How to be a writer
News Flash: You Are a Writer!
From the moment you picked up a crayon and scrawled your first wonky letter on the livingroom wall, you were a writer. Of course, not everyone thinks of him or herself as a writer - as someone whose association with writing goes beyond simply knowing how to form basic words and sentences. Presumably, though, you have more than a functional interest in writing. There are many good reasons to write: to entertain, to help clarify your own thinking, to instruct and inform, to earn a living, to leave behind some endurable record of your fleeting existence, for the love of language (the look and sound of it), or simply the child-like joy of seeing thoughts take shape as words on a page. Assuming you have some-such interest in writing, here are some basic steps you can take to become better at what you do:
Chances are, one of the things that piqued your interest in writing to begin with was reading. When we read something worthy of our attention, we enter into it, and want to be a part of it. The reader-writer relationship is most alluring, with its capacity to forge a meeting of minds that spans time and space. So if you're serious about developing as a writer, the best place to start is with reading. Reading is to writing what breathing in is to breathing out. A writer who doesn't read is like someone who talks but never stops to listen - a tiresome bore. Read the sort of thing you'd like to write. Try reading stuff you've never read before. Read the classics, not just today's best-sellers. And be sure to read about writing.
Many beginning writers find having a structure or routine very helpful in actually getting something down on the page. Becoming part of a writing group is a great way to achieve this. A writing group that meets regularly and sets regular exercises will give you a clear reason to write and a deadline to work towards (plus a guaranteed audience). The added advantage is of course that you are interacting with fellow-writers, bouncing ideas off one another and getting feedback on your own creative efforts. Writing groups that meet in person are ideal; some groups exist online and these can be good too. Omega Writers is an Australian Christian Writers network with a strong online presence and also local groups that get together regularly. Check out their website to see if there's a group near you, or enquire at the Writers Centre in your state capital city about writing groups in your area.
Studying creative writing is another way to achieve this. A course in creative writing will introduce you to the rudiments of good writing, the best of what's been thought or said about the art of writing, provide you with tailored advice and intensive practice at mastering the tried and tested techniques, establishing good writing habits to last a life-time. Being part of an academic writing program is also a great way to get in touch with people who are actively publishing, to learn about publishing opportunities, and to gain a qualification that could lead to further study, research or employment. Very often, studying creative writing means taking a broader course of study that will widen your horizons and introduce you to thoughts, ideas and the work of writers you might otherwise never have encountered. For information about studying creative writing at Tabor Adelaide, contact the Course Coordinator.
We are creatures of habit, and become what we regularly do. If you want to be a writer, write! Practice makes perfect, and in this respect writing is an art form like any other. Can you imagine a musician who never rehearsed? Or who never listened to music? Can you imagine a dancer or an athlete who never spent time developing her strength and flexibility? Or a painter who never went to galleries or spent time sketching? Of course not. Even accomplished musicians still practice scales. The more you write the better you'll become. Doing the simple things again and again until you can do them well is the surest path towards success. And although writers can be solitary creatures, don't forget that we write in order to be read; we write because we were first readers. In other words, writing is ultimately a communal enterprise, so be sure to keep company with those whose work you admire, and whose judgement you believe you can trust.