How do I become a writer? What are the qualifications?
The short answer is: you become a writer by writing. Doesn’t matter what you write or whether or not you’re published. If you write, you are a writer. That’s the one non-negotiable qualification.
The long answer goes beyond this simple explanation.
The first suggestion I make to people who wish to become writers is to seek out others of similar persuasion. One reason is that writing can be a lonely business. Some of us embrace this semi-solitary lifestyle, while others grow wide-eyed with apprehension. However, we all need some kind of connection with others. These days there are many virtual options to actually stepping out of the house to meet with someone. Writers hang out on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads, and any number of social media. They leave their views and reviews on amazon, Barnes & Noble and their blogs. Seek and you shall find.
Another reason we writers need to mix with each other is to share and learn. We’re all at different levels of knowledge and experience. Someone out there will have gone through the particular writing dilemma you currently face. Someone else will need your encouragement to “Stay Calm and Carry On.” Helpful scribes and organizations are constantly posting links to writing contests, courses and creative ideas: http://www.inscribe.org/contests/, http://thewordguild.com/contestsawards/
A second suggestion for newbie writers is: read. All readers are not writers, but all writers are and must be readers. Read all the time, read widely, and train yourself to read analytically. Before I began writing, I either liked a book or didn’t like it; I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint my reasons. Now I can usually pick out one or more of the following flaws: the characters are underdeveloped and flat, they act inconsistently with what we were led to believe about them, there are too many passive words, the plot isn’t exciting enough, the author didn’t bother to correct grammatical errors or typos, the point of view is unclear and inconsistent, or the various threads of the story have not been satisfactorily concluded. As you learn more about the elements of fiction, you will be able to discern the difference between poor and good writing.
One of the most important requirements of the writing life is hard work. For a lot of people, myself included, it’s easier to “have written” than to actually write. Creativity can be elusive when we sit down to an empty page. There are times when inspiration favours us and thoughts flow from brain to hand like an electrical current, but these times are rare. Mostly, this work is plodding and difficult.
So why would anyone want to write? I suppose for the same reason people choose to have children. For many if not most of us, pregnancy, birth and child-rearing is a painful, endless and exhausting task. Why do we do it? Something about life and love and unexpected rewards, like a three-year old nicknaming his favourite teddy bear “Mom.” There’s a soul-shift that brings us to the page with overwhelming gratitude that we have been offered this opportunity to work with words. I believe we have been gifted and chosen by God to write. That’s the initial step. It’s up to us to follow in obedience to the One who has chosen us, to prayerfully take up the pen or cozy up to the keyboard to craft stories that will interest, entertain, challenge, bless and inspire others.