So You Want to Be a Writer…Now What?
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
I fell in love with writing at the age of four. My colourful doodles had a language of its own. I know because no one else understood it except me and my rambunctious imagination. My parents and teachers saw scribbles while I saw something else entirely: words.
Part of this fascination was rooted in the strict discipline my father instilled in the act of writing itself. When I was six, I was made to sit down at the dining table and “write out the alphabet”—pages and pages of it. And I wouldn’t be allowed to leave the table until my letters were legible and according to my father, well-written. I aimed to perfect each letter out of my own personal ambition, need for approval, and, well…my desire to go outside and ride my Big Wheel. This process lasted until I started to write in cursive, at which point, I no longer needed my father to stand over my shoulder. My penmanship had proved to evolve on its own out of years of dedication and practice.
And the writing continued. It began with journal entries in my TOP SECRET Holly Hobbie diary, short three-page stories and then some poems. I won my very first short story contest in grade three, published an article in the local newspaper, The Brampton Guardian, in grade four, performed in various Verse Speaking contests, and continued to write under my favourite tree. By then I couldn’t be stopped.
Internally, I simply declared I wanted to be a writer. Just like that. No aptitude tests. No counsellor meetings. No lengthy discussions with my parents, job placement agencies, or second opinions from friends. No. The seed of desire was planted and each step towards my future was a direct step to writing.
My mother and father would have preferred I study law or medicine so they were quite worried when I told them I had enrolled at York University to major in English Literature and Creative Writing.
So, you want to be a journalist?
No, I’m going to write stories.
What kind of stories? Like a hobby?
No, like a novel.
(If you’re an aspiring writer, then you’re familiar with this conversation.)
Writing is an act of courage in the face of criticism, rejection, failure, and sometimes social and financial destitution.
Still, there are those of us who feel called to it—regardless of the risks—-or maybe because of the risks. Whatever the reason, a writer is first and foremost, compelled.
So, what can we do with this compulsion?
For starters we can:
Office workers must get up to an alarm, get ready, commute, and be at their desks at the same time every day. If not, there are consequences as belittling as a warning, a bad review, or for repeated offenders, termination.
It’s no different for writers…with the exception that our commute can be much shorter than our office worker counterparts. They take the 401 or the Q.E.W. stretch while we need only drag our fuzzy slippers to the next room. If we’re really ambitious, we might even venture out into the world and sit at an over-priced cafe. I hate to mention any names, but (ahem—Starbucks!—) there are a few out there quite ready to welcome the latest aspiring writer who’s willing to spend a few hours and more than a few bucks on complicated coffee concoctions to stay awake—and to stay on the premises.
It doesn’t hurt to create a routine schedule set aside for writing. (Even if a large portion of it is used to search the Web for the latest news on the breakup-makeup status between Robert Pattinson and his
adulterous girlfriend, Kristen Stewart; to chat in #hashtag code on Twitter in order to be accounted for in its various book giveaway contests, or like my six-year-old self—doodle like mad.)
Just make sure it’s daily. The routine, that is. Make some time for your writing. And poof! A few pages will surely be filled. Do this often enough and you might catch yourself with your first full-length novel. (There really is only so much of the Pattinson-Stewart fiasco to keep you interested and distracted anyway.)
Find and collect motivational quotes about writing that you enjoy and resonate with personally. Print them in a journal or post them in the area where you write. When you’re lost in a daydream or bout of procrastination, or you just opened up your twenty-fifth rejection letter, look up! Read those quotes and then pick up your pen or jab away at your keyboard.
Write! Write! Write! It’s the “write” thing to do.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour