How to be a writer:

In my last video, I talked about why I am a writer, and now I’ll tell you how.

Now I’m no Fitzgerald, or Hemingway, or [insert any top-selling author here], but I have (literally) a tiny bit of experience with being a writer, and it’s something I had to learn on my own.

JunotDiaz-writing-quote.jpg (500×366)

The point Diaz makes is to stick with writing, or you won’t get anywhere. Like any goal worth acquiring, it’s hard work. Yes, some people are naturally talented, but even they consider it hard work.

Take Stephen King. While some do not consider his writing to be outstanding, that can be said of any writer, and they cannot argue that he has met with great success. In his book On Writing, he says that writing can present a great struggle to him, and because of this, he made poor decisions, for which he has since made up. Nonetheless, his decisions show the extent to which the stress of writing was overpowering. Just to make himself produce, he implements a strict regimen, which works for some people and for some it doesn’t. In general, it’s a good idea to keep a schedule, but you may find it restricting from time to time and your creative self, stifled.

For some people, this can lead to writer’s block.

Don’t-Be-a-Slave-to-Writer’s-Block.jpg (320×280)

That’s something we want to avoid, as I’m sure you know. The solution isn’t to stare at your screen for hours, waiting for that word or idea to pop into your had. Instead, entertain yourself with something, read (you never know what you’ll pick up), or go out and see the world (sometimes called people watching).

Churchill, a praised writer, said that he never experienced writer’s block. To him, it was a thing of fiction. I think it’s obvious that he was naturally talented, but he was also excellently trained, and he also wrote a lot (which is how you get good, by the way). However, there’s one aspect to his avoidance of writer’s block for which I cannot entirely account:  he wasn’t bogged down by the pressure under which he wrote. He made countless speeches, all of which sounded brilliant and all of which were for important events or purposes, yet he never let that pressure effect his writing.

Few of us have experienced equivalent pressure, but imagine what it would feel like: if you messed up, you might lose the war; if you misspoke, you might mislead; if you failed at portraying your point, you would have no support.

I understand that last one in particular, and I think that most writers feel that same stress. It’s fueled by the fear of failure, and it’s something we have to ignore. To an extent, writers write for an audience, but they also write for themselves. Audiences’ opinions range over a wide spectrum, but as long as you please you and some readers, you’ve not only become a writer, but you’ve become successful.


On a side note: I’m not sure why the quote refers to a writer in the feminine form, considering the German root for the word is masculine, but maybe he was trying to be a feminist. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I’m just curious.


One thought on “How to be a writer:

  1. Pingback: Turning an Idea into a Story | Rebecca Weir - A Pensive Writer

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