I’m pleased to welcome Laura Watts to the blog today. Laura is sharing a wonderful guest post with some great tips to those on the writing journey.
Doing the Write Thing: One Writer’s Journey
by Laura Watts
The day I started telling people ‘I’m a writer’ is the day I truly became one.
Don’t get me wrong. I was genetically wired to write. My father was a newspaper editor and Time magazine correspondent, and I wrote my first serious poem at the age of 10.
But when people asked about my dreams and aspirations, even into my 20s and 30s, my response was always, ‘I want to be a writer one day.’
Then I saw an ad for a writing school sponsored by a magazine. I applied and was accepted. A month later, I found myself sitting in a classroom listening to a fellow student giving a very painful critique of one of my short stories. I left the class in tears, ready to give up.
But there were two other students in that classroom who believed in me. The three of us formed a friendship that lasted for more than a decade. We exchanged manuscripts and held writing retreats. They kept my feet to the fire and wouldn’t let go. I don’t know now what I would have done without them.
As it turned out, that same magazine held a writing contest and selected my article for publication several months later. And that is what set me on the road to writing.
Every seasoned traveler has tips to share from his or her globetrotting adventures. Here are a few I’ve learned on my journey from aspiring to accomplished writer:
When you start out, find at least one (or two) fellow travelers who’ll help you arrive at your destination. I was fortunate to have a New York Times bestselling author as my mentor. You may find yours in a friend, a writer’s group, or at a writer’s conference. Find someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
Next, read voraciously. This may seem obvious, but if you are writing fiction, read great fiction. Immerse yourself in your genre. However, don’t read to avoid writing (a pitfall of many aspiring writers). That leads to my next point . . .
Write, write, write. If you don’t have a clue what you want to write, then begin with Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’-three daily pages of unedited musings poured out on a legal pad. I did this faithfully for a year. It broke my writer’s block and finally freed me to believe that I was, indeed, a writer. (Thank you, Julia).
Begin thinking and writing professionally. When I received a check in the mail for my first article, I knew I was on my way. I began seeking out writing assignments. I worked as a free-lance advertising copywriter and as a staff writer for an international relief organization. I wrote several children’s books. For the past two years, I’ve written a weekly newspaper column on parenting. Now I’m writing, tweeting, and blogging about travel.
Finally, don’t get stuck in a comfort zone. Continually set new goals and seek new challenges. I have left critiquing and networking groups because they no longer challenged me. When you find you’re not growing as a writer, move on.
Jewel Kilcher said, ‘Writing is a really good first step toward that goal of knowing yourself.’ As you start out on your writing journey, remember those powerful words: ‘I’m a writer’. They will carry you far.
About Laura Watts
Laura Watts is a newspaper columnist and author of HOW TO PREPARE FOR KINDERGARTEN: A Common Sense Guide to Getting Your Child and Yourself Ready for Day One (a work-in-progress). You can follow her musings on writing and life at lauraoutoftheblue and on Twitter. Laura also blogs about travel at Essentially Laura and on Twitter.