Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be a writer

I just did a round of book signings for my new book, Time Gangsters. It seems like at least once every signing, someone comes up to me and says, "I'd like to be a writer." I now answer them by saying, "Then be a writer." I'm not trying to be a smart alec, but I really do think it is that simple. There are a lot of people who want to be writers but they seem to be waiting for something.

Some say they'll write when they're not so busy. Well, my answer to that is get an iPad or smartphone and a bluetooth keyboard and write a few words whenever you get a chance. I experimented with this last year when I was on the UVU campus a couple of days a week. I had little 10 to 15 minute gaps between my saxophone students, so I'd get out my iPad and start typing. In a month I was 5000 words into a novel. If I'd continued that, I could have had a whole novel in three semesters. My experiment ended, though, when I got so excited about the story that I started working on it during my 3-hour writing blocks on the other days of the week.

Also, when I wrote my first book, The Dragon War Relic, I was working two jobs and having to squeeze in writing here and there wherever I could. I had to sacrifice some things, like TV watching and computer games. This doesn't just go for writing, but music and many other things: if you want to become an expert at something, you have to give up things that distract you from it.

Here's another one I hear, "But I don't know enough about writing." Sheesh, if I waited until I actually knew what I was doing I still wouldn't have written a single book. As it is, I'm currently working on my tenth book in six years. I still don't know what I'm doing but I'm learning. Every book I write I learn something new. Now, some of those books will not ever see daylight because they are so bad, but I still learned a lot from them and the next book became better because of it.

This leads me to the next thing. Some people want to wait until they have their ideas and thoughts all perfectly figured out. Maybe they can do that, but for me, I have to see my stuff in print before I can figure out what to do with it. The analogy I use is that it is like making a clay pot on a spinning wheel. You first have to get the lump of clay on the wheel before you can begin to shape it the way you want. For writers, that means just write the stinkin' first draft, warts and all. Then worry about perfecting it through editing.

I can't think of other excuses that people have, but I'm sure there are plenty more. Let me know if you think of any and we can air them out. Mainly, though, if you want to be a writer, take action. Do a little bit every day toward that goal, even if it is only 5 minutes here and there.


Angie said...

Great advice, Berin!

Marny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marny said...

We had a great discussion about this last week on the AML blog.

Leslie said...

That is great advice! I really appreciated your talk tonight at the Pleasant Grove library and your openness about your writing process, your path to publication, and your books. I really was so grateful to be able to attend and learn from you. Thanks!