It seems hard to believe I have been calling myself a writer for over fourteen years now. I knew in my teens that this was what I loved doing. Writing was my hobby, my calling, my career. As I look back on my journey as a writer, there is little I would do differently.
So if I could give my sixteen-year-old self some advice about writing, this is what I’d say:
- Go to conferences. I date the start of my “writing career” to the year I was sixteen and attended my first writer’s conference. I was the youngest writer there and in complete awe of all the writers I met, but they were a friendly, welcoming group who gave me tons of tips and advice. I’ve blogged often about conferences and how much I enjoy them; they are a chance to meet others in your field, learn a lot in a short amount of time, and be inspired. A few that I’ve enjoyed include the Victoria Writer’s Festival (fall), Write! Vancouver (coming up in May!), and the ICWF Fall Conference in Edmonton, Alberta (September). Find one near you and go!
- Join a writer’s group. I highly recommend Inscribe, which I’ve been a part of since I was sixteen. The Word Guild is another excellent Canadian Christian organization and you may also find smaller, local groups or online groups. A group of writers is valuable for sharing information, encouragement, accountability, ideas, and more.
- Read writing books. I used to browse the Writing section of Chapters (or any other bookstore) regularly. Ask other writers for advice about what books they’ve found useful or look for books related to an area of writing you know you are weak in. A few books I refer to regularly are Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins (a former UVic instructor) and Things Feigned or Imagined by Fred Stenson.
- Read. Read anything and everything. Read the genre you’re writing and the genre you don’t write. Read books that have won big prizes like the Giller and the Booker. Read the books published by people in your writer’s group. Read the books published by the writers speaking at all the conferences you’re going to. Read books by new writers and books by well-published authors. Read, read, read and learn to read critically, thinking about what works and what doesn’t and why it does or doesn’t.
- Write. Everyday. Write something. Write a journal. Write a story. Write a blog post or a letter or a poem. Try to set a writing schedule and get in the habit of writing regularly, daily. Write when you don’t feel like it and when you do. You’re a writer; write.
Are you a writer? At what point did you start calling yourself “writer”? And what advice would you give to other writers?