Sunday, May 27, 2012
Living and working "like" a writer is the only way to become one
So you want to be writer, huh? Seems like a job that can be easily accomplished by someone with a strong grasp of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure and a few noteworthy ideas to share, right? Not necessarily. The primary reason new writers enter the market is to make a living doing something they love. This reason, while logical, is juxtaposed. The primary reason for writing should be to do something you love and make a living out of it. The emphasis being; SOMETHING YOU LOVE. Because if you don't love it, you won't live it and if you don't live it, you will probably not earn a living at it. Here are a few keys to living and working like a writer:
Read, read, and read...
You can't be a successful writer if you don't read and there are several things you should be reading. The most successful business people in any industry get there in part by keeping up to date on changes in the business, new policies, better ways to do things, new philosophies in the industry, etc... Writers must do the same. Read books and online content about writing, read style guides, keep reference materials and actually use them.
Read about the things you write about. You need to see the good, the mediocre, and the down right ridiculous in your genre so that you can identify it and strive not to duplicate the mistakes of others. If you're a blogger, read high traffic blogs and try to identify the roots of their popularity. If you're a novelist, read books in your genre. It's amazing how much better a writer one can become by seeing examples of what not to do!
Read to be informed about the world. Your readers tastes change as the world around them changes and you need to know what topics are fresh and interest worthy.
Finally, read so you can shift yourself in to the mindset of a reader. That way, when you re-read your own work, it will be easier to distance yourself and see the story from a readers point of view.
Have a desk - even though you may not use it very often
Every business person needs a home base. They need somewhere that feels like the "office". From a psychological standpoint, it makes you feel credible. With today's technology, writers are more likely to prop up a laptop in their laps while sitting in bed than to lock themselves in their home office but having the option of going to the "office" makes your writing profession feel real.
Introduce yourself as a writer
This is one that I still find myself struggling with even after publishing hundreds of articles and four books. When I left my traditional career, everyone I saw on the street asked, "What are you doing now?" and I struggled for an answer. Mostly because I was picking up odd work at home contract jobs and thought that somehow defining those was a better answer than saying I am a writer. I feared the stigma of "starving artist". I was afraid they would walk away saying, "She doesn't have a job. She's sitting at home trying to be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King." Then one day I realized, "If I don't think I'm a writer, how can I expect anyone else to?"
Write for the love of it
If a topic doesn't interest you, you will likely write about it with little interest. Every piece of work you put out for the public should be written with a keen interest and compiled with passion. Your readers may not experience a passionate awakening when they read your article about kitchen cleaners, but they will hear the energy in your voice if you feel passionately about kitchen cleaners and your words, through your passion, will be more credible and interesting.
Actively engage with other writers and readers
You need a community of like minds to keep you fresh and on top of your game. Gone are the days of the loner writer locked up in a woodsy location. Today, you need a network to get ahead and to reach an audience. Take classes and seminars, go to local library functions, visit the local coffee houses and indie books stores, maybe take in a poetry reading or two. Use social networking to connect with other authors, readers, and resources like cover designers, editors, reviewers, and publishers. Connect for success, and remember, the greatest work will remain unknown if it isn't marketed and connecting with people who have an interest in your content is the easiest way to market it.
Write with the understanding that you may never make a dime from it
If you can come to terms with the idea that you may never sell a single word and you still feel the overwhelming desire to write then it is highly likely that you will be a successful writer. Why? Because it is in your blood. Writing is a method of happiness for you and when you write to fulfill the human need for happiness, you write from your soul. Reader's can identify "soul writers" and they stand out in a crowd of hacks who have lost their passion and now write for a paycheck. Readers will be drawn to you, and if you write well, you will see a return on your investment.