A new acquaintance of mine was intrigued by why I wouldn’t just lay back and enjoy my retirement. “Shouldn’t you be going on a cruise, taking in Broadway plays, or some such leisurely activities?” I must admit that sometimes, when I’m up early to write before anyone else in my house is awake, vacations or just hanging out with some of the Red Hat Ladies does sound like a good idea. But my characters depend on me to give them life and a purpose. So, I grab a second cup of coffee and get on with it. Her followup question, however, is the real reason for my post today. What she asked was this: “What do you have to know to be a writer?” Where do I begin? Figuring she was not so much interested in specifics as she is in just making conversation at a barbecue, this is how I answered:
- First of all, you need a desire to write—to tell a story that’s been on your heart and mind for way too long. You need an overwhelming desire to get it down on paper.
- You need the desire to communicate. It is more than just writing, per se. It is thinking about the reader. Needing to connect with him/her on some deeper level. It’s that emotional connection that we both crave.
- You need to be fairly good in your use of spelling and grammar. (I say “fairly” because of there are so many online helps, such as Spell Check, that make that part of writing easy).
- But even those online helps are no substitute for a thorough knowledge of sentence structure and a myriad of other writing skills that go along with that. However, writing skills can be learned. I’m learning every day.
- You must be a self-starter, disciplined and persevering. Someone who truly does believe that the only way out of the tangled writing jungle is through writing, writing, and more writing.
- When your story calls, you must answer. Whether it is 3 a.m. or midnight, when an idea surfaces, you need to be there to develop it 24/7. This may require you to function, occasionally, on a minimal amount of sleep.
- You need to be able to delay immediate gratification for months—even years, sometimes. Writing and publishing take a long, long time. It may take you so long to get that book to market and receive those cherished letters from excited readers that you’ve even forgotten the names of some of your characters!
- My back and shoulders are aching today, so I must also remind you that you must be able to sit for long periods of time in front of a computer. Get up every hour and move around for a few minutes to avoid the chiropractic office becoming your home away from home.
- This contradicts #6 (above) but you do need sleep. You need to be sharp when you write or you’ll make mistakes. These will eat up precious time in editing and rewriting.
- The biggest thing you need to be a writer, though, I saved for the end. You need to be CREATIVE. You can know how to write perfect sentences, free from spelling and grammatical errors, but if you lack creativity, your book won’t be a satisfying read for anyone.
I was going to continue by talking about characters, plot, and setting. However, as I looked into her glazed eyes I could see that I had lost her at about #2. Her sights were now set on the dessert table… Brenda