I’m often asked by beginning writers how to “get started” in writing. How to get published. How to get that book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. They assume I’m an expert, which I’m most assuredly not.
Nonetheless, I have been writing for a while and here is my advice: Writing takes talent, yes, but is mostly the combination of a lot of work and a little love.
I remember when I first got out of college and dreamt of being a writer. I had dreamy notions of a cabin in the mountains or a house by the beach. I’d listen to my favorite music and pound out thousands of words of beautiful prose every single day. I’d have publishers lining up outside my door and I’d be doing book tours, morning television, and would be an evangelical bestselling book hero.
The real world of writing, I’ve learned in the intervening years, is much, much different. I don’t say this to discourage, but to make writers aware of the work it will take to see their words good enough to be in print, which is to say, good enough to inspire.
Writing does take skill, a certain giftedness from God. And there is a rush when you are in the “writing flow” and pounding out words from heart to head to keyboard. Yes, those moments are exhilarating when you know you are doing the very thing you were put on earth to do. I feel this way, sometimes, about preaching and studying.
But like any other skill, any other endeavor worth doing, writing is mostly work. By work I mean that you write a lot. You write often. You write when you don’t feel like it. You write really bad stuff to get to the good stuff. You write things about subjects you don’t want to write on to get your foot in the door or to get some income. And you learn along the way that you’re not writing to be famous or rich (there are much easier avenues to those fleeting goals), but you write because you can’t not write.
You must love to write if you are to endure. There are many many people who really say they want to publish a book, start a blog, become a columnist. Hundreds and thousands of these kinds of people. But there are few who love it enough to sit down beyond the keyboard at ten o’clock at night, when normal people are sleeping or watching Sportscenter or another episode of West Wing. In other words, real writers just start writing. They write and write and write. And at the end of their lives they will look up and realize they have created a body of work they can be proud of.
So I guess my best advice on writing is to work at it. Don’t fall for shortcuts that promise to get your words in print right now. Yes, you can easily self-publish a book tomorrow on Amazon.com. But will it be good and inspirational and weighty if you skip the rejections and the editing and the rewriting that the publishing process forces you to endure?
I don’t think so.