The Year of Writing Dangerously Michael G-G asked the question: "How have YOU learned to write?"
My answer was:
I'm a trained journalist and did a year's specialist college course before a three-year apprenticeship serving under some tough sub-editors who drilled style, accuracy and speed into their charges.
It was only after completing a gruelling four-exams-in-a-day test that I was allowed to call myself a writer.
Since then I have worked to hone my skills (for 35 years!) both by writing and reading (not to mention listening to theatre productions, radio drama, lectures, etc.)
I write because I cannot imagine doing anything else. I earn my living that way (now as a communications officer) and when I get home I hit the keyboard as a creative writer.
I honestly think I'd die if I wasn't able to.
Die? Seriously? Well it wasn't until I wrote those words that I realised quite how important my writing is to me. It is all I have ever done and really all I ever want to do. I know that I get very depressed when I don't write regularly and that I probably would lose the will to live if I was ever told that I couldn't.
I've been getting despondent lately about my work because I entered a couple of contests and came nowhere. The winning entries were awful. Maybe the tales were good in themselves, but the writing was sloppy, the spelling was awful, the tense kept changing, there was very little technical ability in evidence. It was a bit like giving first prize in a baking contest to the best looking cake, even though it was burned under the icing and tasted of gravy.
But do you know something? It DOESN'T MATTER! Because I know I'm better than that, and if the judges didn't value skill I don't really care what they thought of my work. Why would I bother what someone with such low standards thinks? It wouldn't mean much, even if they loved what I do.
So there it is. I shall go on writing and self-publishing and being read by just a few of my friends and that's OK because, I WRITE because I CAN write.
I don't need to be the next Ian Rankin or Terry Pratchett.
I just need to keep writing.
Michael's post was fascinating, by the way - about a writing contest for military personnel. Make sure you go over there and read it.