Writing is one of life’s creative joys. I’m doing it right now, and it’s all I want to do for a living. Whether it be journalism, criticism, screenwriting, or novels, I never feel more creatively fulfilled than when I’m writing. And here’s the secret to being a writer: all you have to do is a write. Here are some tips to get you started.
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1. Start Small
If writing seems interesting to you, but intimidating, start small. Journaling your thoughts and experiences of the day provides accessible subject matter and helps hone your skills. Experiment. Try writing in the style of a news article, screenplay, or traditional prose and see what fits best. Writing for yourself is a good way to get better and gain confidence. And believe me, you’re going to need that if you want people to read your writing.
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Odds are, if you want to be a writer, you probably already read a lot and appreciate great writing. But try to analyze your favorite writers; see what they do well and what their weak spots might be. Check out the literary greats, and don’t skip their early works. You can learn a lot by looking at the evolution of another’s writing style. Also branch out from the genres and authors you usually prefer to flesh out your own approach. Don’t copy or steal, of course, but know that there’s nothing to be gained from staying in your own echo chamber.
3. Invite Criticism
As a writer, you’ll sometimes feel like you’ve either written the best thing or the worst thing ever. Know that neither is true, but in both cases, ask a trusted peer or friend to read your work and give constructively critical notes. It takes practice to take these notes in stride, but know it’s almost never personal if you’ve gone to a professional and serious person for help. They just want to see you improve, and often, their notes will help you do that. But know, too, when there’s an element that you really stand by. Don’t change everything just because someone says something negative about it. Synthesize their comments with your own inner writing “compass” as it were, and course correct if it feels right.
4. Do It for Free (and for Nobody)
If your goal is to become a professional writer, you’re going to have a hard time of it at first. That’s just the nature of the field, even more so in the internet age. There are so many opportunities and even more people who want to take advantage of them. The various communication tools of the digital age provide many outlets to get your ideas out into the world. Start a blog, find volunteer sites with editorial structures, or write a screenplay or book without an expectation of selling it and making your great idea the next mass media mega-franchise. Once you’ve established a portfolio and some bylines, you’ll have a bargaining chip for when you seek paid writing work.
Write, Write, Write…and Promote
If writing is something you truly want to do, don’t stop. Set goals for your projects and stick to them. If you get an idea but don’t know if it will fit on any site or be picked up a publishing house, write it anyway. Build up a portfolio of samples and, before you know it, you’ll look at it and realize just how much you’ve achieved. A portfolio serves as a great resource to show potential employers, which brings me to hardest part: shamelessly self-promote everything. Use social media as a tool to get people to read your work, and invite criticism and feedback. As a writer, you need to be a salesman, your product being yourself. Tenacity is rewarded in the writing field. So go for it.
What’s one idea you’ve always wanted to write? Let us know in the comments below!
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