can be tough.
Sure, it's rewarding - and often fun.
You know it's good when you finish something great and you like yourself more for having done it.
But be clear on this: commitment to writing books is not for the faint hearted.
Take one step at a time - but be sure you have good sturdy shoes before you start.
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