How to Be a Great Writer, Says Someone Who is Not (Yet) a Good Writer

TypewriterThe truth is, I have only just begun calling myself a writer [(a) I believe that in order to become the person you want to be, you must first start by pretending you already are that kind of person; (b) I think the road to becoming a good, if not a great writer, begins by being audacious enough to acknowledge that you already are one (a writer), and to start “pretending” that you are already good; (c) I am not sure if any of what I am saying so far makes any sense]; I haven’t read more than a single book on creative writing (the first and only book on writing I read was Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury; that was many years ago, and I can’t really remember what Bradbury was saying); I haven’t attended a single writing workshop in my life, online or offline; and I am not really a well-read or widely-read person.

But I “feel” deep inside me that I know what to do in order to become a great writer. Here are the steps:

Wake up early every day. Pray to God for guidance, ask him to help you become a great fiction writer. Write for at least two hours a day. If you can’t afford two hours a day, aim to write at least 500 words a day. Read, read, read. Read well and read a lot (The former is more important than the latter). Immerse yourself in literature. Savor good short stories and novels. When you are about to read a story, be cognizant of the fact that what the author is trying to impart to you is an experience, or several experiences: appreciate that experience (or those experiences) as fully as you can. It is a privilege to read great fiction, so be grateful for the fact that it is readily available around you. Read poetry. Drink coffee in the morning, but not too much, because you might get irritable. Drink tea in the afternoon to soothe your nerves. If you have spare time, edit your drafts and/or write some more stories or poetry. Deactivate your Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking accounts (at least temporarily; the act is a virtual equivalent of going to your “cabin in the woods”.) Go to your favorite bookshop and buy the books you’ve long desired to buy (if you can afford it, of course). Travel. Go on a road trip, preferably alone. Drive your car to the provinces. Listen to podcasts (like the New Yorker Fiction Podcast or PRI’s Selected Shorts). Bring lots and lots of books, of course, and don’t forget your dictionary and thesaurus. Go to Dumaguete, Bacolod, San Carlos City, or anywhere quaint and beautiful. Bring a notebook. Sit in a park or a cafe and be sensitive to all the things that you see, hear, touch, and smell around you. Note them all down. Scribble down your impressions, thoughts, and opinions about the people and things that you observe. Go out of your way to befriend and/or talk to people. Be real. Listen to them. Understand them. Be vulnerable. Absorb the beauty of nature. Open your notebook or laptop inside a coffee shop and write a new story. Attend poetry readings. Better yet, participate — read your poems out load in front of an audience. Wear a really cool jacket or sweater. Attend writing workshops. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be scared of looking foolish in front of people. Don’t resent distractions. Have a great love and passion for the written word. Don’t divulge all of your works to the world. Keep some, if not most, of them, to yourself, and wait for the right time for them to be shared. Don’t take everything too seriously. Have fun. Laugh at yourself often. Appreciate, and rejoice over, other people’s gifts, talents, skills, genius, and accomplishments. Always make sure that reading, writing, thinking, books, literature, and art are as natural a part of your life and daily routine as breathing or scratching your head.

So there. That’s not all of it, of course. I’ll add more in the near future.

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