Six Steps to Becoming a Pro Writer

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” ~Somerset Maugham

If you think you are a victim of writer’s block, you are not alone. In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes Resistance as the biggest enemy of all creative artists and defines it as the negative force that prevents or stops us from doing anything worthwhile.

Fortunately, Pressfield provides a practical solution to defeat Resistance. The essence of his advice is to develop a professional attitude towards our creative work—to turn pro. To do this, we must apply the principles of our workday life to our artistic aspirations.

If you want to get rid of writer’s block, you need to borrow these qualities from your professional life:

1. Write every day
We go to office every day whether we feel like it or not. We show up every day; otherwise, we won’t get paid. We must apply this same discipline to our artistic aspirations. Like Stephen King, we must show up, sit down and write every single day.

2. Write until the allotted time is up
Once we reach the office, we stay on until closing time. We may want to leave early but we resist the urge. We do what we are paid to do. We prove our long-term commitment every day. An effective way to write daily is to set a timer. Don’t quit until the timer goes off.

3. Write for money
Just as we accept remuneration for our labor, we must write with the specific aim of publication and payment. Unless we consider our work worth payment, no one else will. Don’t quit your day job just yet but when you sit down to write, pretend you have.

4. Master the technique of writing
We must learn the craft of writing. This includes learning the basic rules of grammar and the elements of craft especially structure and pacing. As Wallace Stegner says, “Many things in writing are best learned in the laboratory of pen, paper, and wastebasket.”

Later, we have to learn how to use the suggestions and criticism from fellow writers, editors, and agents to improve our writing skills. We would do well to heed J. B. Priestely’s advice: “Write as much as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument.”

5. Have a sense of humor about your writing
A sense of humor is our greatest ally in dealing with all the rejection letters we are likely to receive from editors and publishers. Don’t take rejection personally. We all have to deal with rejection, even seasoned writers like A.S King, who said, “My theory is, if I’m not getting a rejection every week, I’m not working.”

6. Don’t hesitate to ask for help
Whenever we need a favor at work, we don’t think twice before calling a colleague or friend for help. Similarly, when we are stuck in our writing, we must seek help from others. Also, you should consider joining an online writing forum or local critique group so that you can get support from other writers and help them in return.

If you think you are a victim of writer’s block, you are probably thinking like an amateur about your writing. After all, have you ever heard of “architect’s block” or “cook’s block” or “mechanic’s block”? Turning pro is an act of will. Make up your mind to become professional about writing and just do it!

13 July 2011


Rohi Shetty is a medical doctor, Vipassana meditator, writer, editor, translator and blogger. His short stories and articles have been published online and in print.

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