Off and Running

Okay, my little nuggets, put down the blankies and gather round. We’re going to take a moment to put together your writer’s toolbox. Before we start, take all those flowery romantic notions of what being a writer is and put them aside. This discussion is about the establishing a firm practical occupational foundation for your writing endeavors.

First off, ask yourself why you want to be a writer. There are a number of hard questions that you should ask yourself:

1) Am I in it for the money?
If you are writing in hopes of landing that million dollar book deal, disabuse yourself of the notion right now. Less than 3% of all published authors make enough money to actually live on their earnings from books, stories, and articles. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, just that it’s a hard road to make a living at and if money is what you want, there are better and easier ways to get it.

2) Do I really want this or am I just playing at it?
This is an important one because the answer will shape how you proceed. If you are in love with giving yourself the title and not willing to commit to the Craft, ultimately you may find yourself frustrated and not able to finish anything. I see Writing as a calling, something that you need to do and are willing to put in the hours, isolation, and effort to achieve. Anything less is doing yourself a disservice.

3) Am I willing to learn?
Becoming a better writer means constantly striving to improve your craft. It means being flexible enough to try new things, new methods, and most of all, expanding your comfort zone to incorporate what you learn and experiment with. Some things will work, some won’t, and that’s okay.

4) Am I good enough?
Only you can answer this one so answer honestly and truthfully to yourself. You have to believe that you are good enough even when there may be a Greek Choir behind you telling you that you are wasting your time, you aren’t good enough, and nothing will come of your efforts. Tune these people out, you don’t need that kind of negativity. What’s happening in most of these cases are people feeling threatened by your striving to move out of their perception of you. Define your path.

Now then, let’s get to that Writer’s Toolbox:

1) Dictionary
I prefer to have a hardcopy version whenever possible because it represents stability. Plus, it looks cool on the desk.

2) Thesaurus
There will always be a time when you need an alternate word for something and it’s better to reach for a hardcopy version than opening up your browser. You should be writing anyway, not web surfing. Discipline.

3) Grammar Guide
Self-Explanatory.

4) Notepad and Pen/Pencil
There will always be a time when you need to jot down a note to yourself about a story idea that you want to explore in greater detail later. Not to be confused with the next item on the List.

5) Writing Instruments
I’ve saved the best for last here. This is the most important part of your writing toolbox because this is where the magic is created. Pen and Paper (separate from the Notepad) is the most basic of all writing instruments, but if you have aspirations of sharing your work with the world (and you should), you will need to invest in either a typewriter (they still exist, but rare), word processor (same), or a computer (either a desktop or a laptop for mobility). I’m not a fan of writing on a tablet or a phone because the workspace is too small and no self-respecting writer composes prose on a screen the size of a postage stamp.

I should state here that I am expressing my opinion, one that I have cultivated over the past 25 years of writing. Feel free to add to this list and use what you find useful. Thanks, Guys, for your time.

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