One of the questions I get a lot as a travel photographer is “how did you do it?”: people are curious how I manage to travel all the time. They think I’m either a millionaire, or have some sort of secret. I decided to write my travel secrets down, initially on my blog which eventually turned into a book about travel hacking. When that book turned into a number one bestseller, guess what question I got again? Right: “How did you do it?“.
What’s the first step to becoming an author?
You’d think it would be “write”, but it’s not. In speaking to other authors and from what I know of my own journey to becoming an author, the biggest obstacle for new authors is that they don’t think of themselves as authors. They have trouble developing the belief that they are authors. When you haven’t developed that belief, that conviction, it becomes a source of sabotage – you don’t value your work enough to give it the time and the space it needs. How do you come to think of yourself as an author? Here are a few tips:
What Happens When You Write?
Everyone has something to say and some even have a strong desire to say it. You may not know how you’re going to say it or in what form (poetry, novel, essay, etc.) but you know something is there. Pick up your pencil or pen, or sit down at your computer and write something. Whatever you write, just make sure your heart is in it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be neat. It does have to be expressive.
Next, as scary as it may be, you have to show this writing to someone. It can be a friend, it can be a family member. Then, pay attention to what happens. Did the person reading your work cry, laugh or maybe even get angry? If so, you did that! You invoked an emotion, and you have an impact with your writing. It’s worth at least something. Now you have to keep going!
A teenager recently wrote to me concerned her mother will read the fiction story she’s writing and might get upset because mom could think it’s a story about things the teenager actually did. Even if mom gets upset about a fictitious story, that means the young lady’s work is believable and effective. That kind of feedback is hard to ignore. It’s a powerful motivation to keep going. I once had an author say to me, “I don’t know if my stuff is any good. I just know that when people read it, they cry.” You can’t get a message any clearer than that kind of emotional response. You just have to listen to it, and keep writing.
If you’re having trouble thinking about what it is you have to say, it may help you to spend some time each day in silence. Some authors pray, others meditate. The idea is to get used to clearing your mind and tuning in to your inner voice. You’ll also be more aware of those little pieces of possibility floating around in your head that can later grow into big ideas.
What Do You Want to Write? Experiment!
It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to write about. It may take a long time journaling for you to see what keeps coming up for you. And it may take longer to find the form that fits you best. I went from journaling to articles before I settled on my current non-fiction travel theme. It took me years to do that. It doesn’t mean I won’t do anything else in future, but what I’m doing right now just fits with what I’m passionate about. I encourage you to experiment until you find the form that suits your writing best.
Continually Remind Yourself You Are an Author
As you develop your belief that you’re an author (and build the experience), it’s helpful to set up reminders that will bring you back to that mindset that you need to be in to write. When you sit down to write it’s easy to get distracted and starting thinking about doing laundry or what’s for dinner. You’ll want to have something either on your desk or on the wall in front of you that reminds you to get back to work and that you are a writer. A writing coach or being part of a writing course or program will also help keep you on track.
It might be your list of values that remind you that writing is a part of who you are. It may be simple words such as CREATE or INSPIRE. Isabel Allende, who writes historical novels will sit in her office with photos around her, old photos of people who essentially represent her characters so she’s surrounded by them. That puts her back into the mindset of her book because she is sitting in their world; these people are all around her.
What world do you need to be in? The journey you take to get there will be one of many you’ll take as a writer. I hope these ideas will help you take those first steps. What you write –and where you go from here –is entirely up to you.
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Wilko van de Kamp Author
WILKO VAN DE KAMP is the author of #1 international best seller The Freedom Project and several other books and e-books. He's also an award-winning photographic artist, and professional world traveler. His inspiration comes from traveling all over the world. He calls the Canadian Rocky Mountains his home, and the rest of the world his office. He has been capturing our wonderful planet, and it's beautiful inhabitants, for more than half his life. Wilko has spent his life traveling the world to capture awe-inspiring images for those who wouldn't see them otherwise, and to inspire others to embark on their journey of a lifetime. Through his art, writing and appearances as a keynote speaker he enjoys sharing his colorful experiences with the world. Visit him online at www.wilko.ca