Five Things I’ve Learned About Becoming a Writer

1. Writers Write. Writing requires time and focus (and talent, but I’ll get to that). If you don’t have the drive to sit at your computer for hours and write, then you’re probably not going to write anything. And if you don’t write anything, you’re not a writer.

2. It’s Okay to Suck. I can’t count how many times I started writing a story and stopped because I didn’t think what I wrote was any good. Of course it wasn’t good. I hadn’t written enough to know anything about writing. I think I had it in my head that good writers are born. There is no such thing as “the writing gene.” When I finally realized it was okay to suck at writing, I started and couldn’t stop.

3. Get Gooder. Getting a Master’s Degree in English is a great idea, but I’m convinced the best way to learn the craft of writing is to join the community of writers in your area. Join Wisconsin Writer’s Association, Wisconsin Romance Writers, or a writing studio like Red Oak. Go to critique circles, workshops, conferences, and participate in write-ins. Talk with other writers, get their feedback on your writing, learn from them. I have found writers to be incredibly encouraging, inclusive, and willing to share what they know with others.

4. Take Criticism. Join a critique circle, find an on-line critique partner, or use beta readers. Then put your big girl pants on and listen to their criticism. Doesn’t matter who gives it—published author, unpublished writer, or reader (never underestimate the source). Listen to what they have to say. Assume it is a valid point. Take the note graciously. Always say thank you. See if you can apply it to your writing. Even if the note isn’t applicable, you will learn something new and your writing will improve.

5. Give Criticism. My mother-in-law used to say,
“She can see a fly on someone else’s nose, but she can’t see a horse on her own behind.” When you critique the drafts of other writers, you learn more about your own writing. I’ll see things in other people’s work and realize, “Oy! I’ve been making the same mistake.” Learn how to give constructive notes and take the time to read the work of other writers. Believe me, it’s time well spent.

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