wrong with either approach, but ...
If you want to have a writing career, if
you want to be a professional writer, you have to approach it as a … well, as a
The Greeks believed creative people – writers, musicians, sculptors and painters – were inspired by goddesses, the Muses. It's a beautiful conception, but I think maybe we've misinterpreted the meaning. Maybe what the Greeks meant was that the Muses touch people at some point in their lives, fill them with the desire to create music, or paint, or
Beyond that, though, if you're going to create anything on a steady basis – be a professional, in other words – you have to work at it.
I've actually heard beginning writers say, “I didn't do any writing today. My muse didn't show up.”
Let me tell you … Picasso didn't sit around waiting on a muse. Neither did Rembrandt or Van Gogh, or Wagner or Ernest Hemingway. I have indeed wangled my way into a couple of art shows by arguing that writing novels is a form of art, but writing – writing as a professional – is as much (maybe more) about craft as it is art.
Early on, I used to consciously think about what I do – what I am – in terms of “wordsmithing” rather than “writing,” a little reminder that, rather than sitting around waiting to be “inspired,” I had to actively seek inspiration.
The professional writer writes every single day. Yes, there have been days, especially early in my career, when I really don't feel inspired, when I produce what – on later inspection – is trash. But writing isn't about turning out masterpieces on a daily basis. Writing is about practice. Writing is about forming habits.
Writing is about showing up and putting in an honest day's labor. It's what an employer expects of you – what, hopefully, we expect of ourselves – on any other “nine-to-five” job. And speaking of those other jobs – yes, it's harder to work on that novel or non-fiction opus when you're putting in a 40-hour work week elsewhere. I've “been there, done that” myself.
But if your end-goal is to become the professional writer you dream of being, you can find the time. Before you go to work, after you get home, on your lunch break ...
Writing is a continual process of learning. There is lots of “how-to” advice out there about writing, much of it online. Entire books have been written on everything from writing books or magazine articles in general to specific “how-tos”: how to craft nonfiction, or romance novels, or Westerns, SF or fantasy books. You can also learn a lot just by reading – not only your favorite authors but those you don't like because …
well … they're awful. Bad writing offers its own lessons.
If you're lucky enough to be able to enroll in a writer's class or two – or join a writer's group – do it.
But the best way to learn how to write is to just sit down and ... write. Take what you've gleaned from books and how-to articles, and put it to use. Even if you can only squeeze out five or ten minutes a day initially – do it.
How do you inspire yourself as a writer? What tips can you offer from your own experience? Please share ...
About the photo above ... It's my basset hound, Buster, engaged in his favorite activity ...