On Becoming a Writer (Part One)

Hey, SE Readers. Joan here today talking (writing) about writing. Is there any other topic? Seriously, I live, breathe, and think writing. It’s in my blood. It’s something I must do.

I was around ten years of age when I realized I wanted to be a writer. I began to scribble stories on notebook paper. Back in those days, we didn’t have computers or video games to keep us entertained, and television was two or three channels at the most. But I had a vivid imagination and would often act out stories. (Pretend is a great game in case you didn’t know.)

I continued writing through high school. I went through a poetry phase when I was around the age of sixteen. At seventeen, I decided to write a novel. I got out my trusty pen and began putting words on paper. I didn’t have a clue about story structure, plot, or character development, but somehow the finished product contained these elements.

Once completed, the story went into a drawer and never saw the light of day. Eventually, I threw it away, thinking it wouldn’t ever be good enough to share.

In my twenties, life got in the way of writing. I entered the workforce, married, and picked up a few hobbies along the way. But my dream of becoming a writer never left and eventually I began writing again.

Life also has a way of changing us. Sometimes we grow cynical. If we fail at something, it can interfere in other areas. The ten-year-old child who willingly shared her stories with her fourth-grade class became an adult who was convinced she could never write anything worthwhile.

Finally, thanks to a good friend and fellow writer, I shared a piece of writing. She opened a door for me, and I never looked back. I only wished I’d started sooner.

Personal experience taught me a few things on how not to become a writer.

  • Write only for yourself. Don’t share your work with anyone. Allow fear of rejection to interfere with your desire. Listen to the inner voices that say, “I’m not good enough.”
  • Throw away your work. Delete all your first drafts. Don’t go back and edit them. As an added measure, empty the recycle bin to ensure you won’t be able to recover your work. Never save anything.
  • Don’t listen to advice. Reject all advice from more experienced writers and editors. After all, you know what’s best. Others don’t have your best interest at heart.
  • Talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. Simply saying you’re a writer doesn’t make you one. You must write and write often. I’m not going to say you should write every day but set some goals. Stick with them. IMO, it’s better to set a word count goal than to say something like, “I’ll write one hour between starting at eight p.m. each day.” Lots of interruptions can happen during that hour, and you could end up with zero word count. It’s better to set a goal such as, “I’ll write 1000 words five days a week.” This way you can write in several sessions if necessary. The important thing is to complete your goal.
  • Fade into the background. Act like a wallflower, keep to yourself, and don’t interact with other writers. There’s an old song from the 1964 movie Funny Girl titled “People.” The song talks about how people who need other people are lucky. Writers tend to be introverted (I know I am) but we still need the interaction and support of others. Fading into the background is never a good idea.

It’s your turn now, readers. Share some things that have hurt you in your quest to become a writer. Let’s learn from one another.

 

65 thoughts on “On Becoming a Writer (Part One)

  1. I remember when I started writing it was my first semester in my major. I remember this one professor, that I looked up to. She literally told me I was not a hard-worker and I won’t be anywhere near a good writer. I remember that day being the day I threw away all my writings and left my desire to become a writer. I stopped writing and reading for fun. Right until the beginning of this year. One day I will write something and look at her and tell her that I wrote something amazing…

    This was one of the difficulties I’m facing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am so sorry that happened to you. One of my best friends changed her college major because of a comment made by a professor about her writing. Years later, when she had her first article published in a nation-wide magazine, she almost sent the teacher a copy.

      Keep writing and yes, one day you can show that teacher she was wrong!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

    • Michele, I still remember my characters. I even used a couple of them in my story for the Christmas anthology we did a couple of years ago. I remember staying up until way past midnight to finish the final pages. Oh, to have that dedication now!

      Like

  3. The nice thing about writing for a long time, at least for me, is that I’ve made most of the mistakes I can (I hope), and I’ve learned from most of them. I like people, but I still have trouble at big writers’ conferences when I feel lost in numbers and star struck with successful authors. But I’m getting better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ll never forget the first time I went to a writer’s conference. It was a small one, but because I’d only written two or three short non-fiction pieces, I felt so out of place. I got better, but haven’t been to a conference in several years.

      Mistakes are good learning tools if we take what we learn and move on. Thanks for your comments, Judi.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I started writing when word processors became available. This was before Word even existed. Word Perfect was one, but there was an earlier one too. Then I gave it up. Life had too many distractions, but I returned in later life. I also find everything discouraging. I’ve learned that a bit of space helps me sort my worst imagination from any remarks I might receive.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve had my share of rejections over the years, Joan, and that always is a springboard for doubt. They were devastating at the time, but in hindsight I learned from each of those rejections. I started writing stories when I was six and never stopped despite all the setbacks, rejections and hurdles. I don’t think I ever really got a bad piece of advice, it was more about finding the dedication and perseverance to continue. But like you, writing is part of who I am, so I’ll always continue with it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anne, I’m sorry that happened to you but am glad you were able to regain your confidence. A similar thing happened to a friend of mine and it took her years to start writing again. Thanks for stopping by today.

