For the longest time, I didn’t feel like an author. Even after I’d published four books, I felt very much a writer, and for me that was a separate thing altogether. Could I distinguish why? No, but I knew I felt the difference long before I had the vocabulary to verbalise it.
We’re in an era of self-published authors and I know traditional literary authors may turn their nose up at that. I know that in amongst the flurry of books being published left, right and centre, the art of writing has been lost in favour for popularity.
For me, anyone can be an author. Anyone can put words together and make a story, upload it to the internet, pick their pre-made cover from their chosen self-publishing platform and then press ‘publish’. Anyone can do it, it isn’t hard and for that reason alone so many do it. And why wouldn’t they? Being an author brings you many rewards, invitations to speak at events, deliver workshops, collaborate on projects, be interviewed on radio and much more. It’s viewed as a point of success, and so it should be, but I feel like it has become so glamourized that the point of being an author has been lost.
Yes, I am an author too but I am far from the best. My best work isn’t out there, I’m currently working on it. I’m a writer at core, and this means I have a love of the craft of writing too. However, I’ve given this some thought and have put together 5 basic points on how you can become a writer, or perhaps a better writer than you already are:
Write. Nobody wakes up one day and is the perfect writer ever. It is a skill, a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly to perform at its best. Don’t wait for the moment of inspiration to arrive, sometimes we have to push through what we feel and write anyway. It’s necessary if we want to reach our word count, deadline or writing goals. I have met many people who say to me “I’ve always wanted to write a book” but are they writing anyway? Unlikely, because they have put barriers and blocks in front of them, and rather than write a little bit daily or a few times a week, they do nothing but hold onto the dream and take no action towards it.
- Read. This may seem bizarre but reading helps you to write better. It helps to improve your own spelling and grammar, as well as how you structure your writing and the tone you use. Take note of the genres you enjoy the most, especially the way the author draws you in. Is this the type of genre you’d like to write in? Also, read books about writing by writers. Reading for pleasure is awesome, but even more amazing is to read for development.
- Learn. As much as you read and write, your quest to become a better writer doesn’t start and end with you. It’s easy to assume that you can teach yourself everything, but it’s okay to step forward with the guidance of trained professionals. Writing classes, YouTube tutorials and further education can all help you improve your craft. Academic writing is certainly very different from writing from yourself, but it adds so much value to the skills and knowledge you already possess. It demands our writing to be at a high level, we have to push ourselves beyond what we know to understand and apply new techniques and skills. How can you be the best writer you can be, if you don’t take the opportunities available to improve your craft?
- Explore. Don’t be a one trick pony, just don’t do it. Over the years I’ve tried a
mixture of writing articles about feminism and music, event reviews, poetry, short stories, books and more, and I am still discovering how I like to express myself. I enjoy the casualness of blogging, but also the respect and confidence that comes with writing books. In order to find out what you do best, you have to try different types of writing. So don’t be afraid to try a different genre, a different type of writing. It’s how we figure out what we’re good at it.
- Persevere. It has to be said, writing isn’t easy, not at all if you take it seriously. There are going to be days where you know you have to write but can’t face picking up a pen. You’re going to have to persevere against the negative self-talk and self-doubt. It is likely you will convince yourself that your writing is dreadful and the world will hate it, yet still think about writing until your head hurts. Your desire to complete a written piece has to be greater than your desire to give up.
Most of all, don’t listen to the noise around you when you write. Let the words flow naturally, the style take its own shape and the words leap off the page with a life of their own. Avoid drawing comparisons between yourself and other writers, because we all do things differently. It takes discipline to dedicate time to finding out exactly how you write, accepting your style and loving yourself for it.
It need not be the narrative that all writers bathe with self-loathing, not for you anyway. You define how you write. You define your experience of being a writer. So go and do exactly that.
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