Starting Writing

So you want to be a writer.

Leo Lane

Being a Writer - Step one

I'd like to be an investor like Warren Buffet, you know, rich, respected, and knowledgeable. As I’m not doing any investing, studying how to invest, or really much of anything about it, I suspect it's not likely to happen. On the other hand, I haven’t lost my savings while learning to read the market, and, instead of pouring over books about day trading, I’ve enjoyed watching sports with my buddies.

We watch athletes score in front of a huge cheering crowd, or perhaps a shot of them with pretty things standing close and a Ferrari nearby, and inevitably, one of the guys will say, “I was pretty good in high school. I shoulda’ kept in shape and really tried out.” I nod as though it was likely, that this fat guy with a bad back would have succeeded, but I’ve been a coach and know it’s not. What we’re viewing is the end result of kids born with natural talent and resilient character spending much of their childhood working through an increasingly competitive system. After years of being watched under pressure, they stood out in an overcrowded field.

That’s daunting by itself, but things get worse. They weren’t on a level playing field at any part of the process. Some had money behind them. Some had parents able to give good advice. All had bodies that matured at just the right time and an internal drive to push those weights, pack on that muscle and race those laps. Life works that way.

So does writing. We can’t just be a J.K. Rowling. We have to go through the process of getting there. And there's the rub, making the commitment, taking time, and developing a thick skin, because there’s a cost and a risk in learning to write well. What if, after all the work and time, it turns out that we’re really not very good at it? If we’d taken up gardening, we’d at least have ended up with a nice bunch of carrots.

The answer is that same internal motivation that kept young men and women working out, practicing their shot, and fighting for places on elite teams when they could have been munching Cheezies in front of Netflix with their buddies. A certain number of us just need to write. We’d prefer to be innately gifted and have Gone with the Wind flow out of our keyboard, but are willing to go through the process of learning and growing that will, fingers crossed, lead to something well worthwhile.

It's a journey of growth and self-awareness that has value, and it need not be a dark, lonely trip. There are great books about writing. I strongly recommend Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and Wired for Story. There are readings at libraries and bookstores, and hey, they’re usually free. There are writers’ guilds and associations. Writers’ workshops are almost certainly available near you, where you may find likeminded friends. And, of course, there are great internet tools like Critique Circle. It has helped me tremendously.

So, I’m challenging you. Put away the Cheezies, turn off Netflix, gulp, click on Word and start tapping away. Don’t like what you see? Fix it. Put it on Critique Circle and work through the process of writing thoughtfully and thinking in terms of how a stranger will understand what you just said. Learn to thrill, entertain and move people with the power of your words. You’re starting the great adventure. 

Thanks for reading my first ever blog.

19+ Comments


Writing is a job, like any other. you sit at your desk with a cup of coffee, Every day at 8 AM, dressed in a bathrobe. You write & research until quitting time, sometimes writing until dawn.


Jul-15 at 11:05


Less simple if you already work a job! Even I, as a stay-at-home mom, can’t always make much time, despite being… well, home.
But I see what you’re saying. It’s just that those who are serious about writing (or any other hobby they’d like to go pro with) basically need to work two jobs: the one that makes money, and the one that probably won’t… but they’re gonna try anyway!

Jul-15 at 11:56


I’ve been writing parts of this book for 40 years. but I had a job, so…
Now I’m retired. No job, no responsibilities, so…

Jul-15 at 12:02


There ya go! Writing is your job now. Use that time to its fullest advantage!

Jul-15 at 12:03


A dream fulfilled…
thanks for the props

“Ok, four dimensions then. Time would be the tricky one…” His mind was already calculating formulae to figure out how that could work. He couldn’t help himself. “Where do we start?”

“Wake up”, said MOTE.

Jul-15 at 12:13


I work as a copywriter and translator. Writing is my job.

Jul-15 at 14:26


I like the sports analogy here. Let’s face it, some people are just born with good eye-hand coordination. For them, sports come pretty easy. Yes, to make it your living, you have to put it the work. But you already have an advantage on me, who has none.
Some people are born with a certain amount of talent for writing. For some people, words just seem to flow out of them effortlessly. I don’t have that talent. I never will, and that’s okay. Writing is a fulfilling hobby that I truly enjoy.

Jul-15 at 14:56


That may be true to an extent but I think that’s the smallest part of it. I can write, but only because I’ve been a compulsive reader since I was about six. Thousands of books, short stories, whatever. I read the cereal box at breakfast.

