I was having a conversation with a co-worker recently about writing. She wants to write a book (and in fact has started and making good progress). She asked if writing came easy or was it work for me. I didn’t think longer than 1.3 seconds. It was work. If you want to write, it’s best to know it up front. But don’t let that scare you off.
When you start out as a writer or are contemplating becoming one, the temptation is to let the ease of which writing happens become the factor if you continue writing or not. In other words, if I’m really a writer, then writing should come easy. If I’m a writer, magic should happen every time I sit down to write. If I’m a writer then words should pour forth from my mind like, like, like something awesome. Right? Right? Bueller? Bueller? Wrong.
Here’s what I wish I knew when I was starting out with writing:
First, the reality is, writing is work. It is work that takes work. It is a craft that can be improved but never mastered. This does not mean that it’s not enjoyable, but it does take an investment. We falsely assume that anything that takes “work” is bad or we must not be very good at it. It will take time and effort to become a writer. I’ve noticed there are times when the words do come easier than others. But, in order to have those times, I need to stack the odds in my favor.
Second, you need to write and write often. How good is your golf game? How often do you play? I bet there’s a correlation. How good is your hot-air ballon racing, baking, or figure skating? If you are not writing and writing often, then there’s a reason your writing is not any good. Writing often means many times a week. The writers you love write almost every day, if not every day. You don’t have to write pages and pages, but you should be writing something. This is why blogging is a great investment for a writer.
Next, you must realize that all great writing was first a lot of bad writing— writing that was edited, refined, then edited again until the final product got to you. Don’t judge your writing by your first draft. Ernest Hemingway famously said, “First drafts are $hit.” He said he rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before he was satisfied. 39? No one spits out great first drafts. If you expect to, then you are expecting the impossible.
If you want to become a writer, realize that you’re not alone. It will take some work, but it will also be worth it.
The same is true of any dream you are chasing. Starting a business, launching a non-profit, or any artistic calling is going to be hard. It’s going to take work. It’s going to take effort.
This is not to scare you off. It’s to get you ready for the reality of the work.
Just remember, it will be worth it!