I have been dipping in and out of Swain's book Techniques of the Selling Writer. It was a very influential book I believe and I am now as certain as I can be that I did read it way back when I first decided that I wanted to be a writer. I will admit to even back then being a craft book junkie.
Parts of it now speak more to me than others. Some of this is because I am very comfortable with how I write. When I was reading some of Swian's examples. I kept thinking -- yeah but I'd write this way and it would sound even better.
One of the last chapter is on planning, preparation and production. It starts with the immortal line -- everyone has the God given right to go to hell in his or her own way. In other words, what works for me won't necessarily work for you.
His main criteria for being a writer is the ability to feel and feel intensely. It is why fiction writers can be difficult to deal with. In feeling, you must be enthusiastic about your subject and you have to be sincere. If you aren't, it shows. And believe oh does it show. This is why people say that you need to write from the heart.
The other thing you have to be is self-disciplined. Basically it does not matter to anyone else if you don't make it as a writer. The only person it matters to is yourself. In other words, if you want to be a writer to please other people, forget it. There are easier ways.
Also, nobody pays for stories you don't write. You actually have to produce the stories. A contract is a contract and when you have a deadline, other people depend on you.
To succeed as a writer, you have to get up and work even when you want to sleep. It means working when you'd rather be off gardening or swimming or even occasionally cleaning the toilet. A writer writes. But ultimately it is your decision because no one can force you to be creative and write except you.
It is also the only craft that gets harder the more you do it. Skill brings awareness of weakness. It is part of the tantalizing mystery. You can never ever completely master writing. You can only work at it.
In writing there are two types of people -- those who want to be and those who to do. Successful writers tend to be those who do. Who do keep regular hours, who work to quotas, who do revise, who do strive to improve but also those who do remember why they were excited about writing in the first place.
Anyway, it was interesting to read his take on it. I found it very heartening. He also had some great ideas on dealing with writer's block and the various different fears that writers fall prey to.