I was five years old when I decided I wanted to be a writer. To be fair, most people don’t find their calling that early in life. But the passion and fascination I’ve had for books, the literary world, and the arts, never left me. Now, as Moncton’s inaugural Anglophone Poet Laureate, a professional editor & writing consultant, as well as the host of the Attic Owl Reading Series, the writing world is my entire life. But what I want to say to you is, that this is my journey and you don’t need to be any of these things to be a writer. So in addition to the essential things like taking writing courses, to be a real writer, you only need these three things:
- Know thyself as a writer
- Be willing to grow (into) your craft
- Above all, write you
So, what am I talking about? To know yourself as a writer is just that. Know what you write, or want to write, and know your voice. Do you want to publish, or are you content writing for yourself? Both have value. Also, be open to change because writing, like life, often takes us on journeys we could never predict.
That is why the willingness to grow applies to all writers. Don’t be afraid to reach out to experienced writers or editors and learn from them, or take writing workshops. Be prepared for feedback and revision. Knowing how you receive constructive criticism is also important. It’s not easy to offer up a piece of yourself to a stranger; try to listen to their point of view with grace. But also listen to your gut. Not your ego, your instincts. Your ego will sulk or be angry, your instincts will say “I believe in this piece. If my work is being misread, what do I have to do to make my idea shine?” Keep in mind that mentoring is a relationship. Find someone you are compatible with, who you can share with. A good mentor will hear you and be open to discussion.
Read living writers. Their many voices will inspire you. Their relationships with language will teach you how to value and execute your ideas. They will give you confidence, and possibly make you despair of ever writing something so beautiful or gutsy. But that will still motivate you. You cannot grow if you don’t read.
That’s why reading and writing are synonymous. Writing isn’t just an intellectual or artistic practice, it’s for the soul as well. Every time you write, or you read, you are exploring your relationship with yourself, your community, or the world. Improving your writing skills only brings you more insight and ability.
Now, writing you. There are so many myths out there about how to write and who can write. Pfffft. You wanna write? So write. Engage with your ideas and your voice. That is the most crucial thing: to actually write. Will it be lacking in some of the finer elements of great writing? You betcha. But we all start there, no exceptions. Even the naturally talented hit a plateau pretty quickly. I often tell my clients it’s better to have a poem or short story that misses the mark but is wholly yours. After all, there is something admirable in each of us, so why wouldn’t you want to engage with what makes you uniquely you?
So, how do you become a real writer? You keep in mind that writing is a lifelong journey, as you grow, your writing grows. And above all, write you. The world already has a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Margaret Atwood, a Pablo Neruda. Perfect your craft and people will want to read you. So that’s what you must do. Just sit down and write you.
Kayla Geitzler, MA
Visit Kayla’s website kaylagwrites.com to explore her writing services, workshops, and masterclass courses. To register for her $25 spring writing workshops or join her 5-week March poetry masterclass course, Surfacing the Great Poetry Within You, visit her Facebook page. All are welcome.