Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Does It Take to Be a Writer?

I've been thinking...is there a point at which a writer must admit to themselves they just don't have what it takes and throw in the towel? Or can anyone who wishes to be a writer become better. Is there a certain something a person needs to possess...like a singer who needs to have strong pipes or a dancer who must possess a sense of coordination?

In short, is writing an art form that can be taught?

So what does it take to be a writer?

1. Commitment - You have to want to do it. It takes a huge amount of commitment to endeavour on any artistic journey. You need to know it's what you want and there is no other option. There are highs and lows to the writing process. We get through the creative part and then there's the publishing side. Which, let's face it, sucks! We submit. We get rejected time and again. It's a huge blow to the ego and a thick skin is required. Thankfully, if you're truly committed, that skin thickens and the rejections are viewed as just part of the process.

2. Imagination - Some have, many don't. This is something I think begins at an early age. The ability to make up stories or scenarios, to live in your own mind, and not be so structural in your thinking. Things are not just black and white. There are many shades. And some people just can't activate that part of their brain. It's a necessity for any writer.

3. Desire to learn, to improve - We all have to start somewhere. I remember when I finally came back to writing as something I really wanted to pursue and the first time I submitted pages to be workshopped by my peers. I was both excited and terrified. What would they say? Was my writing as good as I thought it was. Turned out the answer was no. That was almost 10 years ago and although I had been writing for much longer, I was suddenly faced with a harsh reality. My writing was crap. I could have given up then, but I didn't. It was something I really wanted to do. Giving up was just not an option to me. But if someone had suggested that I not give up my day job, that there was no hope for me, I might have thought differently. That was not the case because I was surrounded by a group of supportive individuals all working toward the same goal and they helped me to carry on and do better.

4. Write - To be a writer you have to write. If the story lives in your head, bring it to life on the page. We're told to write everyday. I don't know too many writers who actually do that. I know I don't. But when I am struck with an idea, I write. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my characters and story, I can't let it go. But then there are days, sometimes many, many days where I produce nothing. That's just the way it goes.

Now, ten years later, I look back at the work I was producing then and what I produce now, and there is such a dramatic change. But I couldn't have done it on my own. I took classes, numerous classes, to learn everything I possibly could about technique, about what works and what doesn't. I developed a large support group of other writers to help me along the way. Took all their comments under advisement and trusted that they knew what they were talking about.

Something I learned, there is no right or wrong way to write a story. There is no secret formula. Yes there are basics. But if we all stuck to the basics, wouldn't our stories all be the same? You need to combine all of the above while also keeping true to yourself. Try new things. See what works, what doesn't.

I don't know if I've answered my own question or not. Is there a definitive answer?

Am I missing something?

What do you think it takes to be a writer?

8 comments:

  1. What does it take? A caffeinated blend of masochism and narcissism.

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    1. Ah yes...narcissism! A crucial ingredient.

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  2. A very thick skin and the ability to give creative answers when people say, so what do you do all day?

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    1. My quick answer...sit on my ass and stare at a blank screen. And sometimes, talk to the voices in my head.

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  3. I forgot to say I enjoyed reading your thoughts here, and nodded my head madly as I was reading along.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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  4. I wrote a blog entry about something similar a few years ago. I'm not of the opinion you need a ton of education to write..some of it is natural talent, ability, desire etc.

    http://bignoises.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/writers-and-education/

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    1. Interesting! I agree with you 100%. You do not need formal education to become a writer. You need the desire and a willingness to learn from others in the industry but no formal training is going to make you a great writer. It might help, and give you a slight advantage, but it doesn't mean you can't or won't make it.

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