In a room full of people I would say that around eighty per cent have at least one book in them. And secretly, many of them have the desire to write it.
But should they?
Each of us has a unique fingerprint and this means that we are essentially one of a kind. So telling a story should be different for everyone. But this doesn’t ring true if you look at what is on offer out in the world of literature. Many people write what they think the industry wants, which comes out as clichéd, risk averse and often boring.
Having a good idea for a novel or an ‘interesting life’ for a memoir, does not make good writing, and even for a seasoned writer, the story that’s in your head doesn’t always translate onto the page as you would hope.
The main reason for this is that people think that they can bang out a story and – hey presto! – there’s a best seller. If only I had a dollar for every time someone came to me saying, ‘This is going to be a best seller’. If anyone could predict such a thing, we’d all be doing it.
I’m a huge advocate for new and emerging writers. And we do a lot of work with people through workshops and mentoring to help them improve their work. But at the heart of great writing is hard work. This is where the wanna-be writer will fall away – once they realise how much sweat and tears goes into it.
So what do you need to be a writer? Yes, there is the need for some talent but there are many out there who write great books on little talent because they put the work in. You need resilience, tenacity and an open mind because to make it in the writing world you will come up against rejection and naysayers over and over again. It will feel like ground hog day. You’ll also need to work and rework your writing until you are so sick of the sight of it that you may want to torch the whole damn lot.
If you asked a writer if they’d do all that work again on a novel they just brought out they may look at you like a crazy person but it’s a bit like childbirth. Once you have that baby in your arms, you forget all the pain and discomfort that went into making it. And then you go back and do it again.
So you want to be a writer? Be prepared to work hard. Don’t give up. And have that vision of yourself holding the baby in your arms.