Ten Things I Wish I Knew as a Beginning Writer

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I’ve been writing for over 30 years. The writing bug bit me when I was about 10. I was away at summer camp for two weeks and my father, a professional writer, would write to me every day. He’d tell me about the goings-on at home and ask about camp life. At night, before lights out, I’d pick up pen and paper and write back.

In one letter he wrote: “Gee, you write an interesting letter. I read it last night…and liked it very much. You’re going to follow in your father’s footsteps as a writer except you’ll be so much better.”

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Years later—after numerous jobs—I am a professional writer, too. What took so long? Mistakes and procrastination. If I could go back in time, there are 10 things I’d tell my 10-year-old self about writing.

  1. Learn the basic mechanics of writing and grammar. Take an online or continuing education writing course and attend webinars or workshops.
  2. Observe. This is the basis of all writing. If you can’t observe the world around you, you can’t write.
  3. Tweak. Tweak. Then tweak some more. There’s nothing worse than finding a typo after you’ve hit “Send.”
  4. Don’t kid yourself. Writing isn’t easy. It requires discipline, hard work, commitment, patience and a sense of humor.
  5. Read voraciously. Reading others’ work expands your vocabulary and makes you a better writer.
  6. Develop your own unique voice and don’t compromise your style. That’s what sets you apart.
  7. Let go of your fear of failure (or success). Don’t think about publishing, royalties, New York Times’ reviews or bestsellers. Just write.
  8. Take your craft seriously. Create a sacred space to write that’s quiet and free from interruptions.
  9. Writing is a form of self-expression. It’s a therapeutic, lifelong journey of self-discovery.
  10. Enjoy what you do. Otherwise it’s an incredible waste of time.

Many barriers can stop you from being a writer. You don’t have the right mindset or good writing habits. Or maybe you need to focus on boosting your creativity.

It took me a long time to think of myself as a writer. Even when I was already a published author, I didn’t consider myself a “real” writer.

Then one day, I found a saying that helped me realize I was already a writer.

“A writer writes.”

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