Most people can write to some extent, just as most people can walk. However, those who walk don’t claim to be able to trek across the world, while I’ve heard many people say, “I could write a screenplay” or “I have a book in me”.
If you want to start writing, you should. It’s the only way to see if it suits you and if you have the drive and patience for it. Writing regularly is a great form of self-expression and hones the mind. Writing for a living, however, is a very different endeavour. Practise, focus and commitment are vital. Whether trekking the globe or writing well, you have to show up on a daily basis, be open to learning (and criticism) and work hard.
When it comes to writing, we often only imagine the finished product, edited and flowing on the page. For the uninitiated it can appear deceptively easy to recreate. Perhaps if they saw the moments when writers pace their rooms, mad-eyed, trying to structure a cunning plot, or spend days coming up with the names of mythical towns to find they’ve been copyrighted by someone else… they may understand. It can also take years to write and edit a manuscript in amongst the bustle of normal life. Perhaps that’s why, out of the 80% of people who say they would like to write a novel, only 1% do*.
If you’re still interested (and of course you are), it helps to move away from the romantic ideas associated with writing in order to just get on with it. Giving it all up to be an ‘artist’ is not very practical. For those who don’t know what it’s like to be poor, it’s not a happy state and certainly not conducive to creativity. Moreover, creativity doesn’t necessarily flood your mind carrying you to a dreamlike, art-producing state. Sometimes it is the most meagre trickle and you have to harness it nonetheless – particularly where deadlines are concerned.
Working through self-doubt is also important. When dreaming of writing, rather than doing it, your talent can seem far greater than it actually is. We all do this by the way. Before I’ve even lifted my pen, I imagine the glowing reviews or being on set as they shoot my script. But when faced with the reality of clunky phrases, heavy exposition or clichéd characters, self doubt marches in and shouts “I told you so!” and it can put both the fledgling (and the more seasoned) writer off altogether. What the sensitive creative must know is that writing is a process of self-discovery. It is also both art and craft and must be practised in order to become wonderful.
So, do write and write often. Be strict with your time, debunk the myths and get on with it! (It is actually really great.)
And for more ideas: this frank, amusing blog entry from Chuck Wendig is perfect for giving aspiring writers a good kick! http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/21/25-things-i-want-to-say-to-so-called-aspiring-writers/
*at least in the US where I found this figure several times.