1. Write. The most important thing you can do as you start your journey as a writer is, in fact, to write. More specifically, write a lot. Most of it will probably be bad. That’s okay. Most writers have to expel a decent amount of junk onto the pages before they ever get to anything good. The more you write, the closer you’re getting to the real gems that are waiting.
2. Read. And be picky about what you read. Consuming massive amounts of poor literature is not going to be much help to you. Read the best of the best, the most brilliant pieces. At first, you might not know how to tell the good from the bad. In that case, start with award winners, ask people you trust for recommendations, delve into the classics that have stood the test of time. Eventually, you’ll be able to discern what is high quality yourself. Read these books. Read them again.
3. Quit worrying about publication. If you’re a new writer, dreaming about publication is only going to be a distraction. Besides, publication isn’t the point. Writing itself is the point. I see this all the time in new writers: they are so hungry to be published, when their hunger is misplaced: they really should be focusing on becoming the best writers they can be.
4. Solicit critical feedback. This is not the same as having your mom or dad or best friend read your work and tell you it’s amazing. It’s important to find people who understand what great literature looks like and have them pull your work to pieces. It will be very, very difficult (in fact, nearly impossible) for you to grow as a writer without this.
5. Keep going. Everyone wants to write a book, but only a small percentage of people do. Those are the people that keep going— the ones who struggle through writing poorly, sometimes for years; the ones who pour copious hours of their life into reading quality poetry and prose; the ones who let the journey of writing be the reward and who don’t get distracted from the goal of great writing by the goal of publication; the ones who ask what they could do better, graciously receive criticism, and revise with it in mind; the ones who do all these things day after day, month after month, year after year.