How To Become an Author

Written by Scott Wilson

how to become a writer

The simplest and truest answer to the question of how to become a writer is this: write.

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.

Writers write. It’s the defining characteristic of the breed. It’s the advice that you will hear from almost every writing workshop, every published author, every coach and guru. Nothing more is required and nothing less is necessary for anyone who feels the impulse to become a writer.

Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.

Yet writers are in constant search of shortcuts. Everyone wants to know the secrets of great authors. People who feel pulled to writing want to understand what it takes, and what it means, to be a real writer.

Still, professional writers consistently offer the same answer:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.


The good news is that there are no secrets to becoming a writer, or even a creative writer. You’ll be committing to those same two disciplines to become a writer, no different from King, the Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, and every other writer you’ve ever respected or heard of.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Learn How to Become a Creative Writer in Your State


The Formula for Becoming a Writer Is a Simple One… Which Only Leads to More Questions

Becoming a writer is a surprisingly popular ambition, though it’s hard to put exact numbers on it. In 2021, Yale University reported a record number of enrollments in their creative writing programs. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs has grown from 12 member schools in 1967 to over 500 today. Those programs regularly fill up.

A lot of people want to become writers. If it were easy, of course, more of those people would be collecting royalties on bestsellers, and fewer would be asking Google how to become a writer.

The real obstacle may be a lack of clarity in the question.

In Douglas Adams’ science-fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he writes of a vast supercomputer designed specifically to calculate the ultimate answer to “life, the universe, and everything.” After millions of years of calculation, it arrives at an answer: 42.

If learning that the answer to becoming a writer is just to read and write seems unsatisfactory, it’s time to take a closer look at the question itself.

Like the scientists in Hitchhiker’s, it turns out that you first need to ask a different question:

How Do You Define What a Writer Is?

Nearly everyone can write. But that doesn’t make everyone a writer. Nobel-prize winning author and playwright Thomas Mann might have put it best:

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

It’s harder for writers to write because writers are people who take writing more seriously. While the average person might think nothing of dashing off a text message or jotting a quick note, a writer will agonize, analyze, and revise even the most trivial bits of writing. Writers are people who understand the gravity of the written word.

It’s a hazardous business to try to sort out people who write from people who are writers. Almost everyone draws that line a little differently, basing it on factors such as:

But most writers themselves don’t care much about how other people define what it takes to be a writer. You know what your writing goal is; you just want to know how to achieve it.

That common point is what we’ll use here as the definition of a writer: being a writer means being someone who is serious about their writing goals.

Are Writers Born or Made?

toddler writingIt’s a constant debate in the literary community. Are writers born or made? Do you need to emerge from the womb with the seeds of talent planted in you, or is skill in writing acquired through preparation and study? Nature versus nurture.

There’s no scientific answer to the question, but you can take a scientific perspective based on many other fields of expertise that have been extensively studied. And that tells us that it’s probably both. Everyone comes to the table with a certain genetic talent toward storytelling and composition, large or small.

But as the prime directive of becoming a writer suggests, whatever that talent is, it must be nurtured to full bloom through training and practice. The most gifted long-distance runners in the world have many fixed traits that enable them to be great. But the ones who genuinely become great are those that work the hardest, train the longest, push themselves the most.

Writers are born and made. You can’t control the first part of that equation. But the second is entirely up to you.

The Many Different Kinds of Writing Make For Many Paths To Becoming a Writer

Your writing goals may be very different depending on what kind of writer you hope to become. A stellar investigative journalist has different techniques to master, different tools to use, and different venues for their writing than an aspiring poet laureate.

One of the amazing things about writing, and particularly creative writing, is that it’s impossible to definitively categorize. New forms, outlets, styles, and genres are invented constantly. That’s what creativity means!

In the broadest strokes, however, it’s possible to divide the kingdom of writing into three classes of writer:

There are no hard and fast dividing lines even among those categories, however. Professional writers may also use creative writing extensively in their work; academic writers may be producing their work professionally as well.

But becoming a writer in any of those categories may involve a very