How many people have you met who wanted to write a book or start a blog? Maybe you’ve even wanted to be a writer yourself. Writing is a deep-seated desire in people from every walk of life and every level of education and income. Because we humans are natural storytellers, we are driven to share our stories, both true and fictional, with others. Yet, as successful author and ghost writer John Perry says, writing is an art that requires discipline, motivation, and dedication. Like any other craft, it requires refining and practice.
“In the digital age, a good book takes just as long to craft now as it did in the time of Hemingway or Dickens: you sit at your desk, stare out the window, and let the inspiration seep in,” says Perry. If you want to become a writer, you have to be prepared to put the work in. These are John Perry’s five steps for becoming a writer:
One of the most important steps to becoming a good writer is to be a voracious reader. You don’t have to read only the kind of material you’re interested in writing. In fact it is better to read a wide variety of material, including even writing you don’t particularly enjoy. Because as you read, you will learn more about effectively using the English language to say what you want to say in a way that appeals to your audience. You’ll begin to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and be better able to refine your own work. Read widely and pay attention to what you like, what you don’t like, and why.
The other essential step to becoming a good writer is to write. This sounds simple and it is. Don’t be intimidated by the blank page. Write something down — anything that will get you started. John Perry explains that first drafts don’t necessarily have to make sense. Even the greatest, most successful writers have a huge trash can (real or virtual) full of bad writing at the end of every day. But the more you write, the better your writing will be. Start with just one sentence if you need to, then another, until gradually they start flowing without so much struggle. Whether you write a hundred words or a thousand, the important thing is to get started and get used to putting words to the page. Do this often until it becomes natural. Then do it because you’re a writer and you love doing it.
Just Do It
Now that you’ve read all kinds of writing and practiced putting words to the page, it’s time to follow through. This is where so many writers give up. They have the excitement of a new idea, a new process, a new creation they’re bringing to life. But then after a while they get frustrated, stuck, bored, distracted, or otherwise thrown off track. The key is not to give up. Take a break for an hour, or a week. Revisit an old thought or try something completely off the wall. Let your imagination soar. That’s what writers do. Whatever you’ve been hoping to write, whether it’s a book, a blog, a recipe, a poem, just do it. Getting the first line on the page can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Getting the next page may seem impossible. But give yourself time and get that next thought down on the page. Once you get going you might find it addictive.
Writing even the most wonderful book, blog, or story is usually a very messy process. As mentioned earlier, famous and successful authors throw away countless pages of mediocre work on the way to a best seller. Once you’ve captured your first thoughts on paper it’s time to rewrite. In the excitement of producing the first draft, even the most seasoned writers miss opportunities to flesh out ideas or cut parts that just don’t fit. If you don’t edit thoroughly, you are doing yourself — and your idea — an injustice, says Perry. He recommends thinking of it as chiseling a sculpture out of a block of marble. You have to cut and cut in order to produce the masterpiece you’re going for.
The final step to becoming an author or writing is to share your work. Whether you write fiction for a publisher, blogs for clients, or ghost write like John Perry, sharing your work with others is the ultimate goal. Get feedback on your writing. What do people enjoy or not enjoy about it? Use that information for your next project and constantly strive to improve your craft. After all, you’re a writer now, and that’s what writers do.
About John Perry
John Perry is a New York Times best-selling author. He studied English and piano at Vanderbilt University and University College, Oxford, England. Perry began his career working as an advertising copywriter and radio producer. He was granted the opportunity to write the jacket copy for a number of books a publisher was promoting, which impressed the publisher enough to ask Perry to write a foreword as well. John Perry has since written biographies of historical figures including Sergeant Alvin York, Booker T. Washington, and Winston Churchill. He also co-authored the novel Letters to God, which debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list.