All a writer can do is work on the various aspects of craft and write a prodigious number of words, struggling (because without the struggle the writing is as useless as recitation) to find the right words to be used in the exact right way. And the rest, as the great Henry James wrote, “is the madness of art.”
But showing up and giving honest effort, dreaming big when you can, gives the writer the opportunity to write well, the chance to be in the right place at the right time. Randall Jarrell, the poet, once compared writing poetry to standing out in the rain, hoping to be struck by lightening. Sounds a bit ominous, but you get the idea. Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t, but if you’re never out in that rain, you will never be struck by lightning. Okay, Jarrell’s quote. Good for poets. They’re notorious street-corner and outdoor café loungers. But what about novelists? We’re the grunts, the worker-bees of literature. We need things to happen. We can’t simply stand out in the rain and hope for the best; we need plot. We need to go places, do things, MAKE things happen. We need to move! And you can bet a lot of our traveling will be to far away places. It will not only be soggy but treacherous and unforgiving and very, very hard.
Read, of course.
Work on craft, of course.
But above all write. You become a better writer by writing. You can't learn it any other way. The people who become writers aren't necessarily the ones with the most talent or best connections--they're the ones who keep at it.
Or so I think today.