Cup of Dcaf: Being a Writer

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Recently, I’ve been posting a lot about some struggles that a lot of writers face, but one post has been nagging at me to be written: my own rules for being a writer.

Of course, these are my personal views on the matter, but I really think they apply universally. The thing is, I find myself talking to a lot of people who call themselves writers, but after talking to them for a while, I realize that that might not really be the case. They don’t do one or both of two things:

1) You have to read to be a writer. I don’t know how anyone can write and develop without reading. Reading should be the foundation of everything you write. Whether it’s doing research for your novel, or reading poetry to get yourself in a creative mood, or finding your favorite authors and styles through pleasure reading, it impacts your own writing. If you’re skipping this step, though, you’ll likely find your writing becoming stagnant, uninspired. Reading is the fuel that runs the writing engine.

2) You have to write to be a writer. I know what you’re thinking. Duh, Drew. Of course you have to write to be a writer. And you’re right. It should be obvious, but there are further reasons than the clear definitive one. I fairly frequently speak with people who say they’re writers, but when I ask about what they write, they say something along the lines of “Oh, well I haven’t written anything in a couple years, but…”

Now, it’s tough to write every day. I don’t even write every day, though I do most days. It’s a demanding thing. But the fact is that if you aren’t constantly writing, practicing, honing your craft, it’s like being someone who played sports in elementary school and then gave up, while still saying you play sports. Skills rust; writer’s block sets in. It is a self-propagating problem. Writing is something that takes work, and a significant chunk of that work is writing. We all start as novices, and even those lucky few with prodigious talent need to actually write to make use of it, to learn and progress and cultivate their skills.

But what it really comes down to is the simple truth that, as (hopefully) men and women who want to write what they love, the best we can, we need to use the tools we have available to achieve those goals…and reading and writing are the two best.

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