Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Become a Writer

From time to time, people ask how I got started writing, especially if they also want to write. Let me give you some background on myself. I got laid off from IBM several years ago and decided to take an early retirement rather than another job in Corporate America. I've always done a lot of writing, both for work (documentation, manuals, user guides) & personal (journals, letters, stories, family stories), so it seemed like a good time to see if I could actually BE a writer.

I took some classes at the University of Chicago in Creative Writing & Memoir Writing, then a Success Team from Barbara Sher. I also joined the Association of Personal Historians (APH), which I recommend highly. For the last four years, I’ve been writing life stories for clients, in addition to my own family stories and my book, and giving writing workshops at schools and organizations.

It took me over a year to write my book in conjunction with the year-long WriteSpeak program with Barbara Sher. I self-published my book, Granny’s Guide to Fun & Fabulous Family Stories, so I could use it for my workshops. With traditional publishers, it can take two years or more from the time you sign a contract until you have the book in your hands. I couldn’t wait that long for my purposes.

It may help to take some writing classes to get started, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The important thing is to start writing. Here are some suggestions:
• Get yourself a notebook to use as a writing journal and jot down ideas, like something vivid that you remember from your 14th birthday, for example. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling or anything, just write a little every day.

• Read writing magazines, such as Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers or The Writer. HINT: When you subscribe to any of them, you’ll start to FEEL like a writer.

• Read all the books you can get your hands on, especially the ones related to your own field of interest. Pay attention to how the author develops the story, regardless of whether it is fiction or non-fiction. What do you like or not like about the writing?

• Read blogs (web logs) related to your interests and consider starting your own blog at a free site like, or on your website, such as mine at Write about what you know and what you’d like to know.

• Write something every day. Get into the habit of making notes about topics that interest you and plan future articles, blogs, stories, etc.

Most of all, just write!

What do YOU want to write about? I’d love to hear about it.

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