Welcome to the first of a series of lessons excerpted from my writing curriculum Releasing the Creative Writer in You.* As I mentioned in the post last week introducing this series, I’m beginning with a couple articles I have posted previously — about three years ago. But they provide the best introduction to this series, and then we will proceed from there into other territory. I hope writers find these posts encouraging, comforting, enlightening, challenging, entertaining, or all of the above.
LESSON# 1: SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?
Then DO IT!
Mystery author Agatha Christie once said, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement.
You know, you don’t have to live an unusual life — or even a particularly exciting life — to be a great author. In fact you can live a very ordinary, chicken-frying, auto-repairing, laundry-washing, diaper-changing kind of life and still write books that will lift people out of the ordinary and into a place where imaginations rise to peak places, where new dreams are ignited, and where hope and faith bring victory into life’s struggles.
So pick up that pen, sit down to that computer keyboard, or start dictating into that recorder — whatever method works for you. If you’re sure you want to write, start writing.
Now that you’ve started, you come to your next decision. Do you want to be an “occasional writer” – sharing an idea or a complaint only now and then – when the mood strikes you? Or do you want to be a “serious writer” – making writing one of your primary goals in life and, therefore, at the top of your list of priorities.? If your answer is the first option, then you are free to write or not, depending on how you feel on any particular day. However, even in that situation, the more you write, the better you will be at it when you feel it counts.
But if you are serious about writing – if you feel it is a necessary part of your feeling successful in your life – then you must live by a different law: You must commit to writing on a regular basis and stick with the program, regardless of how you feel on any particular day – or how anyone else feels about your work. Now that doesn’t mean you must be at your keyboard every single day from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. or from 12:00 to 3:00 every afternoon. In this crazy world of ours, most of us have so many responsibilities and so many people and things needing our attention that there are just going to be some days when nothing goes according you plan.
But being serious does mean that writing gets a place of priority in your plans. If you really do want to write things that matter and that people will want to read and look forward to more of the same, then you do have to force yourself to develop some kind of schedule that gives the actual act of writing more attention that you would give a hobby.
Unfortunately, this decision to be a serious writer must be made anew every few days. The “new” wears off after a while. The excitement turns to frustration after several days of reaching for just the right words and falling short time after time. The bright ideas seem to fade a little when the family and friends don’t find your first chapter exciting enough to want to listen to you talk about it for three hours non-stop. But if you really do want to write, you must make yourself write faithfully and regularly, regardless of the struggles involved. If you sit at your keyboard three hours and type onto the screen only one sentence worth keeping, you have accomplished writing a sentence that never existed before.
And therein lies the intrinsic value of writing. Everyone who writes becomes a creator. Once you have written an original piece – no matter how small or how large – you have created something that never before existed! That fact is not dependent upon whether anyone else reads it. Or whether anyone else likes it if they do read it. The proof of your creativity does not rest in your work’s boasting a publisher’s imprint or finding a place on a bookstore shelf. Get this straight: once you have written an original piece, you have created an entity that never before existed. I repeat that point because it is a powerful reality that very few writers recognize.
And another related fact that many unpublished writers seem to miss is that once you have created a written product, you are a writer. You’re not “going to be” a writer. You’re not a “would-be” writer. You’re not an “aspiring” writer. You are a writer. You are an author. You are a creator. When you do recognize these two truth, they will empower you to keep creating and to create even more effectively.
Also, once you recognize them, you will come to realize a third truth that is just as important: As a writer, you have a heavy responsibility to your readers. From the moment an individual picks up your work and reads the first sentence, you begin to influence that person – for good or evil. And the more of your work people read, the greater your influence grows.
So it is important to remember that, although you may feel you are writing for yourself, if you intend to allow your work to be read by anyone else at all, your words will have some kind of influence on that reader. There is a passage in the Bible, Luke 12:48, that says, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.”
Although the statement is found within the pages of Scripture, it is a truth outside of those pages as well. It is a law of life for anyone committed to living responsibly. When we are endowed with the powerful gifts and talents that allow us to create through the written word, we then become accountable for what we do with that word.
One final thought: If you love to write, then you have a gift for writing. You may need to develop it, nurture it, and discipline it. Most writers have to work hard at those endeavors. But you need to recognize that if you genuinely love to write, then there is a gift inside that calls you to give yourself to it.
The goal of this course, then, is four-fold:
1. To acquaint students with the basic skills required to express themselves well through writing.
2. To help students discover and use their innate talents and abilities for creative expression.
3. To acquaint students with the unique characteristics and requirements of multiple genres of literature and help them determine which genres best fit their individual writing strengths.
4. To help students develop a consciousness concerning their responsibility as writers and help them learn to use every tool at their command to fulfill that responsibility successfully.
* Releasing the Creative Writer in You, © 2013 by Sandra Pavloff Conner
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To access other lessons in this series, click on “Creative Writing Class” in the navigation bar and scroll through to find the lessons you need.