One thing you don’t expect before you become a published writer: how often you’re asked for advice on how to become a published writer.
And often the person asking is simply afraid to start trying.
If someone asks me via e-mail, whether friend, friend-of-friend, or stranger, I am happy to weigh in. Several years ago, I saved one particularly thorough answer consisting of practical steps that have worked for me; I (sometimes tweak and) simply forward it.
But if someone asks me in person, the answer will vary depending on the circumstances. I think my favorite response, however, is a variation of this:
Almost no obstacles stand between you and writing.
If you want to be a musician/singer, you need to invest in the instrument of your choice (and if it’s piano or double bass, more space!), need to rent studio time, and/or need to get out there and play to often small, most likely drunk crowds for nights on end.
If you want to be an actor, you have to wait in long lines with your competition to get just a minute or two in front of a casting director and hope that your talent overrides your anxiety.
If you want to be a doctor or an astronaut, you better be in training already.
But if you want to be a writer, remember that you already are. We all are, to an extent. We all learned to write in school, and while that doesn’t mean we all are good at it, it does mean we all have at least a little head start.
No one has to see. No one has to know. No one will judge you to your face.
You don’t need money. You don’t need space. You don’t need contacts. (Talent trumps all.) You don’t even need a diploma. (But get one anyway.)
All you do need is an idea (free and infinite), a corner to write in, a computer to write on (you can start longhand but eventually you will need to type it up), and the discipline to put them all together. In other words, all you need is what you probably already have right there in front of you right now.
Except, perhaps, discipline. So if you don’t feel that you are particularly disciplined, then let’s recast it. Are you passionate?
Not everyone has discipline, but most of us have passion for something. And people who want to write are usually passionate about wanting to write but may be intimidated about taking that first step.
Well, passion is powerful enough to squelch your notion that you’re not disciplined enough to write. Don’t stand in its way. If you do, you’re standing between the rest of us—your potential readers—and a great story. Actually, two great stories. The story you write.
And the story of what finally moved you to write it.