Who writes? Anyone and everyone who has the urge.
Successful writers have come from cab drivers, waitresses, firemen, carpenters, teachers, lawyers, stockbrokers, doctors. Who is capable of succeeding? Every one of them. Story telling is a natural activity. Some of us just have the urge to get more deeply into it by putting it down on the page. Why? Because it takes us more deeply into ourselves. We experience ourselves in a deeper way than we can otherwise. It’s not for everyone, of course. But for those of us who have the bug, there’s nothing better.
What do you need? The nice thing is you have almost all of it already. It’s not like learning to play the piano or tap dance where you may not have had any experience with them before starting. With writing, you’re using what you already have, who you are, your imagination, your emotions and your experiences to create fictional characters or partially fictional characters and experiences. You’re ready-made for this because you experience yourself every minute, hour, day, and year of your life. That personal experience is what you use to write exciting, dramatic stories – even if you’re not writing about yourself.
What I’m saying is: Life experience is writing experience. After all, we’re creating real life on the page – even if it never happened. Even if a story has never and will never happen, if it’s written well, we live it and feel it along with the characters. If you jump in a scary movie or cry in a sad movie, you feel it’s happening to you. In your head, you know it’s a movie, but in your heart it’s absolutely real. You feel it’s real and feeling it is what every story is about.
Believe it or not, it’s that simple. And it’s important to keep it simple. The story craft is simple, direct, and easily understood. After all, we had stories long before we had the written word and maybe even before we had language. That caveman drawing pictures on his cave wasn’t doing interior decorating. He was creating and living an experience. And he wasn’t worried that he might not have enough imagination or enough talent or if his idea was good enough or what other people will think of it. He was carried away by something inside him. He was doing it for himself. Doing it for yourself, pleasing yourself, having the experience yourself is the best and only way to ensure that the person who reads you story will have the experience also.
So you have everything you need already. The catch is: You don’t need everything you have. To be successful you need to learn what to use and what to ignore. How do you do that? You simply practice and master the story craft. That will take you where you need to go in the most exciting and satisfying way.
Jerry Cleaver is author, ghostwriter, writing coach, creativity specialist, creator of Chicago’s famed Writers’ Loft, and author of Immediate Fiction – A Complete Writing Course (St. Martin’s Press). Before creating his workshops, he taught Professional Fiction at Northwestern University for ten years. Besides coaching writers to become successful authors one of his missions is helping beginning writers find the right agent and avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous agents, editors and publishers.