How to be a Writer



Previous Experience

  • None is required except a burning desire to weave a tale, confess a secret, and live forever on the page (even if that page is a diary you leave behind for your children).  A pinch of madness and determination goes a hell of a long way.

Desired Skills

Possess excellent communication skills and be able to address delicate subjects, such as:

  • Plot
  • Internal and external conflict
  • Writing engaging dialogue that reveals character and moves the story forward
  • Show and not tell at the right time
  • Tell and not show as needed
  • Have strong organizational skills and be a magical problem solver
  • Keep the facts straight: ages, times of day, places, etc.
  • ]Create scenes out of thin air
  • Name the characters correctly…i.e., Gladys could never have pulled off Scarlett
  • Change the tense and point of view after typing THE END
  • Be willing to work variable hours including:
  • The middle of the day, before coffee (but not recommend), and even at 3 AM
  • Evenings and weekends
  • During dinner parties (might include running to the facilities to make a note on a phone app, back of hand, or paper towel)
  • Daydream when it hits, including mid conversation with your significant other and when the police officer is writing you a ticket for talking to yourself in a public setting
  • Be on standby if the muse visits, an idea settles in, or you wake up with a story pulsing through your veins
  • Write—DAILY (This may include work on a Works in Progress, Dear Diary, memoir entries, morning pages, raw writing, love letters, or notes on the back of napkins.)
  • Write when you’d rather meet your lover (OK, exceptions are allowed. Lovers should come first; same applies to children—the small ones. Over 13s can be taught to respect a crazed writer in the thralls of a creative frenzy.)

Desired Traits

  • Extreme quirkiness
  • Willingness to take risks and try new ideas
  • Having a whimsical attitude is a huge plus, as well as the ability to laugh when tears are more appropriate.
  • Deeply passionate
  • Exceptionally forgiving
  • Gritty resolve
  • Gumption


  • Love words
  • Accept writing is a lifetime commitment
  • Respond to the voices in your head in a timely manner
  • Be capable of industrial strength clean-up during editing phases—must be fearless with the DELETE key
  • There is no get out of jail free card (Once you don the writer persona you are labeled forever more. Even if you have plastic surgery, change your name, or try to enter the Witness Protection Program, your voices and your muse will follow you all the way to Timbuktu.)
  • Xena/Hulk-like body and emotional armor REQUIRED to withstand rejection after rejection
  • Have unlimited faith in yourself (You’ll need it.)
  • Ability to take constructive criticism without reverting to a fetal position
  • Same Xena/Hulk-like strength required to push past the criticism and self-doubt
  • Comfortable being alone for extended periods of time
  • Strong support network
  • Must assume accountability for quality of the final output
  • Must have a surplus of medical supplies, chocolate chip cookies, and wine
  • Commitment to continuously feed the creative beast—entails long walks, daydreaming, leafing through the magazines, reading the National Enquirer, reading books (all kinds), going to museums, listening to music, making lists, taking pictures, breathing, allowing life to flow freely through you…

Benefits and Compensation

  • There is no compensation unless you pen the next big thing. Think outside of Bella and Edward, or sex in chains. Dance with the wind.
  • Perks—there are none, but if you are still reading, then you’re mad as a hatter and deserve to know the rest)
  • There is no advancement—NONE AT ALL. Fame and fortune are not the end game. Writing is a calling, not a choice. Even the famous and very rich writers accept this about the job.
  • Other than sparse to non-existent opportunities for personal growth there isn’t any. If, however, you are fearless and don’t care about benefits, you might find a passion that will weather all the seasons of your life.

Only apply if you are prepared to go the distance.

Do You Have What it Takes?


I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

23 thoughts on “How to be a Writer

  1. Sounds about right. LOL! I’m constantly talking to myself. And I must remember to “Respond to the voices in my head in a timely manner.”

    I jot down ideas on a Q-Tip box with eyeliner when I don’t have a pen and paper in the bathroom.

    I think we’re all masochists. Loved your post!
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  2. Have you been lurking in my study, Brenda? How did you know about the chocolate chip cookies and wine? Usually not together. Uhem.
    I wrote all through the 90’s, got feed up with publishers, final straw when won National Chick Lit contest for Harlequin and they paid me $1000 but didn’t want to pub my manuscript–you figure it out, I never did. Quit writing for about 12 years and now I’m back at it and have no clue what I’m doing, except listening to voices in my head. LOL
    Being a writer is a weird, weird, experience, occupation, etc.
    Loved your job description, it’s so apt and so well done. Typically, well-written, after all, you’re a writer!

    • Hebby – not that I needed to lurk in your study because writers–I’m guessing–all have a similar pattern. Wondered, have you tried resubmitting your MS or considered self-publishing? I don’t try to read the minds of agents or publishers.

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