I hear it all the time from my students and at the seminars and workshops I lead. The writers that I work with are excited to work with a “real" writer. Most people define a “real" writer as one who is published. Therefore I, with three published novels and innumerable newspaper and magazine articles under my belt, certainly qualify.
However, the longer I am involved in the business of professional writing and the teaching of writing the more I question that definition. For me, being a “real" writer is much more about a state of mind rather than a state of being. I believe very strongly that you need to become a real writer before you can become a published writer for I know that while most (if not all) published writers are real writers that the reverse is not necessarily true. I have known many real writers who have not yet been published but I believe they will be some day - if they just stick with it.
Real writers are made. No one is born to be a writer although many real writers are born with a drive or need to be a writer and this is certainly a help during the difficult times and challenges that all real writers face. A real writer requires five essential tools.
The first, and most important, is a unique writing process. In order to write well and effectively not to mention to grow as a writer, you must develop a writing process. A nonexistent, or inefficient, writing process can greatly hinder your ability to write but a writing process tailored to your unique strengths and weaknesses can make your writing stronger and easier.
The second element goes along with the development of your writing process. This is learning your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. What is the most difficult part of writing for you? What is the easiest? The more you know about your own writing then the better equipped you are to take advantage of the areas where you are strongest and to work on the areas where you are weakest.
Another essential element to becoming a real writer is criticism. Writers need to develop the skills necessary to be critical of their own work and to edit effectively. Most real writers also have a support network in place, such as a critique group or critical reader, to assist with this process.
Real writers also need to be readers. Writers must read a variety of authors and types of writing in order to learn more about the language, its structure, and its varied uses. Reading provides inspiration in terms of ideas but also language use and vocabulary. Real writers love language and words and cannot get enough of either. Real writers are readers.
The final essential ingredient for a real writer is a strong work ethic. Real writers practice their craft on a regular basis (usually daily). Some writers only write a few hours a day while others spend many hours writing. The length of time is not as important as a regular writing schedule that is only altered for major holidays or life-threatening illness. Even if you can only carve out an hour a day that is enough time to write a novel if that is your goal. The important part is making your writing a priority and giving your writing muscles a regular workout.
If you want to be a real writer then you must work on these five essential tools of the writing trade: individual writing process, knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, criticism, reading, and work ethic. Once you have mastered these five tools of the trade then you are on the way to becoming a real writer.
Deanna Mascle shares more Writers Resources in her Writing Journal and at http://word-craft.info