I say the same thing Ray Bradbury said. He said, “God bless you, write 52 stories a year.” Write. You write. That’s the only way. You keep writing and if you have any talent at all, which of course is a necessity, you will get better and better as you write. But you got to keep writing. You should not go to those classes or seminars or sit around some guru and talk literature. You’ll never get anywhere that way. It’s pleasant. It’s enjoyable, but the only thing a writing class has to offer is that you have to write. You should instill that in yourself. Be persistent and constantly write in whatever field that appeals to you most. You’ve got to keep writing. That’s the only answer. – Richard Matheson
I read this quote by the late great author Richard Matheson and it was an eye opener. You mean you don’t have to take any of the many Masters programs set in secluded, lush areas like forests or beachfronts just to learn the basics of writing? All you have to do is sit down and write? You can’t get better by sitting in a class listening to a contemporary author warning you that your plot devices aren’t up to par and your dialogue sucks? Yes, it is possible not to take a class for that. Writing or learning the art on how to is a very lucrative business these days.
This is a new year, and aspiring authors have a right to feel excited. This could finally be the year it all comes together, their first book published. They may consider spending hundreds of dollars to live it up on some resort while learning the ins and outs about the craft. If they took the time to understand what Mr. Matheson is saying, perhaps they’ll find out taking some time out of their day and writing is the best getaway of all.
If you open up any writing trade magazine today, you’ll see these excursions are well advertised and many all with the assurance the budding writer will learn something new from their participation. A class on sentence structure may be what they need to boost their confidence, motivate them to write that first book. As Matheson says, You should instill that in yourself. Be persistent and constantly write in whatever field that appeals to you most. Persistence pays off, it’s an asset for the author who wants to move from ‘aspiring’ to ‘published’.
Our busy workdays and twenty four/seven media driven world won’t allow us to have a break, a few hours of our time to ‘get better’. We are bombarded with more distractions than in the days of Matheson or Bradbury yet they should also motivate the aspiring author to dedicate a pocket of time to a hectic schedule.
What this all comes down to is having the will to write. Maybe a class on writing from a contemporary author might help, and these classes or courses are needed however, after the instructor has given the student all they need to know on how to improve their style, it still falls on the aspiring author to write. You have to wonder how many students have taken these writing courses over the years and wound up reaching their literary goals of publication and winding up on bestselling lists? Matheson is still advising us today, long after his passing that the best training a writer can receive is to just sit down, write and put words to paper. No one should expect a masterpiece on the first try, but the budding writer won’t get better if they’re not persistent and dedicates to perfecting their literary skills.
The follow up to Matheson’s answer from this interview is “You’ve got to have discipline.” Matheson tells the interviewer:
That is your discipline. If you have to force yourself to write every morning then maybe you’re in the wrong field. If you wake up with a song on your lips and rush to your typewriter, then you’re in the right field.
Persistence and discipline without looking as writing as a chore separates the good from the great authors. We can overburden the authors of this generation with rules and regulations not necessary for their development. If they took on the attitude that they should write as much as possible so they can gain confidence and get better, perhaps the craft wouldn’t be as troublesome to them. All of us who are writers should take Mr. Matheson’s words to heart and concentrate on simply putting our words down on paper.