I want to write – but I don’t know if I really can. How do I figure this out?
We’ve all been there, wondering if we have enough inside our heads and hearts to share, and whether we could write out our thoughts reasonably well.
While it’s true that some writers are born with a gift, many, many other people must work at it through study, practice and sharing. Even the rare “natural writers” seek to learn, and teach, the craft. Just as visual artists, musicians and performers—at every level of talent—have the capacity to fulfill their dreams, writers can learn self-expression through step and misstep. So can you. If there is anything I’ve learned through the Seven Bridge writing groups at Thayer Memorial Library it is this: everyone has a voice. And, like any new instrument, it needs to be exercised to achieve the best sound. Without work, the best natural gift is wasted.
Human beings have always sought to express themselves artistically. From cave drawings and ancient myths to today’s multi-dimensional works of art, people strive to communicate what lies inside to the world outside them. If you want to try writing, here are some practical steps to get started:
1. Sign up for a writing group at the library. They are available for beginners to advanced writers. And, they are free.
2. Read Pat Schneider’s “Writing Alone and With Others,” the text our writing groups follow. Highly recommended as well are Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and “The Right to Write.” Cameron offers gentle encouragement and effective steps to get your thoughts aligned in an artistic way.
3. Attend any writing sessions that appeal to you. Seven Bridge and Thayer Memorial Library offer regular workshops on craft, as well as appearances by authors and coaches. Or, explore Grub Street, the writing collaborative headquartered in Boston (www.grubstreet.org), offering multiple opportunities to learn and practice the craft of writing. Attending such events also introduces you to others like yourself—and there is safety, and encouragement, in numbers.
4. Look for writing courses at the junior college level. As an example, Mount Wachusett Community College, in Gardner and Leominster, offers courses in fiction, writing and publishing skills. They range from free—if you are a senior citizen taking a for-credit course—to a less than $100, and cover areas like the short story, fiction writing, computer use, self-publishing and, should your career need a boost, cocktail mixing.
5. Read online. There is simply an endless resource in the internet. Searching for “how to write” alone will bring up dozens of free advice tools and sources of inspiration. As a tool, the online world offered by the internet is astounding.
6. Learn grammar. Bad grammar won’t stop you from writing, but it will stop others from reading. Take a course, read a grammar book, or do what I do (still, with several decades of experience): keep a roster of grammar books on hand.
7. Check out or buy some of the books for writers. Here are a few favorites:
“Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lay,” Richard Lederer and Richard Dowis;
“Woe is I,” Patricia O’Conner;
“The Constant Art of Being a Writer,” N.M. Kelby;
“The Making of a Story,” Alice LaPlante;
“The Power to Write,” Caroline Joy Adams;
“Bird by Bird,” Anne Lamott;
“On Writing,” Stephen King;
“The Writer’s Way,” Sara Maitland;
“Write Away,” Elizabeth George;
“Putting Your Passion Into Print,” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry.
(More craft books are listed under The Writers' Bookshelf above.)
8. Finally: Don’t quit on yourself—keep trying no matter what to uncork that bottle of life inside you.