Monday, August 7, 2017

12 Points to Consider Before Becoming a Writer

At some point in our lives, or maybe at several points, we're faced with deciding what direction we want to take with our profession or if we're ready to take on a second livelihood. We might be tied into a particular job for multiple reasons--great pay, pension, healthcare--and those are all legitimate reasons to stay. And if that job takes twenty hours of your day, each and every day of the week, perhaps you shouldn't be thinking about moving into another career, or side job, or hobby.

But if it doesn't or if you're considering a change in career, and if you feel the tug to be a writer, now or sometime in the future when the kids are grown, you're retired, or you just feel you have the time, then think about some of the following points to see if you're suited for the writer's life.

1.     If you think nothing of carrying on a conversation with the people in your head, you might be a writer. If you find yourself eavesdropping on those same people in your head, even if you're not conversing with them, you certainly could be a writer. While it might sound silly, it's a common practice for writers to rehearse scenes in our heads as we test dialogue, see how characters interact with one another, or just plot out a certain part of the book. It's as natural to us as practicing the piano is to a pianist. I imagine they sometimes rehearse in their heads; we're no different.

2.     If watching people around you, checking out their mannerisms, how they stand, sit, walk, converse with others, how they discipline their children or talk to their spouse or friends, is comfortable and natural for you, you could be a writer.

Smooth sailing toward my goal of successful author! Wait...
that's not me. That's a kite. An otter kite. And it's heading
straight for that tree branch on the right. Such an easy mistake
to make: author-otter. Yep. 
3.     If you see someone and think to yourself, "What a great so-and-so (name of character in your manuscript/short story/head) she would be!" then you could be a writer. Ditto if you run home and write down his/her description for future reference.

4.     If everyday events trigger ideas for a story, then you might consider becoming a writer. If you can't get through a day without coming up with story ideas, you could very well become a writer.

6.     If you find yourself taking notes (physically or mentally) while reading a book, you might have the stuff to be a writer. And if you find yourself correcting someone's grammar, punctuation, or other aspects of a book, you should think about being a writer (or even an editor).

7.     If you don't mind working by yourself for sizable chunks of time, you could be a writer. Yes, writing is a far less solitary endeavor than it was even twenty years ago, but for the most part the actual writing--sitting down at the computer and pounding out words--should be done while you're alone or with very quiet people... except for #8, that is.

8.    On the other hand, if you can concentrate well with chaos all around you--kids, pets, spouse, television, maybe the neighbor's kids--you could also be a writer. It depends on how much noise and distraction you can filter out while thinking clearly and actually writing something worthwhile. I spent many an evening writing my first manuscript with the ruckus of three teenagers all around me. In fact, for a while there it was difficult for me to write when it was quiet. I needed the background noise.

9.     If you don't mind starting at the bottom of the heap and working your way upward, paying your dues, working hard and taking direction, accepting constructive criticism (mean-spirited criticism should never be accepted), constantly straining forward to learn more, write more, accept rejection (because it will come), read, read, and read some more, and write every chance you have to get better and better at your craft, you might just have what it takes to be a writer.

10.     If you have a natural talent for writing, you should definitely consider becoming a writer. If you don't seem to have an innate ability, try taking some college courses to see if it can be drawn out of you or if you even enjoy it. A lot of writing, at least in my experience, seems to be intuitive. If you feel you have the ability to honestly view your writing as either good and in need of more work (and all writers, successful or not, have to keep learning and striving to become better), or hopeless and no amount of work will change that fact, it will take you a long way to making the final decision. A lot of what makes a good writer can be learned. Some of it cannot.

11.     If you can live with the fact that you probably won't be the next J.K. Rowling or John Grisham, you could be a writer. If you're bound and determined to hit the bestseller lists first time out you're either deluded, optimistic, incredibly driven, or ... right. You just might be right! Just because most of us won't reach the pinnacle of the bestseller lists on a regular basis doesn't mean you won't. Perhaps you'll be that one in a million. If you can accept those odds, go for it! (And that's not to denigrate those who won't reach the top of the heap. There's only so much room up there or else we'd all be there and there'd be nobody below us to keep those mid-lists warm.)

12.     If you think writing a book will make you rich and that's the reason you're doing it, you're fooling yourself and should probably drop the idea of being a writer. If, on the other hand, you want to write whether you make a dime or not, if you can't help yourself from writing, then you have what it takes to be a writer. A few of us get rich. Many of us write and eventually get published. Some of us, rich or not, make a mark on our fellow human beings. Frankly, as much as I'd enjoy making more money writing books than I do, I'd opt for influencing fellow human beings in a positive way any day of the week. If you can live with the idea that you might not make enough money in a year to pay for your internet access, but you have readers who love your work and tell you what a difference you've made in their lives, well, you're definitely writer material.

No two ways about it.


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