Hello Writing Etc. Subscriber!
E-mails cross my desk every day. I answer as many as I can. But one message caught my eye this past week and I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s the message:
I’m a newbie writer. I have no idea where to begin. It’s all overwhelming. I know I have stories inside me, but the thought of writing them all down, then having to go through this really huge maze of getting them published is just overwhelming. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to finish. I don’t know what to do next. Can you help me?
Wow. That’s a mouthful, eh?
Let’s break it down.
This person is a newbie. What an enviable position. I vividly remember how fabulous it felt (way back in the beginning of my freelance career) to sit down and write every morning without a thought about marketing, readership, or reviews.
It was pure joy. Unadulterated creativity. It’s the state of mind we veteran writers must somehow return to every time we sit down and start tapping the keyboard.
Yeah. Freelance writing is a huge job. We teeter between releasing the message within our heart and hoping to achieve at least a modicum of audience appeal. Sometimes our message skews in the process, but… I guess that’s the price of communication.
I recently read a very wise quote. People make choices based on one of two influences: Fear or Love.
I think this applies well to this situation.
When a new writer begins this interesting voyage, they write to release the story within them. They believe (rightly) that they can change their corner of the world. They write for the pure love of writing.
Then as success begins to bloom and reality strikes, suddenly thoughts of acquiring a readership begin to dominate their thoughts. Marketing evolves into something quite important. Reader comments trickle in.
That’s when fear can strike. What if I’m not good enough? What if everyone finds out I’m really a hack who has no idea what they’re doing? What if I don’t sell anything? What if… what if… what if?
There’s absolutely nothing you can do about “what ifs.” Nothing. That’s because the next “what if” that’s about to strike is probably something you haven’t dreamed could possibly happen. It’ll come out of the blue, surprise (and perhaps scare) the everlasting daylights out of you, you’ll deal with it, then move on.
That being said, I comprised a short list that this newbie writer could turn to when these insecurities flare up:
- Wake up.
Most people live their lives in a dream state. As effective communicators, it’s our job to wake them up. Get them thinking. Rev the motor.
You can’t do that if you’re living in a dream state yourself.
So, how do you wake up?
Ah, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?
You start by observing. Watching life… not as you wish it would be, but as how it really is. You observe, document, and write. You don’t swallow the “company line” without thinking. You dig a little deeper, search for both sides of the issue.
If you watch Fox News, you temper it by catching a few minutes of CNN and MSNBC… and vice versa.
If you read Drudge, head on over to Huffington for the counter point.
Balance is important because, generally speaking, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of the hype.
But most importantly, you start thinking for yourself. You wake up. You don’t automatically believe everything that’s tossed your way.
You wake up. And as a writer, this process is essential.
- Believe in your talent, nurture your message
OK. You get something published. You’re feeling great. Then comments pour in. Letters to the editor start up.
Everyone doesn’t agree with you. Some actually dislike you.
What do you do?
Well, you just listen. Remember, you’re awake? You’re open to new ideas, right?
It’s easy to become defensive. It’s human nature to pull inward and think everyone who doesn’t see your point of view, no matter how intelligent you may think it is, is an idiot.
But that’s simply not the case.
Everyone views the world though their own lens. Their experience colors every interaction, their point of view filters everything you say.
As you awaken and learn to view the world through another’s eyes, you allow your world to grow. As your world grows, your writing can reach more people.
But all this begins by knowing deep in your soul that you possess strong writing skills. It strengthens when you wholeheartedly believe in your message. When these two traits combine, you can suffer the slings and arrows of disagreeing viewpoints with an open mind and sense of humor.
- Surround yourself with positive people
Negativity abounds in this business. I don’t know why this would be the case, but I’ve found it to be true.
Consider a job where you work when you’d like to. Imagine a commute measured in feet, not miles; seconds not minutes. Imagine possessing a skill that could very well change the world as you know it?
Why on earth would negativity take root in such a place?
Well, I suppose negativity thrives because this profession also happens to be inhabited by human beings.
And that’s a wonderful thing.
That’s because negative people are a necessary component to this profession. Without them, we’d never recognize the beauty in what we do. Without them we may overlook issues within our own professional life that needs tending.
That being said, especially when you’re first beginning your writing journey, surround yourself with positive, encouraging people who aren’t afraid to gently expose your weaknesses.
You must grow as a writer. Your style must mature, your vision must broaden to include views beyond your own.
And you must create a nurturing environment in which to do so.
- Continually educate yourself
A writer who doesn’t continue their education becomes a shallow writer.
We live in a complex world where what was believed correct only a few years ago has suddenly become questionable.
We live in a constantly transforming world. Audiences change. Preferences evolve. The flavor of the week has now become the flavor of the day. Now, don’t get me wrong. Yes, I believe that some truths remain solid for eons. But public opinion isn’t one of them.
Part of your job is to know your audience. In fact, before you set pen to paper, if you don’t understand how your audience ticks, you won’t reach them. If you don’t reach them, they won’t read your message. If they don’t read your message, you’ve just wasted your time.
It’s that simple.
You will not persuade anyone to your point of view unless you learn to speak their language. Heck, they won’t read word one unless you snag their interest right off the bat.
Sad, but true.
So you must become educated in everything about your audience. Find their hot buttons. Uncover their jargon. Speak their language. Become immersed in their unique culture.
Do this and your career will take flight. Disregard this advice at your own peril.
It’s imperative that you continually read. Stephen King said it best when he said, “Writers who don’t have time to read, don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Conversely, if all you do is read, well, then you’re a reader, not a writer. Balance the two activities. Continually exercise that gray matter between your ears and you’ll be so far ahead of the pack your head’ll spin.
- Have fun
Lastly, have fun. Remember why you chose this profession.
Too many writers take their message too seriously. I’ve (unfortunately) engaged in this pursuit of seriousness far more than I care to admit.
It’s easy to fall off track when you find yourself in need of marketing knowledge that you didn’t anticipate. Suddenly, sales numbers become your focus along with internet metrics.
Heck, if you’re not careful, you can find yourself mastering an entirely new language instead of focusing on the reasons you entered this profession.
Remember these reasons. Have fun. Make this job the joy it was intended to be.
As you become a member of the Brotherhood of the Pen, you’ll find yourself surrounded by wonderful, professional individuals who are cheering you on. As odd as it sounds, in most instances, competition is a non-issue because our messages are so varied.
Is every a writer of this fair fraternity? Nah. Not if they don’t want it.
Those writers who fret about competition, fear the “waking up” process, grasp tight to their imaginary readerships… they generally avoid our little motley crew.
However, if you’re a free wheeling, open minded, “love the journey” kind of professional, I invite you to join me in this fair Brotherhood of the Pen.
We’re loose-knit. We love adventures. We strive to have fun.
And the dues are dirt cheap. All you gotta do is write for the pure love of the craft. And this passion will make any fear you encounter more than manageable.
So, back to the newbie writer’s original question… how do you navigate this complex profession?
Short answer: with your heart. Then follow up using your head. But most importantly, enjoy your career. After all, this is your life. Why not live it to the max.
Welcome to the Brotherhood of the Pen. You’re in great company.
P.S. If enjoyed today’s article and want to explore this fascinating profession more, click the link below. This title will get your writing career growing fast. We’re talking three volumes of hard core freelance information in one handy download.
Just click here for details.
Writing Etc./Filbert Publishing News – April 23, 2013
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