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Success as a Writer – Skill, Commitment, and the Right Methods

October 15, 2015 - Posted to Writing

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Success as a Writer – Skill, Commitment, and the Right Methods

So, you want a career as a writer. You have the skills – you’ve either majored in communications or print journalism or taken many courses, all very successfully; you love to write, have a creative “bent,” and people who read what you write sing your praises. Many writers have a book “in their souls,” and they work on it as they are inspired. In the meantime, they freelance and write for a number of possible venues. Other writers don’t have a book “in their souls.” They just love to write and are happy to freelance full-time. Whichever type you are at the moment, if you plan to make a successful career from your writing, there are certain methods and strategies that you must adopt:

  1. Don’t Turn Down Any Work in the Beginning: You will not be an overnight sensation in this business. You will start out with writing that does not inspire you and for which you will receive low pay. Take every gig you are offered. You never know what it will lead to. When you achieve a “track record” for good writing and meeting deadlines, business will come to you in the form of referrals. You can raise your rates as the demand for your writing grows.
  2. Do Authentic Research: You will often find that you are not fully versed on some of the topics you may be assigned. Take heart. At least it’s not 30 years ago when you would have had to go to the library and pour through the stacks. Get online and read what the other experts on this topic write. Learn all that you can. It may not be cost-effective for the short piece you are writing now, but that knowledge gets stored away, and you will find that there will be places to use it in the future. All professional writers state that they are constantly reading and learning.
  3. Write Everyday Whether You have a Paying Gig or Not: You have to stay “in the flow” of your profession or you will stagnate. When you do not have an immediate task at hand, sit down and write anyway. Pick a topic, do some research, and write an exceptional piece. Who knows? You may find a blog that pays well and that wants that piece.
  4. Develop a Portfolio: Successful writers have a portfolio of their work ready to send over to any potential client. Your portfolio should showcase your many styles and topics. You need to demonstrate versatility, so that whatever the need may be, a potential client will see you as a “fit.”
  5. Read all the time. No writer should ever go through an entire day without reading – a novel, news articles, blog posts. Reading increases knowledge but also provides information and ideas that will provide “meat” for future writing.
  6. Be Style-Flexible: There are times when your writing will need to be quite formal, even scholarly. There are other times when your style must be conversational, humorous, or poetic. Changing styles requires practice. One way to get this practice is to take a topic and experiment. Write about it in three different styles. Do this often when you have some “down” time. Consider it professional development!
  7. Find Your Best Time of Day: All of our body clocks are different. If getting up at 4 a.m. and then taking a mid-day nap works for you, do it. If late night writing is your most productive do it. And when you find that best time, use it to write every day – exceptions only for events and family affairs.
  8. Always have a Structure in Place: You don’t have to have an outline, but you do have to have something written down that tells you how you are going to cover a topic and in what sequence you are going to make your points. Otherwise you will be disappointed with the finished piece and will be re-writing it – big time-waster.
  9. Writing is your Job, not your Hobby: Yes, you work from home, and yes there are temptations all around you. But you have to pretend you are in an office away from home with a boss. You work, you take a break, you work, etc. The time of day or night does not matter. What does matter is this: Are you putting in as much time reading, researching, and writing as you would put in if you had a traditional job? If you aren’t, then you just have a hobby.
  10. Write First, Edit Later: Don’t stop the flow of ideas and words by going back and checking each sentence or paragraph for grammar and punctuation. Just write the whole thing first. When you interrupt yourself to check the mechanics, you lose your focus.
  11. Try to keep several projects going at once rather than fully completing one before moving on to the next. While this may seem impractical, consider the following: You can be working on a piece a get stalled. So, you sit, and you sit, and you sit. If you have a couple of other projects started, you can hop over to one of them for a while and return later. Thus, you don’t get frustrated and angry, and you don’t waste time.
  12. Your workspace is sacred. Nothing else invades it – ever. If you feel the need to get on Facebook or pay your bills, do it somewhere else. Your mind needs to be trained that this space is for you job and nothing else. Then, when you sit down in that chair in front of that screen, your mindset is on writing, and only that.

How many of these methods and strategies are you using? Be honest!

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