I always ask the writers I interview for their advice, much of which boils down to this: if you want to be a writer, you will be. The only thing standing in your way is fear.

This may sound pat, but it goes rather against a line of common thinking, which says your chances of being a professional writer have to do with talent or luck or who you know. Wrong. The only necessary ingredient is that you want to write. And by want to write I don’t mean get published, or make money, or have people tell you you are smart, or finally prove to your father you’re a success—I mean you love to write and while you feel you ought to be paid to do so, you are going to do it whether anyone ever pays you or not.

If this describes you, the path has been paved. You need only follow it. If you follow it, you will acquire all the skill you need that people will someday call Talent. If you follow that path you will find the stories you most want to tell in the way you most want to tell them that people will someday call Your Voice.

The only thing at all that can ever prevent you from traveling this path is fear. Not talent, not luck, not the economy, not the editors or agents or money or children—nothing. Only fear. When you listen to fear, you turn off the road, naming all your reasons you’ve left, while all the reasons only ever boil down to: I don’t know what is at the end of this road. The unknown is fear’s final and only trump card.

But no fear dreamed in the nightmare of human dreaming has ever been more than a thought. Not a comet or a mountain or a city, only a thought, no more real than a dragon. And the beauty of the road is that no matter how many times you leave it, no matter how many times you name fear money or time or talent and turn back, the road persists. It is there whether you choose to follow it or not, and nothing at all is ever going to be required of you other than to follow it without questioning why.

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