How to become a writer: It’s all in the Writing
The question of how to become a writer seems simple when you hear someone ask it. The answer some wisecracker immediately spits out is, write! Like the person asking the question has no idea there is a connection between written words and being a writer. Seems like that answers the question, and most people walk away, but in truth, many writers struggle with this. It’s haunting to aspire to something so nebulous. How do you know when you’ve become a writer?
There are 2 groups of writers in the world. The first group is full of writers who started writing at such a young age the question of how to become a writer never occurred to them. I’m in this category. I started writing in the 3rd grade, and I just knew. I never asked if I was a writer. I only asked what I could do to be successful at it. I admired Hemmingway, loved Frost, and was astounded by Raymond Carver, but though I idolized them in ways, I knew I didn’t have to rise to their level to achieve the title of writer. You don’t have to be a GREAT writer to be a writer. You just have to love and be drawn to it. The first group of writers never asks how to become a writer because it simply never occurs to them.
The second group of writers is sidetracked artists. They didn’t find writing when they were young, so they are not called to it before they are old enough to know any better. This group struggles with giving themselves permission to be a writer. The worry they are not as good as their peers. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but for some of these writers, the word writer is so important it couldn’t possibly apply to them. They are not concerned with being “great”; they just want the right to call themselves writers. The truth is, anyone has that right.
I’ll say this before I go any further. If you feel a draw toward writing, if you want to create something out of words and feel something inside you pushing you to do it, you’re a writer, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are drawn to writing, you’re a writer even if you never right anything.
A state of mind
Yeah, I’m a little metaphysical when it comes to writers, and yes, it is my calling. On top of that, I know the writing tunes in from a different place, muses, like the Greeks of old said. So if you are called to writing, and the ideas and inspiration are coming from someone else, you’re a writer. You are not a famous writer. You are not a successful writer, but becoming a writer is simple; you admit to yourself that it is calling to you and then just go with it. Of course, writing daily, with your heart and soul and body and blood until it’s an obsession, helps too.
I know writers who have large book deals and have written several books that suffer from Imposter syndrome. People are developing imposter syndrome in every facet of their lives. Mothers don’t feel like moms because other moms on Instagram are doing it better and “for real.”
Writers jumping on Twitter and freaking out about book deals doesn’t make you less of a writer. Just because someone is on their 10th book and you still need to finish your first doesn’t make you less of anything. If you have felt the call, you are a writer, period. Nothing else matters. Let others be. Franza Kafka, widely considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, never wanted his work published. He wanted his works destroyed when he died. Can you imagine? That man was running from his calling like it was a disease. Kafka hid his writing, and if he could have quit writing, he would have. So just think of yourself as being inflicted by writing, and might not worry about the label so much.
Impostor syndrome is an actual condition, and I’m not trying to make light of it. Some people need professional help to get through it. It’s best with this syndrome, as will all things, to let go and just know who you are and go with the feeling. If you feel like you need help, get help.
Advice on how to “become” a writer.
There are a lot of sites on the web that tell you how to do this. They give you lots of steps in becoming a writer. They are all nonsense. There are steps to becoming a successful writer. There are steps to becoming a better writer. There are steps to becoming a published writer, but there are no steps to becoming a writer. If you are here reading this article because you desire to be a writer, some little flame inside calling you to put words down on paper, you’re a writer. It’s that simple, and don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself.
The Writing: Don’t worry about how to become a writer
Now, writing something great, writing something that touches people deep down, writing something that changes the world, that’s an entirely different story. Being a writer is easy. Learning to be great at writing is very very difficult. Writing is hard. It’s that simple, and if you want to be a writer, you are tackling something difficult. Write every day. Write as much as you can, and read writers who inspire you. Seek out communities of artists, writers, and musicians, and tell your story and be unique. Only you, as a writer, know where you are going and what you will achieve. You never know.
The late great Raymond Carver wrote: “Don’t waste time wondering why lightning struck for your friend but not you. Or wishing lightning had hit you instead of someone you consider less talented. Besides sounding like sour grapes, it’s an energy suck. You can’t predict the vagaries of fate any more than you can predict a lightning strike.
Spend your time learning your craft. More writers have become successful because they worked at their craft than because they got lucky.”
Don’t worry about being a writer; just worry about your writing.
On a sidenote, if you want to test out some of your skills, try our Writer’s Playground.