“Who here is a writer?” I asked the brave souls attending a local writing workshop. To no surprise, no one raised their hand. Cue the crickets. “Are any of you writing anything at the moment?” I continued from the front of the room. “I don’t care if it’s one page and you believe you may have written complete garbage.” With that refined explanation, several hands timidly raised up into the air. “OK then,” I replied, smiling. “YOU four brave folks are writers.” Which brings me to the first secret step to becoming a writer…
Step #1 – Say aloud, “I am a writer.” It’s important to have confidence in everything we do, and writers can be particularly introverted and shy about calling attention to their talents. Writing is an intimidating endeavor, and you must step out of your comfort zone to give yourself permission to splash your thoughts and words onto the printed page for all to see, which can feel like the equivalent to running naked down the street. I applaud anyone daring enough to dive in, whether you’re sharing your writing with the world or keeping it to yourself or a select few, the adventure can be daunting and equally rewarding. It all begins with you. Say it with me… “I am a writer.”
“I felt so bad for you. But it also felt so familiar, like I was reading about my own childhood,” one kind reader shared with me after she finished reading my novel for her book club assignment. While my book is a novel, it borrows heavily from my childhood growing up in a small farming community north of Kalamazoo. “I also had a mentally unstable mother,” she continued, “And our childhood was so messed up.”
As I listened to this delightful group of women sharing their own entertaining adventures of their youth, it became clear to me that I am not alone. In fact, I am convinced that everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s a rollercoaster childhood, finding redemption in an unusual place, or a simple connection between two strangers meeting on a vacation. Keep in mind that your writing is just that…yours. And it is your prerogative on who your readers are. Maybe your focus is writing about your own life or your parents’ lives as an ancestral gift to your child and grandchildren, or you can broaden your scope and write for the pleasure of all of us to read. The secret to step #2 is simple…
Step #2 – Just start writing. A writing friend of mine once put it this way… “I don’t care if your intent is to write historical fiction, and in the second chapter, you have aliens landing on earth. The worst thing you can do at the beginning of the writing process is to question what you’re putting down on paper. First rough drafts are just that, rough drafts. There will be plenty of time for edits and revisions. On that note, don’t ever show anyone your first draft. While you may think you just wrote the next “To Kill a Mockingbird,” trust me…you didn’t. After you’re a few drafts in, you may share your words with someone, but brace yourself for the feedback!
Writing is an artform, and like artwork hanging in a gallery, it is subjective. If you do decide to share your writing with the world, understand that while there will be those who embrace your creativity, there will be others who will not understand or appreciate your craft. And that’s OK.
Step #3 – It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s right. Just as life has its peaks and valleys, so will your writing process. There will be days when your writing will be on fire, and other days, not so much. One edit of mine included removing the back half of a finished manuscript and starting over.
At the end of the day, the secret to writing is no secret at all. The biggest obstacle is you. So, say it with me, “I am a writer.”
Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.netand facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor