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You Want to be a Writer? Here's Some Advice.

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Message Allan Goldstein

Rule number one: Write every day. Set a minimum time aside for writing each day, it can be as little as an hour, and commit to doing it for one month. You can give yourself one day off a week if you like. If you keep that commitment for a month, congratulations, you're better than most, now commit for a quarter. You need to learn this craft and for that you need practice, repetitive, disciplined practice. Pick your time, pick your duration, pick your subjects, but treat it like a job. Punch in when you start, punch out when you stop and don't cheat the clock. And do it every day.

Rule number two: Write freely, edit ruthlessly. You don't want to stifle your creativity, go ahead and run with your ideas, don't freeze up looking for the precise word right away, write long and adventurously, write creatively.

But you're not as creative as you think and most of your creative stuff is crabgrass. Prune with a heavy hand, cut it down and cut it down again. You'll be amazed at how good your stuff looks if you're not afraid to tear out all the bad stuff. And with enough practice, you'll learn to tell the difference.

Rule number three: Neither seek nor trust "inspiration." I can't emphasize this point enough. Inspiration is the most overrated phenomenon in all the writing universe.

I'm not saying that you will be uninspired by what you are writing, but to expect much from that emotion is a rookie's mistake. Inspiration has a place in writing, sometimes, in small doses, but mostly writing is work. It is a craft that takes a dispassionate eye, even when your mind is enthralled by your subject, especially when.

Sometimes it happens to me. I get a flash of light and a rush of "inspiration" and I gush out a torrent of words and ideas so free and easy it's like time stands still, until I'm spent and my creation complete.

The next day I open that file and gaze upon the worst pile of crap I've written since the last time inspiration seized me by the brain and made me stupid. Then I have to spend hours of cold-hearted, hard-headed work to craft it into something readable.

If you rely upon inspiration you'll only write when you're inspired, and that's not nearly often enough to make a writer out of you. It's far better for the inspiration to come at the other end, when you're finished, and you read what you've created. It's fine to be inspired then. It's almost as good as money and praise.

And it better be, because you'll never get enough of either, not even if you're the hottest, most celebrated author of the day. It's a writer's lot to be unsatisfied.

If I haven't discouraged you yet, and you're committed to this grinding, thankless job, then let me be the first to welcome you to the ranks of The Writers. I wish you the best of luck in your writing career.

Don't pay attention to anyone who questions your writing credentials. If you make the commitment and stick to it, you are a writer. Because, ultimately, it's not about fame or fortune or even being published. You're a writer if you write. And if you write every day, nobody can tell you otherwise.

The writer's revenge is that no one can stop you. This is the cheapest field in the world to get into. And the most costly too. When you've written for a few decades, you'll know what I mean.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)
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