One Simple Step to Becoming a
by Paul S. Jenkins
August 10, 2000
Okay, so you want to write. You enjoy the actual writing, the rewriting and polishing, and you take immense pride in seeing your work in print, or online. You'd like to do it full time, freelance.
Why? What are you in it for?
Maybe you'd like the freedom -- from the nine-to-five, or from others having control over your time. Or maybe you just want the satisfaction of being your own boss.
But one thing's for certain; if you want to be a writer, there's something you absolutely have to do. It's well known and obvious, but nevertheless you have to do it, and it can be the most difficult thing to achieve.
You have to write.
Whether or not you decide to go completely freelance -- giving up your day job to devote yourself to the writing life -- actually doing the writing can prove to be the biggest obstacle to your 'becoming a writer.'
So, here's a simple formula, guaranteed to make you a writer if you follow this guideline.
Write every day. Write Every Day Without Fail. "WED" -- it's a nice acronym for someone who's determined to be wedded to writing. Make this your not-so-new year's resolution. You can decide for yourself exactly how much you're going to write (every day), depending on the time you're devoting to your goal, but WED you must.
Algis Budrys, in his short but incisive little book, Writing to the Point (Unifont, 1994), is very clear about what you need to do to sell fiction. You might not agree with everything he says, but his advice here holds good for both fiction and non-fiction:
One hour out of the day. Pick the hour that's most comfortable for you; experiment until you've found it. And sit at the keyboard, or stand at the legal pad, or whatever, with the full intention of writing something, whether you have anything in mind or not. And stay there for the full hour, with no other intention.
Don't cheat. Some writing doesn't qualify: emails and personal letters; critiques of others' work; shopping lists.
Stuff that does qualify is easy to identify. Ask yourself, can this written work be submitted for sale? If not, then it doesn't qualify.
Maybe you find the concept of payment a distinctly unsavory measure of the worth of your writing. Perhaps it is, but it's the way the world works, and if you're serious about writing, the fact that someone will pay for your words is as good a measure of their worth as you're likely to get.
On the borderline (of work that 'qualifies') is work that could be counted as practice -- writing that looks as if it could be submitted for sale, but won't be, for various reasons. Such as, a story you've promised to write for a friend, or member of your family. Or an article for a charity publication you're involved with. Though you won't get paid for these pieces, they could be legitimately described as practice, as long as you're as rigorous about their quality as you are about pieces you'll submit for sale.
Rewriting, revision and polishing does count, as it progresses the written work towards its point of submission.
Make a list of your current writing projects, and cross out anything that doesn't qualify according to the criteria above. Now you know what you'll be doing in your WED time.
One last piece of advice.
Write every day.
2000 Paul S. Jenkins