It is often asked, why would you want to be a writer? Writing is something you do, it is a verb, but it then produces a noun, an actual piece of writing, one that could carry on being read and understood forever.
While writing is something that you do, it is also your voice, an opinion, a viewpoint. There is a nobility to books, plays, and articles. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, as if you can change ideas, then actions follow. Writing can change opinions, it can give your audience a new angle. In advertising, writing persuades. Writing can be cathartic to do and to read. Great writing can move you, make you cry. It can help you build furniture or it can make you be a better person.
What type of writer do you wish to be?
Obviously, there is a huge range of writing styles, genres, and mediums. From trashy novels to profound ones. From erotica to poetry. From technical writing to comedy. You may be the writer of dry political speeches or hilarious commentary. Writing a cookbook is indeed very different to writing screenplay. Very different skills are needed, depending on what type of writing you want to do.
They say you should write what you know, but that is easily fixed, if you need to know more about your subject then there is a simple thing called research. If you are curious about a certain topic if you are observant or a deep thinker, writing about any topic will probably come quite naturally.
Think about writers who have fame. Steven King, Dan Brown, Shakespeare, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, just to name a few. They often say a writer’s fame is the best fame to have because you can get a nice seat at a restaurant and yet you won’t have fans and paparazzi chasing you down the street.
What makes a successful writer? Is it about how many people buy your books, how many clicks you get? Or how many people watch your films or plays? Or is it more important to be respected by esteemed award ceremonies?
Often in the world of film and literature, commercial success does not always mean the work is highly regarded by the critics. So why are critics and the masses so divided over what makes writing entertaining and valuable?
It is a good question. While action-packed films are often panned by critics, they can often make a fortune at the box office. On the flip side, at times films that are critically acclaimed, struggle to make their production costs back. Curiosity sells. New concepts sell. Sex sells. Yes, a story has a basic structure that all stories have, but it is the unique characters, adventures, and ideas that make them different.
Pros and cons of writing:
Pros: There are definitely highs and lows of being a writer. The most positive feeling is when you have a great idea and you are in the ‘flow’ of writing, that itself feels like success. Being published, selling a story, receiving praise, starting a conversation are all great feelings.
Writing is basically speaking, but perhaps with some more thought put in. If you are writing about something you are passionate about or love, then it shows in the work and it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like speaking with a friend.
Having a great observation and knowing you can turn it into a fascinating angle or story, is a super feeling and writing does have the benefit of being able to revisit your work before finishing it off.
Cons: Just as with everything, there is also a negative side to being a writer. When starting out, confidence can be a problem. Writer’s block, looking for work, meeting deadlines, finding a good story, building curiosity, the profession comes with many challenges. The thing is writing takes practice, you do need to find a voice, you really need to work at becoming a good writer. It is not just about one thing, writing is multi-faceted and while the tone is important, it is not everything, it is a mere part of it. You have to have something to say. Writing authentically can sometimes require life experience, but then there are some brilliant young writers, who write a fantastic first novel and are then never heard from again.
Advice for writers:
Write what you love, write every day, the real skill is in rewriting, but when you are in the ‘zone’ then use it, write like the wind. You have to be open to feedback, you have to be persistent because rejection comes hand in hand with being a writer. You need to take all criticism of your work as a challenge and as a lesson in how you can improve. There is not really room for ego in writing (although most writers have big ones) because there will always be a different viewpoint. As mentioned before, a critic may hate your work and yet you could be sitting on millions of dollars because of a commercial hit.
Another tip to improve your writing is to read, read as much as you can, read other novels, poetry, scripts, deconstruct them. Try and figure out why you like their writing so much, what do they do? Work out the journey that they have put their protagonist through. Every story needs conflict. Every hero needs to overcome a problem of some sort and they have to grow as a character. Every genre has a structure, learn them. Study them. Then describe your elements, characters, journeys, conflicts, plan it! Then read it out loud so you know how it will be heard.
Give it to people to read, take their advice. Talk about what you have written! I think don’t give up is probably the best advice if you wish to write. Take every knockback as feedback and try and do better. Also writing is a form of art and just because one person says no, does not mean another person won’t love it.
Keep writing no matter what!