What You Need to Know to Become a Writer

What I heard in my first writing class:dreamstime_xs_31878492

“Write what you know…”
“Write stories like the ones you enjoy reading…”
“Find your voice….”
“Writing a shitty first draft is OK…”
“Write everyday…”
“Don’t write stories in first person present…”
“Follow the rules…”
“Words simply fall onto the page…”
“Writer’s block is real…”
“Anyone can write…”
“Writing can be taught…”
“Writing takes discipline…”
“Writing is a solitary pursuit…”
“Family, friends, and coworkers, will support your pursuit and understand why you write…”
“You will be rich…”
“You will be poor…”
“If you BLOG you will land an agent…”
“If you have a 1,000 followers on Facebook you will land an agent…”
“If you self-publish you’ll be labeled a loser…”
“If you write romance you’ll be labeled non-literary…”
“If you write literary fiction, you’ll be revered by 1,000 readers, and possibly the New Yorker…”
“If you write romance (any genre) your chances of discovery by the masses is far greater than if you wrote literary fiction…”
“If you write seriously and religiously, your bum will expand exponentially, as will your consumption of chocolate…”
“If you become a writer you will get lost in thought, be prone to staring at the wall, and will comb your  life for snippets to write about…”
“As a writer you will become easily agitated if internet connectivity is lost for seconds…”
“As a writer you will need to choose between reality television and the blank page…”
“A writer’s best friend is the household pet—they LOVE everything the writer writes…”
“The writer’s worst enemy is the writer her/him self…”
“Fame and fortune will follow the first novel…”
“If you want it bad enough don’t stop believing…”
“Writing is hard…”
“Writing requires an investment of 10,000 hours…”
“A writer must keep journals…”
“Write honestly and authentically…”
“A writer must submit…”
“A writer must attend writing conferences to find an agent…”
“A serious writer requires an MFA…”
“A writer needs an outline to write a novel…”
“If you’re going to be a writer be prepared for rejection…”

Some, all, none are true.  Each is relevant depending on the writer who is doing the writing.

Me, I couldn’t stick to an outline if my life was hanging in the balance. I found my voice and then it changed. It continues to evolve and change the more I write. I started out writing what I knew, and then somewhere along the way, I broke free of my comfort zone and took chances.  I am definitely not literary, but I push myself to rise to the occasion. But whatever I write, I am always true to the voice of the writer in me doing the writing.

In life and on the page, live and write honestly and authentically. Do yourself a favor and step outside your self-defined comfort zone and explore the possibility of the unknown.  You’ll be surprised. I know I was.

The one item on this list I believe is fact for all writers: to be a writer does require an investment of time. Honestly, I wonder if ten thousand hours is enough.  Other items on the list to be aware of: chocolate or wine consumption might increase, your pet will adore you even if you split an infinitive here and there, and your ego will never, ever, except rejection gracefully.

Now tell me this, when was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone?  

ps.  My novella, Loving is Good, is coming soon.  More details to come alone with pleas for guest posts, reviews, and self-marketing.  ARGH!


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.

44 thoughts on “What You Need to Know to Become a Writer

  1. I step out of my comfort zone all the time, which is probably why I write so many different age levels and genres. lol It’s great exercise and I swear it makes you a better writer. Will every piece be wonderful? Of course not, but you do learn things along the way and that’s what you can hold on to in order to improve your craft.
    Kelly Hashway recently posted….Writer Wednesday: 2014 GoalsMy Profile

  2. For me, some of those are true and some of those bugged me like:

    “Family, friends, and coworkers, will support your pursuit and understand why you write…” Ha! My family definitely doesn’t understand why I write. While I was growing up, my siblings were baffled. Yup, baffled. lol

    “You will be rich…” Oh we wish!!

    And then there was this one: “A serious writer requires an MFA…” I have my GED, but guess what whoever said that one, I am a serious writer! 😉

    You’re right through. Stepping out of our comfort zones can produce great results. And no, our egos will never accept rejection gracefully.

    P.S. I can’t wait for your novella to come out!! :)

  3. “Some, all, none are true. Each is relevant depending on the writer who is doing the writing.”
    Wisely conveyed! As I read all that you heard on the first day of your writing class, I mused on what resonated and what hasn’t been my experience at all. You say it all with, “..live and write authentically.” Yes, yes, and yes. As soon as I quit thinking of how a writer “should” write and focused on my own style, voice, and most importantly, listening for the story, everything changed. And all of those millions of hours spent writing and reading, too… :-)
    Thank you for this wise post. Congratulations on Loving is Good!

  4. I don’t think we have much that is interesting to write, if we DON’T step outside our comfort zone and push a little.

    And it’s that passion and the raw emotion, the sense of taking a chance, that makes our writing worth reading, when we accomplish it.

    Btw, like the new blog design.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted….YMMV? No, Your Mileage Will VaryMy Profile

    • Thanks, Bev. I figure it was time for an refresher. Getting to all the pages. You’re right about pushing ourselves and stepping outside our respective comfort zones.

  5. remullins

    I’ve approached every story in a different way. Don’t know why, it’s just what happens. Perhaps I’d be more productive, better, successful if I had a better plan but I’ve been letting things come however they felt natural.


