Want to be a Writer? Then WRITE
by Robison Wells
At the time I was in college, working on a history/political science degree, and my brother (fellow YA author Dan Wells) was working on an English degree. At the time, he was very serious about writing and had always planned on a career as an author, but writing was very new to me: I simply had an idea for a book, and was casually telling him about it. The advice that he gave to me then, which has been more useful than any other advice I've ever heard, is this: "Everyone says they have an idea for a book. Everyone says that one day they're going to sit down and write the Great American Novel. The difference between writers and everybody else is that writers actually do it. Writers sit down, put pen to paper, and work. They WRITE."
And in the last thirteen years, I can truly say that whenever I have followed that advice, things have gone well. And when I have not followed that advice--when I've spent too long fiddling around with worldbuilding, or taking some time off to "relax", or getting caught up in the business side of writing--my productivity and personal happiness has always suffered.
I suffer from mental illness (from a whole pantheon of mental illnesses, actually), which has made writing very difficult at times, but I can still honestly say that forcing myself to write--even when the writing is terrible--has always been good for me in the end. It keeps me positive, and it keeps my head in the game. It keeps my skills sharp, and it gives me drive to continue moving forward.
So that's my advice: WRITE. And then finish what you're writing, and then write some more. And then some more after that. It may sound like simple, obvious advice, but I'm amazed at how effective it is. I go to a lot of annual writers conferences, and it's easy to spot the writers who are going to be successful: they're the ones who, after not seeing them for a year, tell you about the two manuscripts they've finished since the last conference. They're the ones who talk about getting up at four in the morning to get two thousand words written before they go to work. They're the ones with active writing groups, where they present chapters every single week, no matter what.
I realize that it's not very creative advice. It's not some secret revelation that will awe and thrill you. But I guarantee that it's more effective than any gimmick, more reliable than any trick, and will lead to more success than any other single piece of advice. Just write, and write, and write some more.