What Does It Take to be a Writer?


The other day, I stumbled onto an old post on a writing website. The author had asked readers what they thought it took to be a successful writer.

Good soldiers said it took discipline. Several said it required patience. One guy even said it took, “patients.” Perhaps he was a medical writer. A few pointed to skill and there were a few votes for a love of words.

I’d have to go along with the word love fest myself, but I’d add that we must be in touch with our wild selves as well. Real writing worth reading always takes us somewhere that could get messy. We must love to roll around in words like my dog does on the lawn just after I’ve mowed.

Writer’s must be part cat. We need to revel in rubbing up against words with embarrassing sensuality. We also need the cat’s ability to survive being thrown off a roof and still land on our feet when rejection letters and bad reviews arrive in our lives.

The tenacity of a Gila Monster comes in handily in word wrangling; biting into a storyline and hanging in there until our teeth touch and there is nothing left to say on the subject.

We need the vision of an eagle; flying high above all the sameness on the plain of published words and seeing something meaty and delicious, be willing to fold our wings into a death dive, down to where it is and bring it home.

Most of all, a writer must become a word lion; embracing our predator nature, staring down what we want and following it wherever it goes. Without shame or apology, we must set our sites on that feast of words and take it down; bloody truth and all; laying it out on paper to be devoured by our dinner guests, the readers.

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