95% of so-called ‘natural talent’ is stuff that just sank in, like osmosis.

Stephen King never goes anywhere without a paperback in his hip pocket.

Jul-15 at 16:25


Good post. I suppose it boils down to what are your goals. Do you want to play for the NFL or get a scholarship to get a degree and move onto something else. Regardless of whether you have natural talent or not, what ever you want to accomplish, it will take work and a commitment.

Jul-18 at 15:03


Writing, like art, is an obsession. Whether it’s poetry or painting or sculpture, it’s something you have to do. Being successful is beside the point. Some writers and artists become rich and famous, but most don’t. Take Monet, he set the art world on fire with his impressionism and his works command millions of dollars. Then consider Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo. During his miserable life Vincent never sold a painting and his works were scoffed at. When he died penniless in an insane asylum, his brother Theo was left with his worthless paintings. He couldn’t sell them either. After he died, his widow owned every last one of them. Then the art world awakened and van Gogh’s paintings were worth millions. Was he successful? Not in the worldly sense. My point is that it’s not the chase of wealth that keeps us writing. The world can see right through those who write looking for fame and fortune. So please ask yourselves, “Why do I write?” Your answer just might be like Vincent’s or Jane Austin’s. Lotsa luck.

Jul-24 at 22:39


Love the sports analogy. I was sitting here getting annoyed with my husband for being so hyper focused on his hobby and being envious of his commitment. And I thought, hey, instead of being all whiney about the lack of time he’s spending with me, why don’t I dedicate myself to my writing? I once HAD to write, or I thought I would die. Now it seems the opposite; if I have to write, I feel I might die. That’s a lie though. I suffer from the plague of perfectionism. Fight or flights or so they say, but I tend to freeze. Stillness wouldn’t get an athlete too far. Or anyone for that matter. Effort is non-negotiable.

Jul-27 at 12:34


Not everyone works that way.

Nor should they be guided that way. Each artist is different and must find their own way of working.

what works for you does not neccesarily work for me.

Jul-27 at 12:34


I’ve got to say; that I wish I’d started writing long ago. It’s my only way to create something that I can share. I’m not a musician. I’m not an artist, but I am learning to develop characters and worlds in a small way. I’m not likely to become a J K Rowling, and while I love to have people enjoy my work, what I get out of it, what drives me, is watching a character that I have created come to life in a world I have imagined. It’s intoxicating.

Jul-29 at 14:55


I rather enjoyed reading your Start Writing observations. I agree in principle with your observations. There is however one aspect perhaps that you only touch on and that may be rather more important than you lead to think. Rejection, strife and personal pain. That is, in sports, writing and most other areas, you become good by taking on the pain of being told you’re not good enough, tall enough, or [insert lacking quality], to which the individual rebels and strives. It is about how much pain you are willing and able to absorb before you can flip it around and you’re on top. In writing, you need that painful life experience perhaps, to then be able to write a good novel, a meaning poem, or to just put on paper what is in your self. Perhaps in writing, in a different way than in say sports, you have to become one with your chosen field. You can’t just take off the pain and hang it with your cletes, you have to live with it every day.

Aug-18 at 13:06


I’ve actually thought about this alot. Most athletes figure out where they stand in minor sports and move on. It’s tough to watch the ones that keep going and get cut or age out of Juniors. They didn’t know when to put the skates away.

It’s pretty relevant to writing, I mean coming to terms with where you stand. Perhaps there should be a blog about when to stop writing.

Aug-18 at 15:16


If people enjoy writing they should never stop writing. They might need to come to terms with knowing that what they are writing is not of a commercially publishable standard (whatever definition they use for that) but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t write.

To use the sports comparison – why should someone stop playing sports if they enjoy it? They might fully realise they will never get to be, say, an Olympic Gold Medalist. They might just want to play a bit of sport for a social reason or the exercise or whatever but they should never give up if they enjoy it.

A writer is someone that writes.

Aug-18 at 15:28


Agree, but I’ve seen guys waste years with the keep trying, never quit attitude. A matter of balance.

Aug-18 at 15:51


Ah, I think the difference here is whether those guys enjoyed it. If they did it something for pleasure, then the time isn’t wasted because it brought the pleasure. If they did it purely because they thought they were going to be successful at something when they didn’t have a chance, then yes you are right, I think they need to know when to stop and move on to something that does bring pleasure (with or without success).

‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’

Aug-18 at 16:04


Bear in mind, what sells today is trash tomorrow… What is trash today may be worth money tomorrow…

Aug-18 at 19:51
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