So you want to write, huh? Alright. Now that we have that settled, where do you start? It’s, honestly, quite a difficult question to answer – and one that almost everyone will have a different answer to. But, first, you need to ask “why?”, “why do I want to write?” Whether you’re writing simply for pleasure, writing as a pastime or whether you’d like to don the revered title of “writer”, the motivation is what’s most important – it’s what will help push you through the hard times and will keep you writing regardless of all the reasons you “shouldn’t”.
In a 1938 response letter to family friend and hopeful author Frances Turnbull, F. Scott Fitzgerald critques her work (a short story) saying, “You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly”. He essentially goes on to question if Turnbull has the dedication to make a career out of what Fitzgerald calls, “one of those professions that wants the ‘works.'”
Though he isn’t “brutal”, Fitzgerald conveys honestly what he believes to be the defining trait (or undertaking) of a writer. It is that fullness of feeling, that dedication to your craft and the wholly all-encompassing nature of “writing” that defines the professional from the amateur. And, though he doesn’t say it, Fitzgerald hints at the idea that a “writer” is one who has honed their craft. In spite of this, however, I believe that he would agree with my assertion that “wisdom” or “experience”, per se, isn’t necessary in order to write – all that is necessary is the ability to feel deeply and to convey that same feeling to your reader.
Recently, I was actually involved in a twitter debate with someone over this very question. When asked “where should I start?” by an adoring follower this man responded saying, essentially, that you should live first, experience first, and then you will be able to write. Here’s where I had to chime in. Why wait? Yes, I’m sure he’s right that more experience – both in interacting with people and, just generally, with the world around you – will give you a better grasp on the idea of “conveying feeling” but is it necessary to write? Do you have to, in a way, earn your chops as a writer by living before you write? I say not.
If you have the inclination to write, I’ll bet you’ve got some experience to draw on. If you’re aching to put your thoughts down on paper, I’m betting you have something to say. Why wait? Just write. Just do it. Writing as much as you possibly can will make you that much better at writing. Some people like to say that everyone has a certain amount of bad words in them…you just have to get them out. So, how are you going to get those bad words out, how are you going to get better if you never practice and are just waiting for the time when you’re “worthy” of being a writer?
Writing doesn’t wait for anyone. Yes, as Fitzgerald points out, you absolutely need talent. In any profession (if that’s your aim), talent is the prerequisite, if you will. But a close, close second is hard work and determination. No one gets good at something by hoping they will be. You only improve at those things for which you work the hardest. Again, I do believe Fitzgerald would deny some people the title of “writer”. However, I believe he would reserve that lack-of-distinction only for those who have not put in the time and effort, not because you “haven’t lived enough to be a writer yet”. Better yet, do your living while you’re writing (or vice-versa). Live (and read) and write and, who knows, you might just get where you want to go.
I’ll leave you with this: don’t be afraid to write, because the world needs to hear what you have to say. Yes, that’s right, the world needs what you have to say. I have found that, in writing, you write because you need to get those ideas you have out onto paper… and there are others (no matter how large or small your audience) who need to read what you have to say. Don’t be afraid. It might not be perfect. It might never be perfect. But I tell you with absolute certainty that no idea that hasn’t been written down has ever changed the world. So, go. Change the world – or, at least, change your world.