For many years I dreamed of being a writer. Back in high school, I would start scribbling novels designed to make me famous. I would stay on task for a long, long time. Hours, in fact. Then the phone would ring and I’d be off to the movies instead. Months later I’d stumble across a wad of hand-written pages stuffed into the back of a text book. Re-reading what I had written would bring tears to my eyes … not in a good way. They were truly atrocious.
As an adult I gave up on creative writing, as you do when you realise you’re not an Emily Bronte or an Enid Blyton or a Colleen McCullough. I put writing that novel in the too-hard box and concentrated instead on being a good wife and mother and employee. That takes time and effort. There was simply no energy left for blue-sky dreaming.
The idea persisted.
But how do you become a writer?
The answer is astonishingly simple. I’ll come to that.
My first tiny step was to sign up for a course in short story writing. It was a little old-fashioned, run by TAFE as a correspondence course. Every week I received my lesson in the mail. Every week I posted off my assignment and received feedback with the next lesson. The teacher was surprisingly encouraging. Not an unfair word was written. All was constructive and aimed at improvement. I was a little disappointed when it ended and I stopped writing.
A year later I took a two-day course on writing memoir. There was a mixed bag of participants – most, like myself, with the will but not the skill – cramped into a U-shaped classroom. Two were members of a community-based writers’ group that met every month at a local library. They suggested I join and I did.
We did writing exercises and critiqued each other’s work. My first meeting was terrifying: strangers read my work and told me what they thought. Mostly they were kind; sometimes they were honest.
I wanted more, so I joined the Queensland Writers’ Centre and took a series of workshops aimed at writing and editing an extended piece of work. That’s when the penny dropped.
To be a writer, you must write.
Practice every chance you get. Set a number of words to write every day, and try to stick to it.
When you choose to do this, then you are a writer.