I've had to explain to a few people recently how writing doesn't work. I blame Hollywood for the bulk of this misconception, because writing in practice isn't exciting enough to make much of a movie out of.
As near as I can tell, many people I know believe that writing works in the following sequence:
1. Be a naturally talented artist (Ideally played by Ewan McGregor)
2. Struggle with the implacable demons of boredom and writer's block (Ideally taking time to dramatically clasp your unshaven face over a beautifully cinematic yet empty old-school typewriter. Bottle of vodka optional)
2b. Potentially produce something laughably bad, because you lack a muse.
3. Get drug out into the world where you lose yourself in a fast paced whirl of drinking, drugging, wild and memorable misadventures, and talks with utterly fascinating characters whose speech and mannerisms will later populate your novel.
4. Meet an attractive and quirky member of the opposite sex who bonds instantly to you and provides you with a goal and a grounding during said madcap adventures (Ideally played by Natalie Portman).
5. Have a fight with your quirky muse, make terrible but easily reparable mistakes.
6. Come home to that typewriter you haven't touched in long enough for the audience to forget it's there.
7. Spend exactly one montage typing. (This should take about one verse and chorus of a recognizable song, ideally Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (I'm just saying, it's been in more movies than Kevin Bacon)) Create a thinly fictionalized recounting of steps 3, 4, and 5.
8. Cut directly to a bookstore. It has perhaps been long enough for the author to have a new haircut. Your book is either selling as if it were made of pure cocaine or receiving the enthusiastic accolades of the top critics and gushing fans alike (possibly also the praise and understanding of your previously distant parent)
9. Roll credits, assume a happily ever after.
I'm not per se finished becoming a successful writer, but here is a more accurate layout of the process as I understand it:
1. Read and enjoy the written word.
2. Practice writing. Write a great many terrible things.
3. Through constant practice, improve on a variety of skills including characterization, pacing, narrative structure, point of view, and general language dexterity.
3b. Take classes, read instruction manuals, attend seminars, and join discussion groups to guide said practice.
4. Write better things. Edit and submit them. Wait, on average months, to receive mixed responses, the overwhelming percentage of which are rejections. Continue writing while waiting for responses. Repeat step 4 as many times as necessary.
5. Sell pieces. If you are very lucky, receive 5 cents per word for short fiction or a $2000 advance for a novel.
5b. Make any edits demanded by editors.
6. Wait. Sale to print on a book may take 18 months. Sale to print for short fiction may take several months. Continue writing while waiting.
6b. If you are lucky enough to sell on spec or be solicited, write with an eye to deadlines.
7. Promote your work.
8. Continue to repeat steps 3-7, hopefully to greater effect each time.
9. Continually reassess your career to make sure you're not alienating your original fans, while still broadening yourself enough to draw in new ones. Try to provide enough familiarity to inspire loyalty with enough novelty to stave off boredom.
Which, as I said, doesn't really make for a good movie.
The other thing I don't seem to be able to explain to people is that hoping to be the next J. K. Rowling is very much like hoping to be the next Elvis Presley. We'd all like to be rock stars, but most of us are just the guys playing at the bar for beer because we love to sing. Maybe we're even really good, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're going to get a record deal, much less radio air time.
Ah well. There's always dreams and ambitions.