It happens often: a woman, usually a mom, confesses to me that she’d maybe like to write one day. Or she does write a little, and she’d maybe like to publish. Or she published some little thing once, but it was a long time ago so she says it doesn’t count, not really. Hopefulness, tentativeness, and a dash of fear seem far too common among women yearning to express themselves. You can do it, I say. Work at it, and you can do it.
Now the men I meet are another story. The guys tell me that they’re certain they’ve got a book in them. Some fellas will recount the entire plot of a novel or screenplay they’ve been toying with. Work at it, I say. Work at it, and you can do it.
I truly believe that anyone — female, male, non-binary — can write. To get started, you just need mix up the perfect cocktail of confidence + humility, then dive earnestly into the process. But how, exactly? There’s really only three things you need to do.
- Read. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people want to be writers who aren’t readers! Read anything and everything, especially in the genre you’d like to explore. If you want to write a children’s book, you need to read children’s books. If you want to write personal essays, you need to read some personal essays and consider how they’re put together. If you want to write a YA novel, then…you get the idea. Aside: As the mom of children with learning differences, I want to add that a lot of creative, inventive people struggle with reading. Books on tape work just fine for absorbing a feel for good writing. Don’t let something like ADD or dyslexia stop you. You’ll be in good company with writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, WB Yeats, John Irving, Octavia Butler, Fannie Flagg, and George Bernard Shaw.
- Write. Again, this seems like a no brainer, but it has to be said: it’s not enough to think and dream about being a writer. Eventually you’ve got to put words on the page. Don’t worry about whether your words are any good at first. You’re just exercising, building muscle and endurance. Make writing a habit, a practice, before you worry about quality or talent or publishing.
- Connect. You need to meet other writers, in person and/or online. Cultivate a big, supportive network that includes folks just starting out, like you are, and others more established. Although as writers we all suffer low moments, try not to hang out with people who consistently go negative. Positivity and success are contagious. Run to the light. And shine the light for others.
In my next post, I’ll share some resources for developing your writing skills and connecting with other writers.