Let’s start with this little monologue from Ira Glass:
What nobody tells you is, simply, writing isn’t something that will just come to you. That is a ridiculous myth created by a romanticism of the writing life. Writing, like any other skill set you possess, requires dogged determination, boring repetitive days of revision and editing, and a constant awareness of what you lack (and hopefully how to overcome that).
Nobody tells you that being a writer means being something else, too – because writing isn’t a way to live. Unless your work is selling for millions, you’ll need a day job and steady income. You’ll have bills and a life and on top of all that, a rusting knife to carve out some time for working words onto a page.
It’s not romantic. Hell, most times it isn’t even that enjoyable. I feel like I’m robbing someone to get time to write. I’m robbing my wife of an attentive husband or my friends of a night out. And myself, more over, when I find some time to write and instead play a video game or surf around on the web.
Nobody tells you how easy it is to be comfortable as an almost writer. It’s easy as hell, really, to be an almost writer. You almost complete a story, you almost submit your work to literary magazines. You almost have a routine.
In my experience, the only thing that separates a writer from an almost writer is tenacity. A writer is a dog who gets kicked in the ribs by a boot but still tries to steal a steak off the owner’s plate. An almost writer is content to sulk away and imagine themselves chewing up the fat from the garbage.
Nobody tells you it’s a pain in the ass to be a writer. It wasn’t mentioned in my undergrad writing seminars, at least. There wasn’t a lesson on how to counteract your absolute disgust with your work. We never had a lesson on sneaking a few lines of work in while at the office desk. Where the hell was that lesson?
And when you start–when you really start giving yourself the time and effort to get work done and out the door, you’ll be horrible. You’ll be so much worse than anyone else who is getting published. And whether that’s true or not will only matter if you keep trying. It’s through the rejections and self-doubt and burned up hours in front of a keyboard that you’ll grow. It’s through reading other people’s work and saying that’s a story I should have written writers learn to build up the tenacity to keep writing.
And after that’s happened, through years and years, it’ll look like writing stories or novels or whatever just comes to you, despite the fact you know it’s altogether something else.