When you stumble into this writing life, you’re met with a massive lifetime to-do list of what’s expected and required of you to ensure success: Write a lot, read a lot, start a blog, know your grammar, write a novel, attend a writers’ conference, join social media …
There are those basics. But sometimes you need an extra creative boost, something to kick your writing into high gear when your career or inspiration are stuck in a rut. After you’ve gotten some of the basics down, explore these bucket list items to boost your creativity and take the next step towards your own unique writing life and career.
Guest column by Dana Sitar, a freelance blogger and indie author of “A Writer’s Bucket List: 99 things to do for inspiration, education, and experience before your writing kicks the bucket.” She shares resources, tips, and tools for writers in search of a path through DIY Writing.
1. Do something bizarre just to write about it.
Author A.J. Jacobs (The Know-it-All; The Year of Living Biblically) is the personification of this concept for writers, and my personal inspiration for adding it to the Bucket List. There’s little that’s more interesting to read than the experiences of someone who deliberately puts himself well out of his element just for the sake of the story.
Trying something new is one thing, but trying something new for the purpose of writing a book, article, or blog about it gives the experience a special purpose and gives you a much more interesting perspective. I learned this myself from doing stand-up after about a year as a comedy journalist. I would have easily talked myself out of it had I not promised to do it to gain a better understanding of my subjects. Re-organizing your experiences into a book or article is a great way to analyze them, learn from them, and even savor failures for the great stories they’ll make.
2. Self-publish Something
Self-publishing doesn’t have to mean publishing and selling a book or novel on your own. It can be as simple as publishing a post to a blog, writing a newsletter, or printing an informational pamphlet. The point of putting this on your bucket list isn’t to make money from sales or fill in your backlist. It’s about finding the confidence in yourself to share your work with the world.
Though a lot of people talk about the relative technical ease of self-publishing these days, they sorely under-acknowledge the self-confidence required to present your own work to the world without the requisite validation of an editor, publisher, or agent. If you can do that, and especially if you can do it so well that you actually sell books, you will have overcome a major hurdle and prepped yourself for future success.
3. Find a mentor.
No number of books, blogs, or courses can trump career and life advice tailored specifically to your dreams. A mentor is someone has already walked the path you want to take, and is willing to guide you along it. This kind of direction is most valuable because you’re able to hand-pick a guide who is exactly where you want to be, and they’re able to get to know you and offer advice that fits your unique goals.
If you know writers in person, find someone who is where you want to be, and follow her example. Sit down with her a few times a year for advice on what you should be doing to follow her path. If you don’t know many writers in person, seek a mentor online. Connect with writers through their blogs and social media, and you could strike up a real relationship with someone who can help you along your journey.
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4. Edit your favorite novel.
Do you already do this sometimes while you read? Maybe you just note typos and errors in your head, or maybe you actually carry a pencil to mark them in already-published books? Those errors can’t escape your writer’s eye.
Go ahead! Correcting work you love can be a good exercise to strengthen your own writing. Noting errors that elude the editor’s eye and the sentences you would reconstruct in your favorite novel can both train you to deconstruct the story in a new way and remind you that even your favorite writers aren’t infallible.
5. Live poor for a few months (or years).
Aside from the lifestyle offering artistic inspiration, poverty will drive you to succeed. When you’re desperate and have no other way to pay your bills but to sell another article, you’ll find a way. You’ll work harder than you thought you could, and you’ll get creative. You’ll find new markets for your writing, come up with new project ideas to attract customers, and work your ass off to polish your work into something an editor wants to buy.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.