If you asked my writing teachers for three words of advice on how to write well, most of them would give you the same three words.
A fair amount of people I knew in graduate school admitted, ashamed, that they didn’t have time to read fiction. I wouldn’t have just been ashamed – I would have dropped out of school immediately and pursued another path. Do any art students not look at art? Do any film critics not watch films? Without reading fiction, you cannot know the structure and feel of it. You cannot write without reading.
Okay, not exactly groundbreaking stuff here, but the levels of delusion are high in many potential writers. Case in point: me. Since I was young, I’ve wanted to be an author. And yet, I didn’t actually start writing a novel until the summer after my freshman year of college. If you don’t read or don’t write, don’t fancy yourself a potential author.
It’s amazing how bad a writer’s copy can be without him realizing it (I speak from experience). When you are a delusional novice, you write terribly but think you are groundbreaking – mainly because you just know you are the “exception” in the world. Other writers might have to slog through dozens of drafts to attain polished copy. You, on the other hand, only require one or two.
But then someone tells you your writing is terrible.
That’s when most people give up on writing.
If you do continue writing, your writing eventually becomes okay. But you still have no confidence. Then someone reads your writing and tells you it isn’t too bad. Your confidence increases, so you write more. The more you write, the better your writing gets, for two reasons: you’re discovering new things to improve on, and you’re practicing.
If writing is important to you, do not go into it. Go into business or sales. You’ll make more money that way. If writing is EVERYTHING to you, well then, I can’t convince you NOT to write, can I?
Moving to NYC helped me with this. That’s not required, of course, but I certainly wouldn’t advise against it! A lot has changed with me. I used to think I was 100% introverted. I hoped to snag a telecommuting job. My idea of a fun night was reading a book alone or maybe playing a board game with a few friends.
When a world of opportunity is opened to you, you have more chances to discover what really brings you to life. You face your fears and, as you gain in skill, you become more sure of yourself. You might be different from the person you’ve told yourself you are.
No one ever got better at something by not doing it. So, go! Do it!