      Like

  6. Thanks for this post, Joan. I learned awhile ago to only write what I want to write. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try new writing styles, but it does mean that if it isn’t working for me, I’m not going to waste my time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good advice, Alissa. I ‘m a firm believer that if we aren’t passionate about what we’re writing, it will show in our work. But as you say, we can try new things and genres. Thanks for stopping by today.

      Like

  7. Joan, I can relate so much with your post! I know that life can get in the way of writing (and I wrote about it, I know no other way to process things). Unfortunately, in a way, it’s easier to think you’re not good enough than to do the hard work. But it’s so rewarding when you reach your goals.

    The worst thing I did as a writer (or a non-writer back then) was to think I could live without writing. As if I could ignore all the stories cramming in my head!

    Can’t wait for part two!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s hard for non-writers to understand our passion. I HAVE to write. It’s in my blood. And you are correct, we can psych ourselves into believing a lot of things. Writing is hard work, but a finished manuscript and published book are so worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The worst career advice I ever got was from my agent, of all people. (Needless to say, we no longer work together.) After finishing my first book, I started the second in the series. She told me not to work on it until/unless it sold and to do something in a completely different genre so I was more marketable. But she didn’t tell me which genre. That resulted in a lot of problems.
    1. I chose a new genre that was incredibly difficult to market.
    2. It put me behind in my first series.
    3. It damaged my self-confidence.
    4. It made me a multi-genre author, which we all know makes life more complicated. (Truth be told, I’d have ended up there, anyway, but not with the hard-to-market genre I ended up devoting a bunch of time and effort to.)

    It took a long time for me to find my way after that. Bad advice can derail a person. It’s a shame so much of it is out there, particularly from so-called industry experts.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Outlining usually overwhelms me. I feel like the more I write and the less I plot the better off my writing will be, yet it be nice to not be afraid of outlining, because outlining is an excellent tool. How could or should I handle this stressful beast?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. The big thing that hurt me was believing people that waiting would work. Just writing and submitting query letters didn’t get me anywhere. Feels like I wasted a lot of time not being more proactive. Oh,
    Trying to accept all suggestions is a bad idea too. Nearly destroyed my first book that way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re not the only one. I’ve thrown away things I wish I’d kept. Now, even when I cut entire scenes from novels, I save them in a file. Who knows when the idea can be reworked and use somewhere else.

      Like

  11. Yes, I have never understood why most writers are introverts. Must we have one trait in order to have another? I have had to try very hard to learn how to communicate with the people I meet in this glorious writing world. I will do anything to help other people, but speaking has always been difficult for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Oh, Joan, your story sounds so much like mine. I was born writing, lol. As soon as I could hold a crayon, I made things up. Like you, I loved to act out in that great game of pretend. I wrote a story for school one time, it filled a school notebook. As instructed, I handed in to the head teacher, and never saw it again. Well, nearly a year went by and I pined for it. Eventually, I broke down sobbing and my Dad went in to the school and complained. When they finally found it, because they had lost it, and it got back to me, I threw it in the bin. I couldn’t bear to even look at the thing. I didn’t write again for years. Amidst all that, I just never received encouragement, and some of what I wrote got me in trouble … guess it reflected real life too much, lol. It wasn’t until my life had changed completely post Buddhist Temple and post injury at age 40 that I began again. Now I can’t stop. I find a daily word goal is working really well for me. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Joan 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • I was a lot like you. I wasn’t discouraged, but I wasn’t encouraged either. So glad you found your calling, but its a shame it took a life-altering event for it to happen. One day, after “wanting” to be a writer for many years, I decided the time had come to do something about it. Wish I’d done it years earlier, but no point in looking back now.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I love the stories behind the writers. Funny no matter what life throws at us the call to write never leaves. You have a good list of pitfalls to avoid along the way. I wish I had kept some of my older stuff and my old journals. I do have a box of handwritten and typed work I keep meaning to go through. I think the hardest for me is not to fade into the background:) I like to observe quietly…

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m the same way, Denise. I prefer to observe. I can speak up when necessary (my job requires often requires that I do). But I love my little writing world. I have no problem communicating online, however. I also wish I’d kept some of my early works.

      Liked by 1 person

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