I get asked all the time, in letters and e-mails and questions from the floor: “Can you give me a few tips about being a writer?” And you sense that gleam in the eye, that hope that somehow, this time, you’ll drop your guard and hand over the map to the Holy Grail or, preferably, its URL. I detect, now, a slightly worrying edge to all this, a hint of indignation that grammar, spelling, and punctuation have a part to play (“Don’t publishers have people to do all that?” was one response) and that the universe is remiss in not making allowance for the fact that you don’t have the time.
So, instead, I give tips on how to be a professional boxer. A good diet is essential, of course, as is a daily regime of exercise. Pay attention to your footwork, it will often get you into trouble. Go down to the gym every day — every day of your life that finds you waking up capable of standing. Take every opportunity to watch a good professional fight. In fact watch as many bouts as you can, because you can even learn something from the fighters who get it wrong. Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do. And don’t forget the diet and the exercise and the roadwork.
Got it? Well, becoming a writer is basically exactly the same thing, except that it isn’t about boxing.
It’s as simple as that.
~ Terry Pratchett, “How to Be a Professional Boxer,” Foreword to the Writers & Artists’ Yearbook 2006 (2005), from A Slip of the Keyboard