    • Thanks much, Kim. I took some work. I am still updating, but it’s always the way. BELIEVE in oneself is key. I took a wee break because I had more writing to do that time…

  6. Hey, I love the new look here!
    “In life and on the page, live and write honestly and authentically.” – That says it all for me. From that starting point, anything is possible for each one of us. Truly. From there we can find the strength to step outside our comfort zone … although it can often be daunting. Congratulations on publishing Loving Is Good. I’m patiently in line waiting to download! It can only be great!
    Patricia Sands recently posted….Travel theme: POSSIBILITYMy Profile

  7. Brenda, your recommendation a while back to at least go for 500 words a day has absolutely inspired me. I’m on that track now, and will actually have a blog about it on Friday!
    Excited about your soon-to-be-released book, my friend. I will be more than happy to help promote it on my blog.
    Wishing you blessings for beautiful writing in 2014!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….Focus!My Profile

    • I’m glad to hear. It’s hard sometimes to find the words inside of us. Sometimes I just write for the sake of it. Getting the juices flowing, surprisingly, doesn’t take too much effort.

  8. It really depends on the writer. We all hear the same things but each of us goes through a process that is our own. (It’s funny you mentioned self-publishing. I sometimes still ‘feel’ contempt from other children’s book authors because they really do think, though they don’t say it aloud these days, that self-publishing is a loser’s choice. Used to bother me quite a bit. Now I’m generally amused.) Last year, I stepped way out of my comfort zone and did the artwork for my second picture ebook with a sister. It was done in colour pencils and I was freaked about it because I don’t have formal training in illustrating. This year, I’m still untrained and I’m moving on to the unpredictable watercolour medium. I’m preparing a few pieces for my upcoming MG novel (also a first for me). If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, then I won’t include them in the ebook. My story is still the thing that matters most. Stepping out of the comfort zone can only make one discover new things. And if those new things aren’t as good yet, just leave them out for the time being and practise until you’re good to go. That is all.

    Bravo on your steppings-out, B. Keep going but don’t tire yourself out, okay?
    Claudine Gueh recently posted….Lalouche ~ Great Postman, Mighty Boxer?My Profile

    • Hey C~I say to you, WOW! That is big. I can imagine taking on the illustrating was a scary, but think how wonderful it is now knowing you can do it. I am impressed. For me, writing a new kind of story is the extent of going outside of my comfort zone. I kind of like it. I don’t think a writer has a choice these days. I think of self-publishing like a publishing credit. It’s a requirement these days.

  9. Brenda, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. You have provided a much needed boost in some of the things I have been struggling to remind myself as a writer and author. I don’t tell many people this but I do have a book published under a pen name. When I’m ready to reveal this, I’m sure I will someday. I keep it a secret for the time being for personal reasons, however, since publishing, many doors have been opened for me in that particular genre. It’s now juggling my adult writing which tends to weigh heavy upon my time. I know I will get there some day as I definitely have put in the effort and hours to do the best I possibly can; for ME.
    I loved when you wrote, “I found my voice and then it changed. It continues to evolve and change the more I write.” I couldn’t have said it better. As far as chocolate and increasing bums go, mine seems to be growing the more I sacrifice the gym for writing. BUT it’s well worth it!
    I look forward to reading your book once it comes out and again, thanks for sharing your touching thoughts here.
    gina recently posted….As the Journey Rolls Over into the New YearMy Profile

    • Gina – so glad you found some inspiration in this post. I’m sure in time you will step out from the shadows and share. A writer’s voice does evolve the more writing that accumulates. I also find I want to experiment, write different stories, and to push myself.

  10. Brenda, I may be a little late to the party – but I love the new look/header here at your blog. It’s perfect! And I love “In life and on the page, live and write honestly and authentically.” What salient advice. It’s what I’m intending to do this year. Love it. Nice to see you up and around here again and I look forward to your novella. Congratulations on such a work.

  11. That’s interesting that you’re exploring stepping out of a comfort zone in this post. I’ve been studying humor essay writing vs. personal essay humor writing and would like to take a stab at writing humorous essays with a general appeal.

    With that said, don’t we step out of our comfort zone every time we write?
    Lauren recently posted….A Tale of Two Blog FeedsMy Profile

    • Lauren – Yes, we do to answer your question. I too am exploring. I normally write stories with a love twist, but lately, I’ve been writing non love stories. It’s interesting find this new voice inside of me.

  12. Oh Brenda, I step out of my zone on a daily basis! It’s not only with my blogging, but with my teaching, my opinions, and of course, my parenting. I’d say that’s my biggest leap of faith, for sure. Miss you!
    Jennifer Wolfe recently posted….PersistenceMy Profile

  13. Sulekha

    I love this point and am living proof of the same :)
    “If you write seriously and religiously, your bum will expand exponentially, as will your consumption of chocolate…”
    Hilarious post and so true.

  14. Good lord. Writing classes have changed since I took them. Well, there was no FB or internet so that discussion was cut…there were agents of course and that was big talk but not in class. Oh the “write what you know” was true back then too; and yes. A big road block for me though I wasn’t as smart as you to figure out to go around it sooner than I did.
    sandra tyler recently posted….No Tale Tues BUT…My Profile

    • Sandra, I’m sure they change everyday, as well. I am jealous Stephen King is required to go on blog tours, have a Facebook page or tweet!

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