One of the great questions (alright, so maybe it’s one of the mediocre questions, but it’s important to me, alright?) writers often face from a less than enthused public is such, generally delivered in a somewhat sarcastic tone: “What does it take to be a writer?”
Of course, the fact that this usually comes after someone in the room has already delivered the very much conversational bombing inquiry of: “Can’t anyone be a writer?” doesn’t make matters much better. To that, of course, the answer is at once both a begrudging yes, and still a resounding no. Anyone can write. Not everyone can take on the title of writer. Even less the title of author, but then, that’s a whole other issue that a great many blogs spend a great deal of time getting flamed about already, so let’s not get into that quite yet shall we?
So what does it take to be a writer, then? After all, every school thrusts an English class at you at some point, and if you have to write creatively for them, doesn’t that make you a writer? No, class, but thank you for asking. I took years and years of mathematics, and that didn’t make me a mathematician, so I’m sad to say that an English class or two isn’t enough to hand out the coveted (Yes, flattery, dang you—give me something) heavy weight title.
The fact is, you’re probably not going to pick up the skill that is writing successfully from school. If you’re a writer, the passion is already there—school and the works offered therein merely provide you with further evidence for said love, and a means to hone it. That said, there are really only three main ways to actually perfect the skill, and begin to call yourself a writer:
- Write, damn you. Without practice, your writing will be as flaccid as…an airless balloon. What did you think I was going to say?
- Getting it out there. I don’t mean hitting the publishers right off the bat, kiddo—chances are, especially these days, most of them wouldn’t give you what you need anyways, and that’s a critique. Show your work to friends, to teachers, hell, even hire yourself some beta readers or find some eager reviewers. Hunt down a writers group. But get insight—good or bad, it’s the only way you can get opinions to advance your work beyond the confines of your own noodle.
- Study. What, you thought this was the path of the indolent? A good writer reads, be it fellow writers of his genre or theories of the same. Immerse yourself in language, and skill, and the lessons they teach will gradually rub off on you. Knock heads with a teacher or fellow writers you admire, and see what they can help you learn. Grow, or stagnate, friends.
Most major writers don’t have a Masters in English; hell, there’s plenty of writers out there without even an English degree in the first place. It doesn’t mean it’s not a path for you, but that’s the thing—it’s only a path for those that know that very specific brand of learning will work. The facts that hold true, no matter the soul, though, are the above.
No man is an island. Don’t make it so. And see what works for you within those boundaries—every person learns and grows differently.