How to be a writer

These are the steps you have to take.

1.Write daily.

By daily I mean every day.

By every day I mean every day, not every weekday or every not-busy day or every day I feel inspired.

Write to a word count or write for a specified amount of time.

On the weekend days or the busy days or the uninspired days, write less: a smaller word count, a shorter time requirement. But write. Daily.

Establish in your mind the unalterable truth that a writer writes.

A writer writes consistently. Continually.

A writer who does not write will stagnate and implode and get cranky and possibly turn to drugs or alcohol or Riverdance. I’m telling you, it is dangerous to ignore the need to write.

After you’ve written daily (every single day) for a while, you can take a break. Ease up. JUST KIDDING, NO YOU CAN’T, KEEP WRITING EVERY DAY. Ten words, maybe. Or a hundred. Write them.

2. Get the important work done first.

The important work is the writing.

A writer is someone who writes, yes.

A writer who wants to do something with their writing will come up with a long list of side skills that must be fully developed in order to succeed as a writer. (There is also a long list of side skills that are not needed in order to succeed as a writer.)

But the first and most important skill is the skill of writing. Do the important work first.

Side skills later. Side skills around the edges. Side skills after your daily writing.

3. Ignore the voices in your head.

…unless they are giving you a great story line.

When they are very loud and they are bothering you with questions and doubts, pretend to mute them. You can’t really mute them, but pretend for a minute that you can.

Mute. Press the button.

What do you hear if the voices are muted?

Most likely, you hear your self, your desire, your idea, your story, your need, your vision. Lock into that. Focus on it. Realize that all the other voices are outside forces that have somehow wiggled into your brain. They don’t belong to you. You don’t have to listen to them.

It’s difficult to ignore them, I know. Play a game called Not Right Now. When the voice tells you something that distracts or slows or stops your writing, say, “Not right now.”

Every time.

Keep saying it.

If the voice is terrible in its persistence, write down the thing it says on a little card or note and put it to the side and say, “Later. I’ll deal with that later. Not right now.”

Then do your daily writing.

4. Read.

As much as or more than you write.

Many genres. Many writers. Books, mostly. Also newspapers and articles and magazines and long-form writing and blog posts and courses and things.

But mostly books.

Write down what you think about the books you read. Write a review or a summary or mark up your book with underlining and sticky notes or whatever makes sense for you. But think about the books you read, and record, somehow, what you think. You’ll become a better reader and a more conscious and skilled writer.

5. Treat all writing with respect.

Don’t disparage any genre of writing. You can learn from every experience if you are willing.

Refuse only to write anything that is cheap, shoddy, or half-done: and that part of the matter is entirely up to you.

Content mill articles? Learn how to write quick, hook-worthy introductions and snappy conclusions.

Copywriting? That’s hard work. You’ll think more about reader perception and word choice than in any other writing type.

Any type of narrative, whether it’s literary fiction or erotica or personal essay, is about creating a world and telling a story. The skills from writing one become the skills you use in writing the other. The content is different, but the skills are the same.

Be humble and open-minded and you can learn from all types of writing.