Becoming a Writer, by Tracy Lee Karner

We’ve asked one of our published authors, Tracy Lee Karner, to share her thoughts about the writing life. Here’s what she has to say:

becoming a writer, despite everything a memoir by Tracy Lee Karner

Tracy Lee Karner

Becoming a writer is like becoming who you are meant to be.

It’s uniquely personal.

No two lives, and no two writer’s journeys are the same.

Here’s what my journey toward becoming a writer has looked like so far:

  1. Throughout my book-wormish childhood and adolescence, I kept picking up pen and paper, writing stories, poems, and diary entries. But I never thought about becoming a writer. I thought writers were like English gentry, born into families with wealth and connections. They went to Cambridge or Oxford or Harvard. And I definitely knew that I, little German Lutheran midwestern American girl born into obscurity, had as much chance of becoming a writer as I had of becoming Queen of England. That is to say I had zero chance.
  2. But high school and college teachers kept saying to me, “You’re a writer.” Present tense. You are. That’s when I figured out that you either are, or are not, a writer. It’s not who we know or what we’ve accomplished or whether our writing is good enough. It’s what we do. If we write stuff, and we keep on writing stuff, then we’re writers.
  3. It’s a good thing I figured out that I am a writer, before I met the people who said my stuff wasn’t good enough, or worse, vehemently hated my writing. Or perhaps they just hated me. That’s when I learned that you’re always going to run into people who belittle you, condemn you, and rain on your parade. The nay-sayers don’t matter. Neither do the people who praise you matter. Any of them could very well be wrong. What matters is that you love writing and you’re committed to learning to write better.
  4. I can’t explain how I instinctively knew that the writers who get published are the ones who persevere in continually trying to improve. I was probably born with an overly developed sense of duty. I figured that because I am a writer, it is therefore my duty to learn everything I can possibly learn about writing well.  
  5. So I became a student of writing. I took courses, attended workshops, read A WHOLE LOT of literature, majored in English (literature and creative writing), and went to writers’  conferences and seminars. And I joined literary associations: The Loft in Minneapolis; New Hampshire Writers’ Project in Manchester. I started in the 1980′s at the beginner level, learned skills, and then moved up to the intermediate level. I diligently did the assigned homework. I kept reading, writing, submitting and applying until I was accepted into advanced classes where I did more homework and along the way I got published in literary journals and magazines and I wrote a book and that got published. And I finished another book which will soon be published.
  6. And I just keep writing and writing.

Becoming a writer involves doing the homework.

You read and write. And you read and write.

If you dream of becoming a writer, and you’re looking for a concise, simple formula for success,  remember this:

Read and write.

Not that it’s an easy formula for success. But the formula could hardly be any easier to remember.

By the way, it helps if you absolutely love, love, love to read and write.

Are you a writer?




    1. High praise, coming from you, JM. I very much enjoy your writing. The way you share your story is motivating and inspiring, in the manner of a friend who takes you to a good place by blazing a path for one to follow.

    1. I can’t take credit for making it up — people have been saying it for so long I’m not sure who gets credit for it. But, it works! And, I like formulas best when they’re simple. 🙂

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