Two types of people call with questions about my business: potential clients and people wanting to become writers. (Okay, a third type also calls, hoping to sell me something.)
I love trading ideas with other writers including those just getting started, and since everyone has a unique spark and approach to the craft there are no secrets, just tips to share freely. Most new writers come armed with questions, but a few writers-in-waiting aren’t seeking ideas or answers. What they really want, whether they realize it or not, is permission. An anointing. One colleague refers to this phenomenon as a “fairy dust” request. “I will now wave my magic wand, scatter this dust and poof! You are now a writer.”
Ah. If only I had such a power, I say, but I can’t make you a writer. Only you can do that.
After noting the joys, I like to point out the pitfalls – including the deceptively busy art of procrastination. Many how-to books are read and seminars attended on the way to almost writing. I’ve received plenty of emails and other updates from individuals “not writing just yet” but celebrating “the perfect desk just ordered” or the “new home office almost finished” and so on. These are fun moments, but not milestones.
Words. To be a writer, you need words plus the markers of your own choosing. Do you want a journalism degree? Is your marker some of form of publication whether paid or free, or landing your first client, or completing your 100th assignment?
I’m not pointing fingers or poking fun at aspiring writers here. Every writer has her Kryptonite, whether it’s the pursuit of the right time or best place to work or the siren song of the Internet. Starting is hard at times, my colleagues new and established agree, and working requires a disciplined form of devotion, but even finishing has its quiet challenges. A work, once completed, must be released to the client or into the world for evaluation and comment. And whether working for clients or for our own satisfaction, hesitation creates silence on the page or the screen.
“Butt in chair.” I mutter Anne Lamott’s words whenever I need to sit down and write some of my own. As I learn fiction, some things I want to say won’t translate onto the page today because, like every skill, writing evolves over a lifetime. I love the act of writing – the way it bends the mind into pretzel shapes the same way yoga exercises the body. And whatever your title, the formula for becoming a writer is quite simple: if you love words, keep writing.