I started by being a reader. I read everything I could get my hands on, stuff aimed at my age group, stuff that wasn’t. My parents never censored what I read, and a lot of what I read went over my head (I remember being in my 20s and suddenly realising what Portnoy’s Complaint had been about). As a child it didn’t occur to me that there were actual people who wrote all the wonderful things I was reading, and it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I began to think about maybe I could have a go at writing something myself.
You learn a lot from being a reader. I’d go as far to say that if you don’t read, you won’t make much of a writer. Or, as a writer friend put it, writing is the breathing out, reading is the breathing in. So, step 1 is to read. Read everything.
Step 2 is to write. Write everything. Don’t worry about what your style is, or what genre you should write in. Just give it a go and see what happens. And if it’s nothing much, then write some more. You learn from doing. My first short story was just over 400 words long, and I genuinely couldn’t see how on earth I could ever write anything that was longer. Now, 400 words is nothing.
Step 3 is to carry on. Write lots. The more you write, the more ‘you’ your writing will become. You’ll develop your own style. You’ll begin to recognise the sort of genre you feel most at home writing (which might not be what you set out to write, or think you ought to be writing).
That’s all there is to it. Read. Write. Repeat. It’s a very cheap occupation.
You don’t need to know any more than these three steps to be a writer. But your writing will improve more quickly and you’ll have more fun if you make some writer friends, maybe sign up for some courses, and start sharing your work.