In recent weeks I have had multiple people ask me how I became a writer. What they really mean to ask is how I came to be paid to be a writer. If you write, you are a writer. Ever watch Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit? Whoopi Goldberg will tell you all about it. Yes, after watching that movie I did read Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer Maria Rilke) and yes, I took it to heart.
I was a writer before ever getting paid for it and I will continue to be one until the day I die. I love it. It has helped me during hard times. It has given me focus when I had none. It has made me happy.
But I will say that it's not for everyone. You don't get paid for shit most of the time. People tell you how much you suck or worse just reject you outright without a reason. An accomplishment is seeing your name in a byline. A bigger accomplishment is being paid anything -- and that doesn't even have to equal monetary value. You do it for the love of it and the extra push to get to that next big thing which hopefully at the end is an awesome book deal and a million loyal fans who die for your next novel.
But the first thing about being a writer is to really acknowledge that is what you are. Either you are or you aren't. It's not an elite status that you have to achieve. If you write, you feel it in your bones, you love it, you are a writer. Don't wait for someone to validate that for you.
Also, understand going in that unless you are a genius prodigy, and a lucky one at that, that you will not be making a million dollars for the first thing you publish. You may NEVER make a million dollars and you have to be ok with that. You have to still enjoy it. You have to appreciate the struggle, sounds weird, but it's true.
Writing makes you grow a backbone. Not everyone is going to like what you write. But you have to stand behind what you put out. You have to accept that maybe every single thing you write isn't the next best thing and you are becoming a better writer over time. But you also have to have the confidence to defend your work and know your value. Sometimes you will be the only one in your corner.
One person asked me if I ever run out of ideas to write about and I told her I never did. I have ideas on sticky notes, in my planner, in my dreams. I have an endless supply of ideas because a lot of them aren't that great, but I always have one to work on. I have a backup to the backup.
First piece of advice to new writers -- you have to make it part of your life. Not something that you think about from time to time, but a habit. Even if it's only for ten minutes a day, get it down. Start a journal. Start a blog. Write. It. Out. It's great. I have yet to accomplish all my writing goals, but the journey is a fulfilling one.