Wanna be a writer?
As writers, we learn to avoid clichés at all cost. (Oops, there's a cliché) But there is one cliché we should never forget.
You can talk about writing, take classes about writing, think about writing, get together with other writers and discuss writing. You can even book passage to the next major writing conference or convention and lose yourself for days learning about writing and meeting writers and readers. But even at those events, you'll notice that real writers write.
At the recent Left Coast Crime in Honolulu, this maxim was on full display. I kept hearing people saying things like, "I couldn't make the early-morning panel because I had to finish my thousand words."
As with all such events, there were wannabes in attendance. That is to be expected and desired. If you want a career as a writer, you need to sample these things, meet the serious writers, and see what makes them tick. (Oops, another cliché)
If you're paying attention at such an event, you'll notice that a large proportion of the most successful writers (try 100%) write continuously, devoting a substantial portion of every day or week to writing. Not talking about it. Doing it.
If you look at successful writers, you'll find that the only thing they all have in common is that they've written a lot of books. (Yes, there are exceptions, but they are very rare. And some of them aren't really exceptions, i.e., the one book wonder who turns out to have written two dozen novels under a pseudonym.)
At Left Coast Crime, I hosted a panel with four of the finalists for Best Humorous Mystery award. Between these four writers, they'd written a combined total of 60 mysteries. It doesn't take much arithmetic expertise to figure out that these writers have together put in something like 30 to 60 years of full time work writing.
What is the hallmark of a successful brain surgeon? She's done lots of surgery. What makes for the kind of pilot who can put a plane with dead engines down on a river without losing a single passenger? Lots of flying. How did that fabulous waitperson get so good at waiting tables? Waiting a lot of tables. How in the world does a figure skater learn to do a triple salchow? By putting in more hours at the rink than you can count.
So if you want to be a writer... Yep, pay attention to that cliché.