You Don’t Need to Be Born a Writer

It’s Day 3 of my writing retreat and I’m at a cafe eating some breakfast and reading some motivational writing material while I wait. I could get used to this life, writing as a career. Yes, it’s work. It’s hard work. But it’s work I love.

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I was talking to my mother on the phone earlier and she was telling me yet again that she’s amazed at how much I love writing because it’s a hard thing for her. I was one of the few people I think born from the womb a writer. I’ve always written for as long as I can remember. I wrote poems for years and years, and I wrote my first novella around age 12, the second one following shortly thereafter. But, I didn’t produce another long work of fiction for 15 years.

Most people, like my mother, seem to think that writing is an innate talent. While there certainly are some geniuses, I would say that most people that are published aren’t geniuses. They are simply determined people willing to learn and practice. I believe that if anyone practices writing enough, they can be good at it. Everyone has stories to tell, but most people don’t ever tell them because they are afraid of writing.

I’ve told this to my mother before, but writing can be learned. Sure, it may take a few years to get into the swing of things and really start producing some good writing. But if you write every day, even for 10 minutes, you can accelerate that time frame.

One thing that I think people fail to do when they want to become writers is that they aren’t readers. You need to read a lot. Both fiction works and nonfiction.

When you read fiction, don’t just stick to your genre. You’d be surprised how many new ideas you can find reading historical fiction when you’re writing sci-fi. Of course, you should be reading sci-fi if that’s the genre you’re writing in, but don’t box yourself in and say you only can read in that genre.

For nonfiction, pick up some good books on craft. I think any budding artist should start with “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. This book isn’t just for writing; it’s about nurturing your creativity. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg and “On Writing” by Stephen King are solid classics for books on craft.

There’s an endless supply of “how to” books on writing. Just pick one and go, then don’t stop. I’ve been writing for almost 20 years now, albeit I was quite young when I started, but I’ve been reading on craft the entire time, and I still have more to learn. You can come back to the same books over and over again and get something different out of it every time. I highly encourage re-reading of both fiction and nonfiction.

Whatever you do, if you want to be a writer, become one. Don’t wait for permission from anyone or have people tell you that if you’re not born gifted that you can’t learn. I’m not gifted at a lot of things I enjoy doing, but I do them because I love them and I’m always learning and growing.

Take the first step and pick up “The Artist’s Way” to start acknowledging the creative in you, then find a book of prompts and start free-writing every day if you can, even for just 10 minutes. You can start out even once a week if that’s less intimidating for you but building the habit of just a little bit each day makes a big difference when you’re looking to achieve big dreams.

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