Those of you who have been following my own blog (StrangePegs) for any length of time will know that my daughter plays the accordion.
Now, let's go back to the beginning:
Learning to play the accordion was her idea. It would never have occurred to us to suggest to any of our kids that they ought to learn to play the accordion. I mean, who does that, right? But my daughter decided that she wanted to learn to play it. Of course, that meant that she had to learn to play it and that's work. Playing the accordion is not just picking one up and jamming it in and out.
At first, for the first year or so, she hated going to lessons. She also hated practicing, but the real issue was that she hated going to lessons. She wanted to play the accordion, but she wanted to be able to do it without putting any work into it. [How many of you know that feel?] Eventually, she got over hating her lessons and dislikes when she has to miss them. She still hates practicing. Well, not always, I suppose, but there are days when it's a huge ordeal to get her to sit down and put in the half hour. It's work.
But she wants to be able to play the accordion, and that means doing the work.
And let me just throw in here that her teacher (who has been teaching the accordion for decades) says she's one of the best students she's ever had. She has a lot of natural talent and great expression (let me put that another way, in a way that may make more sense to you writers (and readers) out there: Her playing has great voice). Talent isn't enough, though, especially with music. It takes work.
Writing takes work, too, although I think a lot of people that want to be writers want to deny that part of it. They believe they can get by with picking up their pens and paper and just jamming them in and out.
Some of you are probably offended right about now, but I see it all the time on blogs of people that talk about how they want to be a writer. They say things like
1. I only write when I feel inspired.
2. I have such writer's block and haven't felt like writing, lately.
3. Writing should be your passion. If it feels like work, you shouldn't be doing it. Only write from passion.
There's this sort pervasive idealization about writing that it comes from the universe and just flows through human conduits and it should just pour out of you and be, well, easy. I think this idea is a stumbling block for a lot of "young" writers because, when they start to struggle (and everyone will struggle), they start to feel like maybe they just weren't "called" to be a writer. Because, according to the prevailing wisdom, it shouldn't be a struggle, right?
Look, there will be times when you're inspired and words pour out of your fingertips and those times are GREAT. AWESOME, even. But that's not the norm. Mostly, writing is work. At least it is if you want to be any good at it. Which is not to say that you can't become a popular writer while not being any good at it, because there are plenty of poor writers out there that, for whatever reason, became popular. However, if you want to be good, it takes work.
So, see, I'm not dissing inspiration and I'm not saying that it shouldn't be fun. I am saying that if you sit around waiting for inspiration and quit doing it when it's not fun, it's very unlikely that you will ever finish anything. The first step to being... I don't even know what to call it, so I'll just say "published author" because that's what most people mean, I think, when they say they have aspirations of being "a writer." So the first step to being a published author is finishing what you start writing, and that will, at some point, mean work. It will mean sitting down to your manuscript when you "don't feel like it" or when you'd rather be out "doing something fun." See, just by using that qualification (and I see people say that on their blogs a lot), you're implying that writing is not fun and, usually, what people mean by that is that it's, well, feeling like work. Which it is.
Being someone that has a few things published, I get asked a lot of questions about writing and what it's like, and I always start with "It's a lot of work" and "It's both harder and easier than you would think." So...
I'm not saying that you need to "take lessons," although you might, and I'm not saying that you need to practice half an hour a day, although you might; I am saying that, if you want to be "a writer" expect it to be a lot of work and persistence and perseverance (and, yeah, those are kind of synonyms, but I mean them in contextually different ways). What I'm saying is that if you're out there roaming blogs (or whatever) and seeing a bunch of stuff about how glorious writing is and how people feel like the universe is speaking through them and how writing is so easy and never a struggle, you can just be about 95% sure that those people are lying (Just 95% because, heck, maybe there are some people who never struggle to put words down because the universe really is speaking to them). Writing is work, so be prepared.
[Having said all of that, none of this applies to Briane Pagel for whom writing is always fun and who would never do it if it all resembled "work."]