After twenty years working in university administration, a marriage and successive military moves necessitated a new career. So, I selected an easier one. One that offered a ton of cash, normal work hours, and validated me completely – writing. Ha! Hello daily rejections, a learning curve so steep my nose bleeds, and the eternal mystery of commas. I couldn’t have picked a more challenging field.
In my first year as a professional writer - which I define as a fortunate soul who gets paid to write - my goal was to publish three articles. By the end of 2016, I had published 40 articles and personal essays and made about $1,500. My hair cost more.
Yet, I consider it an absolute success someone... anyone... paid me to write over 18,000 words. I never approached writing as a hobby but thankfully, my CPA does for at least for two more years. I took my writing seriously and and consequently others did too.
Here are my top 10 take-a-ways from the past year. All start with “Be” because writing is not only a state of mind, it’s an action. You are either doing it or not.
This guest post is by Kristin Owens. Now a full-time writer in Colorado, Kristin is a member of the Northern Colorado Writers, the Lighthouse Writers, and a steadfast weekly critique group. Her latest essays are published in Outpost and Mind+Body.
She is a regular contributor to the Writing Bug blog. Her work is scheduled to appear in the short fiction anthology FLASH! July 2017. Kristin has completed her first novel and seeking representation.
Follow her on Twitter @kristin__owens.
#1 Be smart.
Take classes, workshops, read craft books, and attend conferences. Admit you know nothing. Leave your ego at the door and be ready to learn. Some of this education costs money, choose wisely what you need and when.
#2 Be ready.
Keep a notebook in the car, next to the bed, or yoga mat. Great ideas, words, or phrases can arrive unscheduled. Once you reach the keyboard, they may be gone forever, resulting in sleepless nights full of missing dialog and plot holes.
#3 Be out there.
Reach out to other writers, who (surprise) are mostly introverts. Attend both coffee mornings and beer nights, because you’ll meet different writers at each. Ask questions and build a small network of people who have answers.
#4 Be critical and be critiqued.
Join a critique group. Be prepared to give the kind of feedback you’d like to receive. Listen to what others say about your work. They are probably right. Be willing to make changes.
#5 Be well read.
What does a great book or terrific article look like? New writers begin to read differently. It can be annoying, but oh-so revealing. Re-introduce yourself to the classics, which are classics for a reason.
#6 Be original.
Yes, good writing had many rules and best practices. Learn and follow accepted standards. But don’t let rules and structure get in the way of creativity. You and you alone own your voice. Do it and say it your way.
#7 Be resilient.
Rejection stinks. Get used to it. Now. Also, your printed published words allow the public to voice feedback too. Sometimes it’s not positive. Or worse, there is no response at all. Experience equates to confidence. Keep listening, learning, and writing.
#8 Be supportive.
Of other writers and their work. No one else understands this crazy business – sorry parents, friends, spouses – other than your fellow writers. Buy their books and attend their events. Post positive feedback on their sites. Hey, it could be you someday.
#9 Be professional.
Treat writing as work. Find yourself a dedicated space and call it an office even if it’s the basement. Take all assignments, no matter how small. They lead to bigger ones. Be a good employee and more work comes your way.
Writers have both good days (words flow like a fine wine) and bad (there, their, or they’re?). Whether writing for magazines, newspapers, a blog, or a book, creative inspiration may stall. Give yourself permission for a time-out before marching bravely on. You have valuable things to say, otherwise, you wouldn’t be a writer.
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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 bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.