On the face of it, a very simple, or very difficult question.
Practically? An idea, some paper (or laptop), and time.
Less practically? That's more what I want to talk about. What are the qualities a person needs, the beliefs and dreams and abilities and skills, to sit down, write, and make it work?
Thoreau had an idea: "“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
|Henry David Thoreau, 1817 - 1862, and his stoic, come-hither eyes.|
But still, that's more a suggestion, a hint in the right direction. Once you've lived and loved and hurt and seen, what do you need to do? Just put things down in words and be content? Or is there something more?
I do have an answer for this, though of course it's my own answer, and I'm not claiming this alone is unique and absolute truth. I think it's quite far there though, if that's not arrogant beyond reason.
What does it take to be a writer? Absolute and complete belief in the worth of your own writing.
When all's said and done, ignoring agents and publishers and readers and editors, ignoring money and profit and deadlines and style and criticism, if you don't believe in your own story and your own ability to make it, how can anyone else?
This is an artistic business made into a capitalist business, and books, for all their worth, are just as much a commodity to be bought and sold as are burgers or laptops. To succeed against what are, admittedly, impressively substantial odds, there's only so far acumen can take you. But belief?
It might sound trite if you haven't experienced it yourself, but belief, unwavering and concrete, is a terrible force to reckon with. When everything else falls away, a writer must know - really know, in their heart - that what they have to say matters, and that what they've written is worth others reading. In a way it's arrogance taken to its extreme. Or, as Thoreau suggests, vanity. Look what I have written! Look what I can say!
Just look at it in a positive light. A writer who loves their work and believes in it can bring passion and energy to the publishing process that money by itself can't. Naive? I don't think so. Ask agents. Do they have to love a project to take it on? Spoiler: The answer is yes.
So, go, write, believe in what you're doing, and if all else fails, hang on to that.