As I sit here at my writing desk reflecting on my writing journey I find it hard to believe that I’ve been writing professionally now for nearly two decades. Generally speaking, it’s actually been longer than that because the writing bug bit me as far back as I can remember.
Essentially, I began my writing journey writing poetry in middle school and high school. Many of my English teachers back then always complemented me on my writing, and on my ability to express my feelings and organize my thoughts through the written word.
I’ll admit, when I first started writing I had no idea I would end up where I am today in this whole writing life.
Since all those years ago I’ve had numerous professional writing jobs, and have even published a few books of my own. And I even have a few more book projects in the works from the time of this article — which you will definitely want to stay tuned for.
Simply put, in all of my years of living this writing life and experiencing this writing journey, I’ve made many mistakes!
If I had a time machine and could go back and tell my nineteen to twenty year old self ten things about writing that I wished I would have known back then, this is what they would be.
1. Learn The Basics of Writing Before You Even Attempt a Writing Career
I cannot stress this enough, even if you feel that writing comes naturally to you (and maybe it does, that’s good!), it is important to learn and understand the mechanics of writing — such as sentence structure, parts of speech, punctuation and grammar, and so on.
I highly recommend taking writing classes, attending writer’s workshops, and reading books on the subject and craft of writing as much as possible.
In short, if a writing career is what you are aiming for, then you will need to do these things eventually. Might as well as start now.
2. Review! Unclutter! Edit Again!
A writing piece is almost never done after the first draft is complete. I don’t know how many times I’ve emailed a pitch to a magazine pub, or posted a piece online that I thought was done only, to have a new idea come to me, or even worse, find a typo in the copy. This happens to the best of us, and I still struggle with this sort of thing even all these years later.
Nevertheless, after you have some years of writing under your belt, you’ll begin to learn and be able to know when a writing piece is actually complete, and until it isn’t, that piece nags at you and you can’t stop thinking about it.
Truth be told, I’m still growing in this area.
3. Take Critiques About Your Work With a Grain of Salt — Even More so From Those That You Are Emotionally Involved With
I’m not saying to totally disregard what critiques say about your writing, but those who know you, or those that your are emotionally connected with to some degree, their opinions are typically biased and should be taken with a grain of salt.
In order to get more unbiased feedback, post your work on message boards or in social media groups. Writers groups are also helpful but be careful about taking the opinions of other writers too seriously, especially when it comes to style (more on that in #9).
4. Diversify! Diversify! Diversify!
It’s wise to create multiple revenue streams if you plan to make a comfortable living as a writer. If you want to write books, I suggest you also consider seeking freelance writing gigs and/or speaking engagements.
And don’t forget about blogging as an income source as well. You can use it for affiliate marketing, earning commissions as you grow. And most importantly, it’s a place to sale your own products — such as books, ebooks, and digital courses just to name a few.
Establish yourself as an expert on what you write about. To learn more about developing yourself as a freelance writer and blogger click here.
5. Transform From Introvert to Extrovert!
Most writers I know, including myself, are introverts by nature. Nevertheless, introverted writers need to work on becoming more outgoing so that they are ready at any moment to speak enthusiastically about their writing and what they are most passionate about.
It’s been said that there are speakers that sometimes write, and then there are writers who sometimes speak. Truth be told, speaking is a great way for a writer to build and grow their writing business and career.
Start with baby steps. I know it may be outside of an introverts comfort zone to do speaking engagements, but the more you do it the more confident you will become.
In short, you must become your own biggest fan and best marketing person and when it comes to talking about your writing. I’ve done things in the last two decades, like public speaking and pitching article ideas to magazine pubs, that would’ve terrified my nineteen to twenty year old self, but it has been extremely worth it.
Remember this, there’s an incredible amount of competition out there for the attention of readers and it doesn’t matter how good your work is: if it isn’t getting in front of readers it will never get noticed.
6. A Writing Career is Never Easy!
It’s very easy to romanticize the writer’s life but most times it is far from glamorous, and is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.
In order to be a successful writer it requires a mega dose of hard work, commitment, good networking skills, optimism, and not to mention a healthy dose of God’s divine favor.
If you have the discipline to hone your craft, the act of writing in and of itself will become its main reward.
7. Beware of Any Publisher, Agent, or Editor Asking You for Money in Order to do Business With You!
There are plenty of unjust wicked individuals and companies out there who prey on both the vanity and naiveté of an aspiring writer. Thankfully, reviews about these types of companies are now just a click away on the internet.
Even if you are self-publishing your work, invest the time in reading online reviews before you sign a contract or upload your work to some digital platform.
With that said, it is important to understand that you will not only have to “work your way in” to certain circles in order for publishers to take notice of your work, but you will also have to “buy your way in” as well at times.
Now, I know that sounds a bit contradictory, so let me make one point crystal clear. People either have a whole lot of time and very little money, or vice versa, they have a whole lot of money and very little time. Depending on what your current situation is will determine whether you should focus your energy on “working your way in” or “buy your way in.”
In short, it’s been said that you can’t by friends, but it will certainly cost you to make a new acquaintance — there is a difference.
8. Read Voraciously!
It’s been said, “to become a better writer you must write”, and I would agree to that statement, but I would also add that reading is just as important to becoming a better writer as the act of writing is, if not more so.
You see, reading the work of other writers and authors will not only expand your vocabulary, but if you come to reading through the lens of a writer, reading puts your brain into a higher state of thought and written ideas.
9. Develop Your Own Unique Voice and Learn How to Ignite Creativity!
Staying in the same vein of thought as in tip number three above, if you listen to the critiques and feedback of other writers too much you could end up losing your own unique style or writing voice.
Your writing style is what eventually will set you apart and allow you to develop your specific niche or main focus, which will ultimately develop into your fan base (or tribe).
Now, when it comes to igniting creativity, some writers suggest forcing yourself to fill up a blank page every day to stay salty. In fact, I believe it was Stephen King who said his writing time is scheduled at six or seven in the morning, and he makes it up in his mind to be inspired at that time. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t always work for me.
If I encounter what I call writer’s burnout (or what others call ‘writer’s block’), or in other words, my creative tank becomes empty, I’ve learned it’s best to take the dog out for a walk, or to go for a bike ride, or do anything that has nothing to do with writing at the moment. That way the ideas begin flowing again, and my creative tank begins to refuel for another go around.
10. As Writers We Don’t Choose to Write, We Have to Write!
I don’t know about you, but view writing as not only a form of personal expression, it can be very therapeutic, but it’s also about a lifelong journey of self-discovery. For instance, if I stop writing I begin to feel a huge void within me, as if life doesn’t seem as fulfilling.
Over two decades into my writing career and I’m still learning new things and polishing up my work with every writing or book project. Take your craft seriously, create a sacred space to write that is quiet and free from interruptions and distractions.
In short, as writers spend lots of time crafting fictional characters (if you’re a fiction writer that is), it’s quite ironic that the act of writing is what develops the character of the writer or author more than anything else.
Now Over to You
Do you have some tips or advice that you think you might want to write to your younger self?
If so, let us know in the comments below.
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William Ballard is one of the most sought-after business and leadership coaches in the world. As founder and CEO of William Ballard Enterprise, his core business development and leadership programs are designed to be a catalyst for entrepreneurs and leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their business, their lives, and the world. To learn more about how to get back to your first love as a writer again, subscribe to William’s free business insider newsletter.