Grüezi, essay writers. Over the weekend, Writer Abroad taught a course at the Zurich Writers Workshop called Miniature Memoir: How to Write and Publish Personal Essays.
Here are eight things you need to become a successful writer:
Excellent command of language
This is obvious, but if you can’t write a sentence and don't care to revise it between 4-104 times, you need not apply to be an essay writer.
Do you sit your butt in a chair almost every day and write? There’s no lightning bolt, so if you wait for it, you’ll be one of those writers who always dreams of being a writer but never becomes one. Treat writing like a job and it will become one. Treat writing like a hobby and it will remain a hobby.
You must want to write more than anything. Why? Because almost anything else is easier, even bioengineering. A book (or sadly, even an essay) can take years to write. If you can do something else, do it. If you can’t, congrats, you’re a writer. Now sit in the chair and believe in yourself (see number four). If you don’t have discipline, all the desire in the world doesn’t matter.
When do others believe in you? More often than not, after you first believed in yourself. Don’t be afraid to call yourself a writer—as long as you’re writing almost daily and you consider it your job—even if you’ve yet to be paid for your work. Believe and it will happen. Wait for others to approve you and it won't.
Sorry, but rejection is a part of the writing life. If you’re not being rejected, you’re not putting your writing out there enough. And you must not only deal with rejection gracefully, you must bounce back from it. Often rejection isn’t personal, so move on fast. Rejected? Send the piece to someone else. Do it. Now.
Any kind of writing takes a lot of courage—but personal essay writing and memoir probably takes the most. Because you can’t hide behind the façade of another character when the main character is you. The more personal your writing is and the more you’re scared to tell a certain story, the better it probably is. Good luck with that.
Separation from the page
You must be able to separate writing about your life from your actual life. This is very important when it comes to personal essays. Remember: when you put yourself on a page, it’s a portrayal of yourself. It is NOT you.
An ability that allows you to never read the comments
Do not click. Do not feel compelled to click. You should not care what JohnBoy123 thought about your piece. Be able to talk to the world at the same time you ignore it. Then you’ll have the courage it takes to put the next piece out there because you won’t still be questioning the comment from HeyImABitchYo about the latest piece you wrote.