Anyone can write, right? Sure, you can! Just type a bunch of words and put it online for the world to see – simple, right?
No, it’s not.
First (note: I did not say “firstly;” that isn’t a word), you have to learn spelling and grammar and punctuation. An occasional mistake is to be expected – no one is perfect (note: I didn’t say “noone;” that isn’t a word either). A “typo” is NOT misspelling words over and over or using bad grammar or putting commas in the wrong places, consistently, or using the wrong words again and again. A “typo” is a simple typing mistake, usually not repeated in the same body of work.
Well, you might say, I AM a writer, because I want to be one and because I “feel” as though as I am a writer. I have things to say and I MUST put them down on paper!
Okay. Sure. Fine. Call yourself whatever you want. I myself want to be a brain surgeon and I “feel” as though I am one so, using your own logic here, I AM A BRAIN SURGEON. Care to go under the knife?
Hey, wait a minute, you tell me – you can’t be a brain surgeon! You didn’t go to school to learn how to do that, and you don’t have a degree saying you can do it either! Or a license!
Exactly. Can’t imagine I’d have many patients, at least not any who would come back a second time….
Being a writer is very similar, in many respects. You can’t just “be” one because you want to write, you have to learn how to write. Oh yes, some people have an instinct for it but, just like brain surgery where you might be at the top of your medical school class because of some innate feeling for the scalpel, you still have to know the basics.
Many high school graduates know the basics of writing – no advanced degree required for this profession. However, a lot of them don’t. And if you’re one of those who don’t, please, for the love all reason, stop calling yourself a writer and don’t publish your embarrassing work for everyone to read!
Second (not “secondly”), start a journal; practice your craft; study other writers – the good ones. And read books, any books, even bad ones – you can learn how “not” to write.
Have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Fix your mistakes before you hit “enter” or “publish.” Yes, even on Facebook or Twitter. And do you know why?
Because when you make a lot of mistakes, because when you ramble on and on, because when you produce garbage – you look stupid. And no one wants to read something that a stupid person wrote because there are so many GOOD things to read. If a reader can’t trust you to spell “cat” or use the correct words with proper grammar, how can he trust ANYTHING that you say? Besides, it’s really hard for readers to follow a story that’s full of errors; it’s very distracting and eventually you’ll lose them.
Off the soapbox and on to the pertinent questions:
HOW do you become a writer? And what defines a “real” writer?
A writer writes. Okay, we understand that part, yes? But by this definition, EVERYone writes, daily: status updates, Tweets, grocery lists. Does that make them writers? Nope.
A writer “feels” compelled to write. Hmmm. Lots of writers say this. Many people say this, who aren’t writers. Those who keep journals “feel” they should write…something…on paper. Or screen, as it were. But they don’t really care if anyone reads it; in fact, sometimes they don’t WANT anyone to read it! So that knocks out the “feeling” definition.
A writer gets paid. Some do, some don’t; many good writers don’t get paid what they’re worth. Being a writer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making the big bucks.
A writer is well-known…okay, I’ll say it: famous. Again, not necessarily. Some are, some aren’t, some never will be famous, some have fame thrust upon them – and some don’t deserve fame, ergo, they aren’t writers. They just got lucky. Somehow.
A writer is published. Now things get tricky.
You have e-book publishing, self-publishing, indie publishing, and major publishing. Without going into all the detailed differences, the first two types are publishing that anyone can do, from home, with either zero cost or by paying an arm and a leg. I understand the freebie scenario, but really – PAYING someone to publish your work? Shouldn’t they be paying you?
Some writers choose self-publishing in order to have “creative control.” That’s fine, it’s a choice after all. But really, the creative part is your writing, yes? I mean, you don’t go into a job on the first day making demands, neither do you usually get to call the shots even if you’ve been working there for decades.
Again, this is an entirely different blog post so I’ll stop here. But a writer should always consider if he’s publishing garbage for the sake of being published and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a good reason he can’t get an agent or a contract with one of the Big Six.
So a writer writes, feels compelled to write, may or may not get paid, may or may not be famous, and may have a big publishing contract or choose to self-publish or fall somewhere in between. Or, of course, he may be published online or in print magazines or newspapers. Whew!
The best definition of a writer is this:
A writer wants to be a writer so much so that he constantly labors to improve his work for his readers, because he has a story to tell them.
And how do you become a writer?
You do exactly what that sentence says. And when you become a writer, people will tell you so – people besides your family, your friends, your mom, and your dog.