What makes a Writer? Part 1

Everyone writes, but not everyone calls themselves a writer.  We all wrote papers in high school and college.  We write Emails and text messages and social media posts.  Some of us even write for a living (copywriting, technical writing, social media).  They are certainly writers, aren’t they?

Let’s narrow down the question:  What makes someone a fiction writer?

Well, the easy answer is writing the story and the slightly longer answer is writing the story every day.  

Why do I think that?  Two reasons:  

  1. That’s the only way shit gets done.  
  2. You keep your creative muscles strong and healthy.

No one writes a book in a day.  No one writes a book in a single weekend.  No one writes a book in a week.  Even for the speediest of us, it takes several weeks to write a short book.  For most of us it takes months.  For some it takes years.  

Before we continue let’s address a few caveats.  I know there are some writers who pride themselves on fast drafting.  I know there are some writers who are able to stay home all day and write.  Even these two groups spend more time writing than it would appear.  Fast drafting still requires extensive time spent outlining and editing, and requires paying the practice dues to get to that level of speed.  And for those that are able to stay home and devote near full time hours to writing, well then life had to align for that to happen. 

For most of us, the best we’re going to get is thirty minutes, or maybe an hour or two.  We need to make due with that.  How do you write 80,000 words (a good standard novel) when all you have is an hour?  Well, if you write 1,000 words a day then in a year you’ll have 365,000 words.  500 words gets you to 182,500 words in a year.  250 words a day makes 91,250 words.

Even 100 words a day gets you to 36,500 words.  That makes a book in a little over 2 years.  When you break the work down into day-sized chunks, writing a book seems very much doable.  

But writing every day amounts to more than just a word count.  In that same year, you will have learned more about the craft and your typing will have gotten faster.  It will get easier to translate the images from your head to the page.  That accumulation of practice, the hours spent writing, cannot be overlooked.  

I grew up as a competitive swimmer.  Swimming is a grueling sport in that it heavily favors the athletes that swim five, six, or even seven days a week–all year round.  I never really understood this until one of my coaches explained to me that taking a day off of swimming was like taking three days off of any other sport.  We are naturally dryland animals and get around day-to-day life by walking and balancing vertically.  Swimming is very much the opposite:  (for simplification’s sake) Most strokes generate power from the core and the arms and the body is balanced in a horizontal position.  Even when taking a day off from soccer, you’re still at least walking around (using leg muscles) and engaging your balance in a similar orientation.  

Creative writing is very much like swimming in that most of us don’t get to flex those muscles in our day to day lives.  One day off of creative writing is like three days off any other hobby!  

Figurative language aside, those are my thoughts on writing.  Write your fiction, your story, every day–even if it’s just a few sentences and then some summary about what you plan to write next session.  Sentences add up into pages, pages into chapters, chapters into a story.  Not only will you slowly build your story, you’ll slowly build those muscles that will make you a more adept typist, outliner and writer.

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