On Being a Writer: Making the Dream Come True – Step One.

I watched – with appalled fascination – some of the early trials for American Idol. It was eye-opening to see so many thousands of young people with impossible dreams: all wanted to be stars. There were so many of them that, if all succeeded, there would be no one left to listen. No audience for tens of thousands of singers…

And some of them were beyond terrible, yet didn’t seem to know it. Some were devastated when they were weeded out, as if life was now over. It was both pathetic and frightening. Rather like reading about the poll they did of British school kids some time back, asking them what they wanted to be. By far the most common answer was “popstar” or similar; even, with delicious vagueness, “celebrity”.

That was the sum total of their ambition? Do they have any idea of what they are asking for? Any idea that it’s not the fame that’s important, but the love of music? Any idea of the hard work it normally takes to be that successful? Maybe that’s one of the attractions of American Idol or similar shows – it seems like such a shortcut. Add water and stir: instant fame, without the hard stuff. Unhappily, there are also a lot of writers out there with unrealistic expectations too. Who want the fame without the work.

So, if you want to be a writer, should you hold on to that dream? Because here’s the first unpleasant truth: not all of you out there dreaming are going to make it. Not even those of you who work damn hard. Not even those of you who have talent. Not even one in five thousand of you.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. But there is something else that is even more important, and you should never forget it: it doesn’t matter if the dream doesn’t come true. Why not? Because you are loving the journey. Because what really matters is the love of writing. If you don’t have that, then you shouldn’t be doing this. You’ll be like one of those young singers, dreaming not of the song, but of the celebrity.

So how can you make the dream come true?

Here’s step one and it’s the simplest one of all, and the most fun, and yet it is also the most important:

Buy New Books. Read. Teach your kids to read. Read to them at bedtime every night. Buy books for your grandkids. Give books as gifts to your friends and family. Ask for books as presents for yourself. Raise generations of readers.

Yeah, that’s right. Publishers are in a business. If they don’t make lots of money, they won’t sign up lots of new authors – of which you might be one. So that’s the first step you can take down the road to being an author.

Told you it was simple.


On Being a Writer: Making the Dream Come True – Step One. — 9 Comments

  1. This is my first visit to your blog, and I must say that I was impressed with the content. I am a 20 year old first year university student, and I found your words very inspiring. It seems that you have a very good grasp on what it means to set goals for yourself, and enjoy the events leading up to attaining them. In a world such as ours is now – instant gratification or bust, it is very refreshing to see someone who has the right idea on how life ought to be. Concepts such as work ethic, personal development and even the importance of strong reading skills seem to be fading at an alarming rate, and are being replaced by quick fixes. Your wisdom was appreciated.

  2. I agree with your what you say about kids reading. I’ve lost count of the money I’ve spent on books for my kids. I used to read to them for at least an hour a day when they were little, and now they are always reading something. All 3 like to dabble in writing as well, with my 14 year old up 15,000 words in a novel she is writing ‘just for fun’. It beats playing computer games.

  3. Thank you afxtwin. It is good to know that sometimes I can say something that resonates. The trouble is that so often one is preaching to the converted anyway…

    You are right, Sirius – it does beat computer games. My kids played them a bit, but mostly the games lost out to the attraction of a good book. It’s just that the books have to come in the beginning.

    Ah bookshelves. Did you know that there is a Bookplanck’s Law that states that “an empty bookshelf attracts books to full capacity within 1% of one third of the square root of the time it took to earn enough to buy said bookshelf”? Which is usually about a week. Sigh.

  4. Well CG is good for relaxation, something to do with your hands that doesn’t require much thinking. Since I don’t have TV, that’s pretty much the only entertainment I have.

  5. That’s not really entertainment. There’re very few books I can read these days without picking on the flaws. But at least with a game I can still play it and feel the magic. I’ve no idea how games are made so I don’t notice the flaws. But with books.. 😛

  6. Anyway, does anyone _dream_ of being a writer ? anyone who does probably needs to see a psychiatrist. Long hours, uncertain prospects, no money.. people dream about that ? right now the fuse box in my house just tripped again, and I have to figure out what happened. And stuff is due in a week. So I have the guts of the PC on the table, and I’m hoping against hope that I don’t have to replace the power supply, because that’s going to seriously eat into finances. If this keeps up I may have to sell stuff. Tell me again why anyone would dream of this 🙂

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