You think you want to be a writer, so you label yourself “aspiring.” May I respectfully suggest that as soon as you set pen to paper, or fingers to home keys, and words appear, you are no longer aspiring. You are now a writer. Sure, it’s okay to aspire, let’s say to be a published author, but once you write something, you are a writer. Yes, there are those out there who will argue differently. I know, I’ve read their ridiculous drivel. No, you DO NOT have to be published, or even known outside of your own writing area, to be a writer. You just need to write.
My “official” writing journey kicked off by making friends with some great people on Twitter and learning some tricks of the trade from them. I was once an “aspiring writer,” until I was abruptly asked by one gentleman if I had ever written anything. When I replied that I had, he sternly informed me I needed to remove the tag I had given myself. So, I did. Guess what… now I’m an author. No one knows about me or my book except my social media friends and my family, but I’m no longer aspiring there, either.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
– Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher.
You say you want to write, but you don’t know where to start. Again, let me suggest an answer: Sit down with your preferred writing tools and start writing. No, you don’t need an outline. Heck, you don’t even need an idea. Just put words down. You have emotions inside of you, so write them. Write a poem about your garden birdbath. Write an essay about the trials of being a dog owner. Write a setting that could later become the world for your very own magnum opus. The first step to becoming a writer is transferring the words from your brain to some form of printed media. Congratulations, you are now a writer. Oh, another little tidbit: Whatever you write may be absolute drivel. Who cares? You’re allowed. Unless you have a Master’s degree in English or creative writing, the world expects you to be rough when you start out. That’s the beauty of this! The only one who will expect you to write the next Pulitzer prize winning great novel is you.
Again, queue the naysayers. Yes, there are horrible people out there who will read and criticize your work when you share it with them. Give them both middle fingers and find someone who will critique your work for you. Those are the most valuable people you will find in the early stages of your writing walkabout. The right people will partner with you to constructively guide you with a, “Too much use of the passive voice,” or, “You need to be just a little more descriptive here,” or, “This stanza is really great, but this line doesn’t flow well with the rest of it.” Those are the things you will need to hear initially. When you’ve been writing and sharing for a little while, you’ll come to recognize those things on your own because a willing critique partner (CP) took the time to show you what wasn’t working instead of just calling your writing trash.
I have a few CPs and I trust their feedback. Do I always like what they have to say, or the suggestions they make? Good Lord, no. But neither do I simply dismiss them. They took the time to offer their opinion, so I at least take the time to consider it. That doesn’t mean I’ll change anything, and I don’t have to. After all, it is MY writing. It’s my problem if I ignore sound feedback and put something out there for public consumption and it bombs. Next time they make a similar suggestion, I’ll look even harder at it through the newly cut lens of experience.
Can you take your time and sit down, deep in thought, and outline the entire plot for a seven-novel saga? You sure can. Do you need to? Nope. I will suggest some notes may be in order, though, so you can remember names, places, characteristics, personality quirks, et cetera. I am currently working on a fantasy novel and I’m building a world, animals and all, and have had to start keeping notes to remember details. My main character and her pet have at least two different eye colors apiece, and the MC is two different ages. I know this because I’ve had to scroll back and try to find details I can’t quite recall, but just know I’m getting wrong. So yes, definitely keep notes.
As you may have guessed, I’m not a plotter. I write what comes to my head, what the characters are telling me. It’s their story. They’re living it. I’m just writing it down to share with the world (one day). My approach is not wrong, nor is it right. It just happens to be right for me. I’m messy in life, disorganized, I can barely remember my shopping list even when I have it written down. For me, there’s no point in trying to outline and stick to it, but that may be your sweet spot. You’ll never know until you sit down and write, my aspiring friends.
“But, Chris, I don’t have a computer.” You don’t need one. Get old school with a Bic and a Five Star notebook.
“But, Chris, I don’t have a place to write.” Find one. Even in the craziness of the current world there are places to be found. Sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and birdsong. Sit on your bed like a high schooler journaling about their crush.
“But, Chris, I’m scared.” Good. Becoming a writer is intimidating. Becoming a good writer takes time. Becoming a published author is a challenge, less so if you decide to go the route so many of us go at first and self-publish.
Like the computer, you don’t need excuses, or a lot of time. Some of the poems in my poetry collection are quite short and took less than five minutes to write. You don’t even need to change out of your pajamas if you want to have a comfy weekend writing session. What you will need is to make sure you eat and hydrate. Nothing will curb a writing session faster than a crashing blood sugar or dehydration. You need to take care of yourself, you amazing and talented curator of unwritten masterpieces. Someone somewhere will need to hear what you write. And even if it is just one person, you have made an impact. That person will tell their family and friends about this amazing poem/essay/short story/novel they read and the next thing you know, you’re getting emails or direct messages telling you how you’ve changed a life. That is the ultimate compliment a reader can pay you. Take my word on that.
For those of you who are already writers, congratulations! The first bit isn’t aimed at you, because you took that step. My question for you now is this, have you put your work out there for the public? If yes, congratulations squared. If not, why not? Are you afraid of being rejected? Then writing may not be for you.
For those of you in both places, “aspiring” and active writers:
You WILL face rejection. I’m not sure about you, but I would rather receive an electronic rejection than face-to-face. It’s easier to wave your hand at a computer monitor and say, “Ah, what do you know, anyway.” At any rate, share your work. Tweet it out. Post it on Facebook. Trust me, you’ll get enough feedback from kind and not-so-kind folks. Some of them are actually professionals in the field. That’s how I met my editor. She’s one of the kind ones.
You might have written a piece you adore, but it gets picked apart like a carcass under a wake of buzzards. Take what you’ve been told and polish those bones until they gleam, then flesh them back out. The only thing that got hurt was your pride. On the other hand, you may think your words smell like the north end of a southbound skunk, and everyone loves what you’ve said. Don’t let fear and/or anxiety hold you back. Please? For me? Do you think Swift, Dickens, Austen, Dickenson, Poe, or any of the classical greats had an easy road? Rest assured, they did not. None of us has. If anyone tells you different, they smell like the aforementioned rodent.
Do the world a favor, do not muzzle yourself. Let your literary voice be heard. Remember, it only takes one person to feel your words for it all to be worth it. And if you still want to aspire, then aspire to touch two souls next time. Or five. Aspire to be the best writer you can be. Most importantly, aspire to make your writing adventure enjoyable.
C.R. Taylor: I am a Gen-X father of two. I enjoy living a fairly quiet life in rural Maine with my children and my dogs. When I’m not at work, I’m writing, cooking, reading, fishing, shooting, or riding around the woods looking for wildlife. I have one published book of poetry and am currently working on a second. I also have two novels in progress, a supernatural tale of terror (I hope) and a fantasy. I’m also busy trying to build a website, crtaylorauthor.com, and have been a guest contributor for a couple of different blogs. I can be found on Twitter @CRTaylorwrites, Facebook @AuthorCRTaylor, and on IG @crtaylorwrites.