For one of the courses for the program I’m enrolled in, we had to do a presentation and write an essay on whatever we wanted. Naturally, I wrote about writing. Although I titled it “What it Takes to be a Writer”, it is more about what I think it takes to be a writer. Which, coincidentally enough, are the skills and so-called “talents” I possess, or hold in regard. It’s a pretty subjective topic, so everyone will have their own opinions. This is mine, as I presented it to my class and instructor.
FYI: This is the only perfect mark I got in this course that didn’t involve getting the answers from a textbook.
Do you want a career where you have job security, stability, and makes lots of money? Then whatever you do, don’t become a writer! Choosing to be a storyteller, poet, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, or whatever, isn’t just about making up stuff and “getting it out there”. What most don’t get, or understand, is the hard work that is involved. Writing isn’t just about making something up. It’s about discipline, determination, and most importantly, it’s about having a voice.
Writing IS a discipline. To some it comes naturally, for others it takes time and continual effort, training, and learning. For most, it is a mix of the two. I wish I could say it came naturally, but unfortunately, it took a lot of work and time to get to the point I’m at today. I had the imagination, that creative spark that all good stories and ideas need. But my grammar and spelling were less than stellar. My one advantage, I was an avid reader. I collected comic books and consumed numerous Stephen King books. I also began to listen to how people talked, and how they said things. Not just in the stories I read, but in real life. Perhaps the final key for my writing skills was the knack of being objective. This allowed me to see both sides of an issue, which in turn allowed me to have long, rambling inner discussions about various subjects. All of this, I focused and poured into my writing. It doesn’t always come easy. My spelling and grammar skills are by no means perfect. Often, I sit in quiet frustration, trying to decipher the storylines, ideas, and characters in my head, my fingers hovering over the keyboard, or my pen lying idle in my hand. Many would give up and move on to other projects that they would never finish, until finally writing becomes something they didn’t have time for. Part of the discipline means making the time, maintaining that self-control, and making it a way of life.
Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, I usually get a nod, followed by an unsure, but supportive “oh ya.” It’s not because they aren’t supportive, they just don’t understand. I’ve talked with numerous other writers about family and friend’s lack of understanding or interest. That is why it takes serious determination to be a writer. Out of all the screenwriters who submit their stories to Hollywood, less than ten percent are employed as a writer. Online, there are website everywhere dedicated to helping all kinds of writers make it big. Social media is over-flowing with aspiring writers touting their own creations, hoping to be discovered. Self-publishing has helped some, but there are so many more who continue to struggle, myself among them. It is also a solitary thing. Many writers sit alone at their computer, typewriter, or with a pen and paper, digging through their own mind for stories and ideas. So why do we do it? Why do so many of those around us not “get it”? Most writer, whether they burst onto the literary scene like rock stars, or build an audience over many years and many books, have a stubborn determination. Stephen King slaved away in obscurity for years, getting rejection letter after rejection letter. Now, he’s one of the biggest and most well-known authors on the planet. If didn’t have the willpower to continue his writing, he might of ended up a teacher with a closet full of unfinished, unseen stories. Ask most famous authors and they probably have similar tales from their past. Yet, they remain true to their convictions. They didn’t bow to pressures or indifference from family or friends. They remained steadfast in their belief that what they were doing mattered. Without determination, a writer becomes a person who dreams wistfully about what might have been.
Once you’ve started to accumulate these skills, you need to have something to say. The idea and the medium is vital, but so is how it is said, the writer’s voice. A lucky few have a wholly original voice, a way of seeing and writing that is all their own. When you read their writings, you know it is them. Others are inspired by writers who inspire them. In either case, the writer’s voice says as much about them as the story they are telling. It is a peek inside the writer’s mind. Good writers put a bit of themselves in the story and characters, speaking through them about who they are, what they think, their darkest fears, and the comicality in their hearts and minds. They can address difficult subject matters in subtle ways that might open the most stubborn mind. The writer’s voice is our means of creative self-expression. It can speak to anyone, from Middle America to the Middle East, to those oppressed by religion, or societal conformities. It can be said in fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, fan fiction, on blogs, social media, virtually anywhere. Whether we like it or not, whether we understand it, or are utterly confused by it, the writer’s voice can speak volumes.
I’ve written seven screenplays, and outlined ten others. I’ve developed over ten original comic book series, and written pilot scripts for each. I’ve written a novel, with at least seven more installments outlined and ready to start. During all this, I’ve written a few short stories and maintained a fairly regular blog where I write and rant about the serious and the not-so serious. Am I a great writer? No. Am I good writer? I have my moments. Despite the hardships, isolation, and uncertainty of a successful future, writing has given me great joy and pleasure. It has also shown what I can accomplish with a lot of discipline and determination; a distinctive voice that I can share with others.