1. The unwavering support of your friends, family, spouse
Maybe they’re not creative types. Maybe they don’t leap into literature like you do. If you dream of writing, just go for it. It doesn’t matter if your family and friends don’t ‘get it’. If you’re shy, you don’t need to tell anyone that you’re writing for a while. I do think chatting a piece out with someone can spur on yet more creativity though (perhaps mutually), and it’s always nice to have support, but make sure you write for you.
Fill that creative craving. JFDI!
2. A degree or Masters in creative writing
Education is fantastic. However, poorly chosen courses can be an enormous waste of time and money and I’ve even known people to lose interest in writing due to the poor course content or unenthusiastic teachers.
If you do go down this route, make sure the professor is a published writer and not just a PhD student from another field filling a staff spot. Can you work to deadlines? Would you be happy participating in a class which forces you to try something you’re not interested in (e.g. poetry, non-fiction). Would you be able to handle getting back into the swing of regular homework?
I’m not sure you can be taught creativity… Remember, it is possible to find help elsewhere. Try your local writers’ group. Join an online critique club. The main benefit of such courses is the opportunities to meet other writers, but you can do this for a much smaller (or no) fee in your community. Think carefully about what you want to achieve, and then about how you could spend the course fees on something better!
Who has loads of free time?! Life is for making the most of so many would-be writers struggle to find a free 30 minutes or so to pen something.
My advice? Just get started.
There are ways to make the most of the time you do have in your day. Don’t put it off with silly reasoning. You can write with kids at home or with a full-time job. Scribbling something down while you wait for a bus or in your 20 minutes lunch break can inspire words to pour onto the page. You’ll have written a page before you realise. One page a day for a year and you’ll have a novel.
All you need is motivation.
4. A fear of rejection
You might as well face it now, while we’re comfy and chilled out. Your writing WILL get rejected at some point! It’s never personal, and do try to spot any useful feedback in the dreadfully disappointing letter. It might be well-hidden, so re-read the rejection letter once you’ve calmed down and put the tissues away. I had a particularly uncalled for, hypocritical and unprofessional rejection from one publisher, and I think the guy was having a bad day. I refused to sink to his level and moved on. Check out these incredible rejections your fellow writers have had…
There will be people out there who love your writing if you work hard enough. Keep the faith, cherish any positive comments, and above all, keep writing.
Rejection is not the end; it’s a step on the path.
5. Perfect grammar
You don’t need perfect writing skills – that’s what an Editor is for. Use (but don’t rely on) your spell check, and proofread, proofread, proofread! No one’s perfect, just do your best.
6. Knowledge of the entire publishing and writing world
Nobody knows everything. Apart from maybe Stephen Fry. But until you get a spot on QI’s panel, you can cope.
Your pitches don’t need to be perfect (although you should work on them). You can use the Artists' and Writers' Yearbook to find appropriate publishers and agents to send your work to. Ask about; again, writers’ groups are a great place to share knowledge and tips. Make contacts; participate in short creative writing courses online or as a retreat, get round to some literary festivals and actually chat (yes, be brave, chat), to other writers. Twitter is also awesome for building writerly networks.
7. 10 best-selling novels
A writer is someone who writes. Who cares if we’ve never heard of anything you’ve written?
So that's a quick run-down of what you absolutely don't need to become a writer. What you do need is enthusiasm, a goal, a reasonable amount of stamina and determination, and a pen. Get writing!
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