Why am I writing about How to Become a Writer?

April 25, 2010 — Leave a comment

I’ve decided to do a bit of a series on How to Become a Writer and here’s why.

Traveling to one's grandfather's village on the coast of Norway requires a map and a plan.

Traveling to one's grandfather's village on the coast of Norway requires advanced planning and a really good map.

1. When you go on a trip, you pack, you set itineraries, you make reservations, you budget. While those journeys in which you just go wherever you feel led can be delightful and surprising, they can also be meandering and unfocused (like this sentence), full of regret and missed opportunity. You can waste a lot of time flailing around as an aspiring writer, or you can be focused and intentional–and get where you want to go.

2. Ignorance is an obstacle. Many students come to my office, and, god help me, many strangers call, because they want the heart before the course. They want the short cut to publication and fame, when what they need is time spent learning the craft, and learning (in this case, defining for themselves) what it even means to be a writer. I can’t give the short cut (which always leads to roads that don’t exist or can’t be traveled on), but I can give pretty good directions with lots of helpful landmarks.

3. Most advice out there is about short cuts: how to write better novels or how to get published or how to outline a killer plot. Or how to be a certain type of writer. But there’s so much more to becoming a writer than all that. It’s about developing a voice, having a vision, being connected with other writers, participating in conversations and debates about art and culture, and creating a habit of reading, writing, submitting work, and being accepted and rejected.

Which way to the nearest human?

4. I’m a first born. I’m used to stumbling through experiences, making mistakes that others can learn from, and then playing big sister.

Me and my little sis, taken by our younger brother. Pop Pop's village in the background: we made it!

So my series will have questions for reflection, to-do lists, to-read lists, to-write lists, and whatever else I come up with.


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