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How to: Be a Writer in One Fantastically Simple Step

by Leigh Shulman Nov 5, 2009
Join a growing community of thousands of travel journalists and develop your skills in travel writing, photography, and film with a course at MatadorU.

The only thing that separates a real writer from a non-writer is writing. Do you put pen to paper, use a typewriter, on a computer? Then you’re a writer. If you don’t write, then you’re not.

You can tell yourself it’s more complicated, but it’s not. Want to be a writer? Write, even just ten minutes, every day. Done.

Some other tips to get you going.

When You Don’t Have Anything Specific To Say, Freewrite

Sit down and write for ten minutes without stopping. Don’t erase anything. Don’t edit. If you make a mistake, just move onto the next line and keep going. If you can’t think of anything to say, say that. If you feel stupid, write it down. I promise by the end of ten minutes, you will find something you like developing in front of you.

Do Away With Judgment

Good or bad mean nothing. The only purpose putting such labels on your writing serves is to slow you down and separate you from what’s on the page. If you’re having trouble with this, go back to tip one and freewrite.

Keep A Journal.

Mine is a red, unlined Moleskine. In it, you’ll find, photos, drawings, to-do lists and various random thoughts. Your goal is to get things down down on paper.

Journals have two purposes. They become a repository of your ideas, somewhere to turn when you’re looking for something to write about. It also helps you shift from ideas in thought-only to ideas on paper. It’s all about practice.

Finish What You Start

Ok, so you’re writing. Now it’s time to finish something. It can be a short story, a poem, an new article. Just finish. Most writers doubt themselves at some point, and many allow their doubt to leave half-written works strewn about behind them. Truth is, it’s far worse to never finish then to write something awful. At least something awful is real, it has weight and meaning. The unfinished short story means nothing at all.

If you find yourself not-finishing, stop writing new things. Sure, put your notes in your journal, you can return to them later. But don’t sit down to work on anything new until you have finished something old.

Then you’re ready to publish, which is an entirely different game from the writing, and that, too, is much easier than you think. *The travel writing course from MatadorU gives you access to freelance leads for paid travel writing, travel jobs, and press trips, as well as connections to travel editors at Matador and beyond.

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