Memoir, Writing, Writing the First Draft
Comments 5

What You Have to Do to Be a Writer

“The second thing you have to do to be a writer is to keep on writing.
Don’t listen to people who tell you that very few people get published
and you won’t be one of them. Don’t listen to your friend
who says you are better than Tolkien and don’t have to try any more.
Keep writing, keep faith in the idea that
you have unique stories to tell, and tell them.”

– Robin Hobb

I was looking for an epigraph that would serve as the introduction to a blog post about how some writers wrote their first books. This quote from Robin Hobb was the perfect one, but  it left me wondering because she talks about the second thing we should do to be a writer. What, I wondered, is first thing we have to do to be a writer?  I surfed the web and found this, the continuation of the quote from Robin Hobb about the second thing we have to do to be a writer:

” I meet far too many people who are going to be writers ‘someday.’ When they are out of high school, when they’ve finished college, after the wedding, when the kids are older, after I retire . . . That is such a trap. You will never have any more free time than you do right now. So, whether you are 12 or 70, you should sit down today and start being a writer if that is what you want to do. You might have to write on a notebook while your kids are playing on the swings or write in your car on your coffee break. That’s okay. I think we’ve all ‘been there, done that.’ It all starts with the writing.”

Searching further, I discovered these things about Robin Hobb: “Robin Hobb is the second pen name of novelist Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, born in California. Under her first pen name, Megan Lindholm, this popular author has produced plenty of best-selling works of contemporary fantasy, as well as science fiction.”  – Wonderlancer

And then I found Robin Hobb’s website. As I looked for the quote that precedes the epigraph of this post, I chanced upon a blog post she wrote in 2014, where she wrote,

“The time has come for me to break the web of silence and give you the secret and arcane knowledge that you must possess to become a writer. I warn you that it may make your eyes bleed and your stomach ache. But it’s a small price for becoming a writer. Right?”

In this blog post,  Hobb dealt with three of the most often repeated excuses wanna be writers give:

1. I don’t have time.
2. I’ll never be good enough.
3. I don’t know how to start writing my book.

To read her take on these three cop outs, click on this link. The blog post will give you much to think about. But fair warning, in the end, she writes:

“So, sorry, I lied to you. Fiction writers do that a lot. There isn’t a secret to being a writer. Just a piece of advice that no one, not even me, wants to take.”

What is that piece of advice that’s not a secret? It’s so simple.

According to Hobb, it is this: “Go write.”

When it comes to the best writing advice, I suppose that it cannot be any simpler than that. Perhaps that is the first, second, third and maybe the only thing we have to do to be a writer.

As I searched the web for that elusive quotation,  I found these precious gems:

“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.” ― Anne Lamott

“What advice do you have for writers working on their first novels? If you feel called to write a book, consider it a gift. Look around you. What assistance is the universe offering you as support? I was given an amazing mentor, a poet, Eleanor Drewry Dolan, who taught me the importance of every word. To my utter amazement, there were times she found it necessary to consult three dictionaries to evaluate one word.” ― Kathleen Grissom

“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” ― Vincent van Gogh

The writer isn’t made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century. – E. L. Doctorow

“There is a reason they call God a presence – because God is right here, right now. In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert

This post did not turn out to be what I planned. Next time, maybe, I’ll write that post I intended to write today. For now, I leave you with these quotes to ponder upon. I know I will ruminate on them as I heed Hobb’s advice: I will write.



Photo by Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash





  1. Pingback: What You Have to Do to Be a Writer — Writing on the Pages of Life | Samal English Language Services

  2. If you put Anne Lamott’s name behind any quote, you’re working with solid gold advice. Have you read “Bird by Bird”? My writing is still mostly blog posts. Occasionally I send essays out for consideration but mostly I don’t because of the time it takes to search markets. So I blog. And it’s good practice. I don’t have any big projects in my head, so I blog.

    Always happy when your posts pop up in my reader. They are inspirational.


    • I have read Anne Lamott, Susanne, many, many years ago when my mind was still too smug to understand…so I am re-reading slowly. You’re one of those people who were born with the gift to write well. I’m glad you write regularly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you. What do you think of writing as far as receiving income for it? Like, to put it blandly, what’s your reason for writing?

    I write because I like to get messages across to people who won’t take them up front. If I have to sneak it into a story, then that’s the plan.

    Again, thank you. Those are some great quotes to get me thinking.


    • I’m glad you liked the quotes! Your purpose for writing is laudable. Mine is really simple – I write for the love of it. I used to work as a feature writer and it was great. But writing for the love of it is also wonderful – sometimes better than working as a writer because one does not have to deal with the stresses of deadlines. Thanks for the visit and taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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