Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Three "R's" for Authors

As a teacher of young children, I recognized the strong relationship between reading and writing. Good readers in my classroom tended to be good writers. I also knew that if I had a student who was good at telling stories, I could help turn that student into a good writer and use that to make him or her a good reader. It’s a cyclical relationship thing.

Reading, (W)riting, and Risk-taking
I used to describe that relationship as the three R’s to develop literacy: reading, (w)riting, and risk-taking. Now I see these are the three R’s of becoming an author.

I have always been a reader. I married a reader. I bore “reader-children.” We have so many books in our house people think we are “book junkies.”

We are. We buy books, borrow books, load books on our Kindle and own audio books for travel. I tell my husband if he is ever in doubt about a gift for me the motto is “when in doubt—diamonds.” For everyone else the motto is “when in doubt—a book.”

Writers must read. It is as simple as that. Through reading we learn new techniques and extend our vocabulary. If we want to improve our writing, if we want to develop our craft, we must engage in reading. We need to read books by authors in our genre and books outside of the type of books we write. We need to read fiction and non-fiction, classics and comics. We need to read how-to books on writing, publishing, and marketing. The more we read, the better our own work.

So if you want to be a writer—read.

The second “R” is for writing. To be a writer, we must write. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Surprisingly, a lot of people talk about writing, dream about writing, and say things like, “Someday I’m going to write a book.”

Real writers write. They can’t help it. I have tubs filled with writing. Some of it I can’t read because the story was coming out so fast, I scribbled it down but never typed it up. (My former college students will laugh when they read this. They struggled with the chicken scratch I called “comments” on their essays. Sometimes I had to re-read the paper to remember what I wrote.)

Authors keep journals or diaries or they write blogs. They write stories and experiences down to preserve them. Writers are those people who sometimes get so caught up on one idea, they have pockets or pocketbooks full of notes scribbled on church bulletins or on the backs of old envelopes.

So if you want to be a writer—write.

The third “R” stands for risk-taking. Being an author is risky. You put your words out for other people to read and critique. That can be unnerving, but sometimes the scariest part of writing is actually drafting that first sentence. Take the risk. Write it anyway. It won’t be perfect and you’ll probably trash it later, but until you put it on paper, you won’t be able to start that book or article or tribute to your great-grandfather.

Creativity requires risk-taking. I once read that most people lose most of that creative spirit when they enter school and start to get the idea there is one right answer to everything. There isn’t. There was a time in your life when coloring a dog blue made sense, right? Fortunately the creators of Blue’s Clues know it still makes sense.

My mother always said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Yeah, I know she didn’t make that up, but growing up with that wisdom helps me as I tackle this new career.

I actually used a story about risk-taking for one of my first published pieces: The Roller Coaster in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s The Power of Positive, October, 2012.

So if you want to be a writer—be a risk-taker.

There you have it. The three “R’s” for authors.

What are you doing to advance your own writing?

Stay tuned….Breathing on Her Own will be released March 25, 2014 from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. It will be available on

Read it, review it on Amazon, and let me know when you publish!

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