Where are you on the Writing Spectrum?
Every writer or potential writer is somewhere on a spectrum of writing.
The first level is an insatiable craving to write. This may run so deep that you are not even aware of it consciously, but it will be affecting you somehow. Your head will feel as though it is about to burst, but you may not be sure why. You may seek to distract yourself from this imminent explosion by plunging into various activities, but one day it will dawn on you that that fundamental urge which you feel inside is in fact an urge to write.
As soon as you recognise that for what it is, you move up to the next level. Here, realising that you need to write, you are also painfully aware of the impossibility of actually doing any writing. Trapped by circumstances, logistics, demands from your environment, you feel doomed to carry the urge to write inside you forever, eternally unable to indulge yourself in it.
If those circumstances change, and a window of opportunity opens for you, you may move up a level to a situation in which you are granted a brief chance to act on your writing impulse. Perhaps you are on holiday, or suddenly find yourself with a weekend with no one else around. You are finally able to sit down and write - but all too rapidly that set of circumstances passes, and you are left in darkness again, being driven insane by the book within.
If you were to somehow progress upwards to the next level, you would find yourself with just enough of that precious commodity, Time, to commit something decent to paper (or screen). At this point, all too aware of the blessing, you make the most of it and write like crazy, far beyond any ordinary capacity, committing thousands upon thousands of words to the page while you can. Reaching this stage, you can say convincingly that you are a writer - you have some evidence to back up that claim.
Should Life continue to be kind to you, or should you be able to re-arrange things so that you can continue to write, you will find that something peculiar ensues: you write and write, but you are not convinced of the quality. Weaknesses and patterns show up in your work of which you were previously unaware; clichés appear; you come to the conclusion that you don’t really know how to devise a convincing character or string together a plot that isn’t altogether derivative. But, because you have Time, you can learn, you can readjust, you can edit.
Eventually, after emerging from both the dreaded Lack of Time Zone and also the Wasteland of Incompetent Drafts, you are free - you hit success as a writer. Readers love your work in sufficient volume for you to be able to make a living at it. Happiness is assured.
The final, uppermost level is that of a writer who can afford to bask in his or her success, who has a vast following and doesn’t have to write anymore but can do so whenever the urge arises.
Where would you place yourself on this spectrum?
Fortunately, each level or phase has its own remedies. There is a ladder which runs up through this spectrum so that anyone can reach the top.
First of all, one must recognise that one is a writer - that the subconscious urge eating away at one is actually the deep impulse to write something.
Then you need to make some time. You don’t have to clear the decks completely in order to progress, but you do have to grant sufficient importance to the desire to write so that some writing occurs.
You need to take maximum advantage of each and every opening to get writing done. There are specific tips on this elsewhere, but the bottom line is that the most progress can be achieved if the writer places a focus on the volume of writing done at this stage, rather than stopping to correct or edit: get the pages churned out, raise the writing morale, get a first draft together by hook or by crook.
A first draft is a powerful tool. It can lever into place some pieces on your life so that you can progress further. Without a solid manuscript written, it is difficult to gain leverage on the other demands Life makes. With about 200 pages under your belt, you can defy the elements and forge a schedule out of the circumstances around you. You are becoming a writer, evolving from a primordial darkness, creating something from within yourself that will have a life of its own.
Once you have the basics arranged to get more writing done, there is an educational step involved which cannot be avoided if you wish to succeed: you have to learn not only how to generate volume, but quality. You have to know what it means to be a good writer, to write something that attracts and influences readers. Without this step, you can devote all the time you like to writing, it will be to no avail: no one will read it. Or if they do, it will be politely rejected. This is the road taken by 95% or more of the manuscripts submitted to publishers - they are sent in by writers who have conquered the volume barrier, but not the quality barrier.
With certain very specific skills and techniques learned, nothing stands in your way from being a writer who commands a growing readership.
The website contains a growing number of free tools to help you every step of the way, especially access to the book How Stories Really Work, which will help with that crucial educational step.