I’m often asked ‘how to be a writer’ and what it feels like to be one. Well, sometimes it’s great. Sometimes, it’s frustrating and sometimes, it’s challenging. So basically, it’s just like any other job then.

The facts

There has never been a better time to be a writer. The industry is experiencing an amazing time of growth and change, with new technology constantly challenging the rules of the game.

At the same time, there has never been a worse time to be a writer. The rise of ebooks and independent publishing means that you have to fight harder than ever before to get noticed.

But, all is not lost. Healthy competition is good for the soul. So, if you’ve been thinking about writing for a while, but didn’t know what to do about it, wonder no more. This post will show you what you need to get started.

1. First, are you sure you really want to write?

There is a misconception that writing is ‘easy’. After all, what can be difficult about sitting on your behind, banging out words and then, sitting back and watching the money roll in from the sales of your books or articles?

If this sounds like you (and I’m sure it doesn’t, because you know the writing life is sooo not like that), then you have a lot of growing up and educating to do. But, if you’re sure that you really want to write and are not put off by, at worst, seeming indifference to your work, and at best, a published book that fails to make Amazon top 500, then I say, go for it. Just be intentional about it.

So, for example, if you love writing, but you see it more as a hobby, then let it be that exactly. Set up a blog and update as and when the mood takes you. However, if you want to make a living out of your writing, you have to plan, plan, plan your career with military precision.

And once you’ve planned, you need to plan some more. So, be prepared to set some time aside to do this.

2. Born to write?

I do not think that I ever doubted that I would be a writer. At the same time, I knew I had to be pro-active about it. I wrote short stories as a child and spent much of my university days firing off proposals to publishers. I came close to getting a book deal a few times, but never quite managed it. Eventually, I got my first book deal and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the last 10 years, I’ve taught many writing workshops, and I never fail to be amazed by the number of people I teach that tell me, even after the workshop, that they’re waiting for the right time to write.

Here’s the stone-cold harsh truth: there will never be a perfect time to write, or to do basically anything in life. If you feel passionately about something, the only thing to do is to ‘just do it’. And best way to ‘do it’ is to start where you are and see where the road takes you. It’s that simple.

3. Start somewhere

 

The easiest way to start your writing career is by having a blog. This could be hosted on your website or by using one of the free blogging sites available. If you’re not sure how to go about this, then go on a blogging course. Blogging is one of the best ways to build up your author platform. It also teaches you to be a disciplined writer.

If short stories/novels/biographies are more your thing, then write those short stories/novels/biographies as if your life depended on it. In other words; ‘write like there’s no one reading your stuff’. As you gain more confidence and your writing technique/style improves, you will ‘write like there are people reading’ and take your hard-earned applause. But for now, if you have yet to pick up the pen or keyboard, just start.

4. Don’t expect an easy ride

Starting something new is never easy. That’s because you’re out of your comfort zone and are being stretched. But, be prepared to learn the ropes. There will be bad days (‘Nobody is reading my blog.’), really bad days (‘This book sucks. I’m never going to finish writing it and even if I do, it will never get published. Because it SUCKS!’) and really, really bad days (‘I’m packing it in. I’m not a writer. I was fooling myself.’).

I want you to know that this is normal – even professional writers have days like this. They just don’t let it get in the way of the writing. When things are not going well, by all means, bring out the champagne and have a well-earned pity party. But don’t be the last guest standing. At some point, pick up your dignity and blood-soaked tears from the floor and get back to the writing. Because it is the only thing that matters. And it matters, because it’s your dream.

5. Yes, it’s worth it

Like most people, I’ve had my fair share of disappointments in life. But the one thing I’ve never doubted is being a writer. I may not be everyone’s favourite writer. I may not have won literary awards. But, I’ve kept on writing. There’ve been some dry seasons and some amazing ones. And in the midst of it all, I’ve been reminded that the writing is the most important thing. It matters to me and as long as it continues to matter, I will continue to write and improve on the craft. Because that is what writers do.

Fired up? Feed the flame with this writing course for first-time authors.

Abidemi Sanusi

About the author

Abidemi Sanusi is a writer and founder of the Ready Writer website. A former human rights worker, she is also the author of 10 books, including Looking for Bono, and Eyo, which was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Abidemi has been featured in Forbes, the BBC and the Guardian.

  • Your points are spot on. Great information for anyone considering diving in.

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