So You Want to Be a Writer?

There are many writers out there- authors, poets, bloggers, copywriters, content writers; the list goes on and on. There are many more people out there who would love to write, but don't have any idea how to "break into" the business. They may not know where to turn first for experience, or they may be still struggling with finding a writing style that fits them.


While there is no magic bullet fix, following some simple tips can really help you find your niche in the writing world. For all the women and men out there looking to build their own writing career or blog, don't give up. You can turn that dream into a reality.


By implementing a few simple steps and practices, you can develop your style and skills. You can build the confidence you need to start reaching out to others and showing the world just how awesome you are. These are some things I wish I'd known years ago when I started writing.


 

Tip number one: read, read, read!


Sometimes writing isn't about writing at all, but about reading! Read as much content as you can, as often as you can. This includes newspapers, magazines, books, blogs, social media feeds, etc. Try to read content in many different genres, not just your usual favorites.


Consuming content of all types, across all mediums and genres, can really help open your eyes to a whole world of topics and ideas you may have never thought about otherwise. You can also gain a new perspective on things you were already familiar with.


If you're hoping to start your own blog, but aren't really sure what you want to focus on, you can narrow down your ideas and find your own niche. More important than the popularity of a topic is whether you can make it work for you. There will always be readers, once you find your audience. But if you think you really love writing about tech, but once you've written six posts, you're out of ideas, that probably isn't the niche for you. By checking out many different topics and niches, you will begin to realize what WILL work.


Reading often also helps expand your vocabulary. When you are reading and you come across a word you don't know, write it down and make it a point to look it up later (or right then, if needed). It doesn't matter how old I get or how much I read, I routinely come across words I don't recognize or fully know the meaning of. This is because I like to read content across many genres, and I'm simply not familiar with all the ideas in areas that are new to me.


Have you ever wondered how formal your writing should be? This depends very much on what you will be writing. Obviously, your doctoral thesis will need to be much more formal than your personal blog. But by reading others' content, you'll be able to judge what level of formality you will be comfortable with from your own writing. I love the casual and conversational tone of my blog, for example.


I love how reading can open my eyes to different ideas and others' thoughts and opinions. I truly believe that by reading often, I have made myself a better writer.


Tip number two: get involved!


Do you read blogs, online news, or social media content on a regular basis? If so, do you ever get involved in the conversation? Commenting just to comment, or worse, to stir up trouble, is never advisable. But if you've got something relevant to add to a conversation, sharing your thoughts can be a great place to begin.


It helps you get acquainted with getting your opinions and thoughts "out there" for the world to see, without having to create your own original content. It helps you gain confidence in yourself and find your voice.


If you've always been a lurker on your favorite blog, jump into the comments section on one of the posts. Get involved with the author and with their other readers. After all, if you're all reading the same blog, chances are you've got something in common!


This will also help you build a name for yourself. If people on a blog or a social media site already know who you are from comments you've left on others' posts, you'll have already left an impression on them, and they'll be excited to support your content when you're ready to start putting out your own stuff.


For that reason, you should always be respectful and polite. People are going to form an opinion of you, you want it to be a good one! Contribute your opinions and show the world what you've got to offer, but don't be "that person" that no one likes.


Tip three: find opportunities to guest publish.


If you're just getting started in the writing industry, look into being featured as a guest publisher on others' blogs and sites. This is a great way to gain some experience. I've published papers for nonprofits several times. I used to write social media content for a nonprofit that worked to fight human trafficking, and I've written magazine articles and newsletters for other nonprofits.


This is not typically going to lead to a paying job, but it is one of the most excellent ways to gain experience and grow your confidence. There is nothing quite like seeing your work published- your name shining proudly up top for the world to see. Talk about a confidence boost!


This will let you explore many different areas of interest as well. I've written about human trafficking, mental health, helping orphaned children, and much more. It allows me to use many skillsets, as some of these pieces needed to be much more formal than the others.


Having published pieces on the web with your name attached gives you exposure. It provides achievements for you to use on a resume or CV, and links you can provide to people you are interested in working with. Guest publishing as often as possible is always a good idea.


Many blogs include a guest publishing link you can click to get information (including mine), but even those that do not may still be interested in having you write with them. You will never know if you don't ask! The worst that can happen is they say no. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!


Tip four: always keep a notepad!


Ideas for content can hit you at the craziest times. I've had great ideas for blog posts while vacuuming the house or cooking dinner. I can't tell you how many times I've said to myself, "oh that's a great idea. I'll remember that later." And then I don't. It's such a frustrating feeling, knowing that I had this awesome idea and now I can't remember what it was. Seems to happen more the older I get...


In the spirit of that forgetfulness, ALWAYS keep a notepad close by! You can use a traditional paper pad and pen or a smartphone app, whatever you prefer. I personally use both. I most often write things on paper, but I like having the app too. I've got notepads and pens in drawers in nearly every room in our home.


You don't need to write a novel, just a simple sentence or two that will surely jog your memory later when you sit down to write. After all, your ideas rock and the world doesn't want to miss out on hearing them!


Tip five: write often.


Last but certainly not least, write often. Practice makes perfect so they say. If you want to get better at something, do it often. Writing is no exception.


Even if you feel like you've got no good ideas on a particular day, sit down and try to write a few words anyway. You might be surprised at the flood of ideas that pours out. Some days all it takes is for me to write a few sentences, then I realize just how much I have to say about a topic.


I try to write at least something every day. Even if you are only able to write a paragraph or two, that's something you can come back to later on and pick up where you left off. It's a starting point. You'll feel accomplished that you got something written that day.


Another good thing to remember is that not everything you write needs to be published. You probably wouldn't dream of having a personal journal or diary published for the world to see, but writing in it still counts as, well, writing. You can write memoir-style pieces that are solely for your own enjoyment, and that's completely okay!


Even if you get finished and really don't care for the final product, that's also okay. Only you have to read it. You will still benefit from the words you wrote, and you likely still learned something.


 

Writing, like playing music, drawing, or painting, is an art. It is a form of expression and it takes time to develop our skills. Writing is about so much more than using proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling, Writing can reveal a part of you to the world and it can help you inspire others.


I truly believe that I could write for the rest of my life and still not be an "expert." There is always something to be learned. We learn these things by reading, by writing often, and by watching others.


Don't be afraid to get out there and do your thing. You've got a story to tell, and we want to hear it!

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