I am a 21-year-old highschool dropout from Eastern Europe, and I want to write stories for a living. In English. That’s a mad dream, isn’t it?
It will certainly not be easy. Three years ago I did not know more English than the average non-native Internet user. During childhood I have not read any books. At school I studied mostly French – we rarely had a stable English teacher. I have not inherited many writerly genes – my parents did not go to college, nor had their parents. And I never had a mentor – my father died when I was little. On top of that, when I made up my mind to learn English to write a novel I was also depressed.
Over the last three years I have taught myself English, by reading literature and non-fiction books, and especially by writing. Now I can type floccinaucinihilipilification properly, and know the difference between which and witch, which I did not know when I started.
Now I can earn a living as a freelance writer. I don’t make much, but it’s enough for my ascetic lifestyle. The good part is that I work only a few hours a day, and I can devote my best hours to writing my story.
I write because I need to create an alternative world to which I can escape when I have to. I am painfully shy. I don’t feel well outdoors, in crowded places. That’s why I did not really fit in anywhere as a child, and I was unhappy. And then something was always missing.
As I grew, I confused the thing I needed with teamspirit of football, with the illusions of appearances, with fun of videogames, and then for a little while, with the charms of an older woman.
But I still did not find what was missing and this made be sad, so sad that I grew fond of rooftops. I became depressed. It was during those times that I stumbled upon books in English, and they helped me escape from my woes. And the more I read the more I wanted to read, until I felt the howling urge to write stories.
Oliver and Katherine
I have not yet tried to publish anything. This year I wrote a 85,000-word novel called Oliver and Katherine, about a moonbeamed painter and an icy arts patron. I am still tinkering with it. I plan to let go of it early next year, so I can start writing my other, bigger story.
I will make Oliver and Katherine available online for free, as an e-book. Maybe it will land me a deal with a publisher, maybe it will make me immortal, or maybe nobody will ever read it. Anything can happen.
There are many books out there worth reading, and many writers better than me. And yet that does not daunt me. That’s because I see writing not as a competition with other writers, but as a struggle to get the best out of yourself. It does not really matter who you are or where you live, so long as you are ready for the struggle you can write a story.
As you can see, this did not turn out to be a step by step guide on how to become a writer. I am young and somewhat unwise, but even I can tell that there is no easy guide, no simple shortcut, no secret or special formula to writing a great story, or to doing anything in this life.
Those successful few have struggled to get where they are now. The more you struggle, the greater your chances of succeeding.
Becoming a Writer
You become a writer when you understand that you are among those few who, to have peace of mind, need to write daily. And when you understand that you begin the struggle with yourself and start writing your story.
And you do your best, and you hope for the best. And you don’t think about publishing or about marketing until you’re done, because all those distract you from your story.
Once you have your story, anything can happen. And if the worst happens, then you will be sad, but you will not regret what you did, because the writing helped you understand yourself better.