7 Ways to Become a Writer

Lots of people have a story to tell. But does that mean they are writers?

My Writers' Toolkit
These days the opportunities for self-expression are endless. Most people are exercising their creativity with some kind of online platform. It's easy to be a creator, but I think being a writer is about practicing the art of writing at every opportunity. Since my first childhood diary, writing has been a constant companion. I stash notebooks everywhere. My life is built on writing. I think in writing. I organise each of my days with writing. A writer doesn't talk about being a writer. A writer writes.

1. Develop an Inner Life

Writers need an inner life from which to draw material. One way to draw writing from inside yourself is to write regularly in a journal. Even though you may not be writing material that will be published, you are practicing your craft. Journalling exercises our ability to turn memories and feelings into thoughts, and thoughts into words. It's a great place to play with different forms of writing and self-expression.

Dreams are an interesting place to start. If you keep a notebook by your bed and write whatever you remember as soon as you wake, you can find an evocative starting place for your next journal entry and your dream recall will gradually improve. Journalling is also a good place to explore your daydreams and aspirations. Keep your journal private so you always feel free to let your inner-voice give you its words.

Read whatever you can, as often as you can. Reading other writers is part of your writing training. Reading also helps you to develop your inner life. Reading fiction can help you to develop the empathy you will need if you are planning on writing good fictional characters. Remember to leave your computer and go out into the world to generate lived experience. Meet people and learn about the world to further enrich your writing.


2. Cultivate Passions

Pursuing activities you are passionate about gives you loads to write about. Writers learn by writing. I didn't know it at the time, but the notes I took in various workshops and classes became the foundational notes for the courses I would later teach. Those courses have evolved further into these blogs and my first book. Although I always knew I would write, the knowledge of what I would write about came very gradually. I had to first live through a certain amount of life-experience, reflect on it and write about it.

I used to give Psychic Tarot Readings. I would summarise the reading into writing while the client sat in front of me receiving the reading. Nothing teaches quick writing like writing out complex ideas on the spot for face to face clients. I could have recorded the readings on tape (in those days), but it didn't feel right for me. I know with hindsight that I was practicing my craft in whatever way I could. 

A woman from my writers' group loves music, so she writes about her favourite musicians. If you write about your passions you will become increasingly knowledgable in your area, as well as practicing your writing craft.

Look for opportunities in your life to write. You might find inspiration at galleries, in poetry, photos or in film. Offer to be minute-taker in meetings. Gather stories from friends and family or make them up from watching people on the train. The important thing is, act like a writer and write. 


3. Lists

Writers write lists. Shopping lists, guest lists, to-do lists, pros vs cons lists, packing lists, procedures lists and lists of books they wish to read and write. List writing helps to organise thinking and provides a visual memory cue. Even if you forget to bring the list to the shops, the visual memory of the list will assist your recall. 

You'll never know what your list can grow into until you write it. A list of observations could become a poem. A list of ideas could become the outline of your first book. A list of goals and aspirations could become your next life/business plan. List writing is a valuable writers' tool.

4. Update Your CV

No one has time to read CV's that go on for multiple pages. Many people have had far too many jobs to list each one without going into TMI territory (Too much information). Modernising your CV and reducing it to one or two pages is great editing practice. Much of the craft of writing involves knowing what to cut out and having the strength of will to throw words away. 

5. Clear the Pathway to Writing

How many great ideas have you forgotten? No matter how vivid an idea is in my head, if I don't write it down, it will probably vanish. Ideas come at odd times, usually when away from the computer. Becoming a writer means creating a system where you can record your ideas easily. If effort is required, it is unlikely it will work. Your writing system needs to be as simple and accessible as possible. 

I work at home, so it's easy for me to grab my 'ideas book' and jot down a thought. I work in my main living area, so I always have instant access to post-it-notes, notepaper, notebooks and pens. It hasn't always been this way. I used to have a big house with a separate room containing a study. I found it much more difficult to gather my thoughts there because my writing materials were always where I wasn't. 

Where are you when your ideas come? Do you need to keep a notebook by your bed or in your bathroom? With todays smartphones it's easy for writers to record their thoughts while on the go, but we have to make sure we remember to look at them again.

6. Be Organised

Being a writer involves making order out of chaos. Taking a bunch of ideas and turning them into linear lines of text requires an organised mind. We can write a million great ideas on post-it-notes, but if we lose them we have wasted our time. 

My professional life began in offices. I find now that the organisational skills I acquired in offices are exactly the skills I need to manage the huge filing needs of a writer who is writing. How you build your 'office systems' will determine how you organise your writing. It helps the creative process when your ideas can be accessed when you need them. If you put enough initial thought into designing systems, your creativity can be free to flourish without going missing. 

Organisation is particularly important for writers who intend self-publishing. Self-published writers need to be business minded as well as creative. Writing a business plan helps you to organise your ideas and increase your chances of success.

7. Don't Wait for Permission

Don't wait for someone to tell you if you are a writer or not. A writer writes. Give yourself permission to be a writer today. You are a writer because you are writing. If you are not writing, but would like to be writer - start today. You might start with a journal entry about how you wish to be a writer. If you have doubts, write about those! Become a writer right now...

Leanne Margaret ©️ 2018


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