When I first started rebooting my website, I realized pretty quickly that none of my old posts are optimized for SEO or readability. Additionally, some of them are not as comprehensive as I feel like they could be. Rather than secretly update the old posts and hope no one notices, I decided to rewrite them from scratch. You can find a link to the original version of this post at the bottom of the page.
So you want to be a writer
Maybe inspiration struck during your commute or another boring office meeting. Or maybe your high school English teacher noticed your interest and encouraged you. Others out there have lived through some shit and want to share their stories with the world. Whatever the reason behind it, you’re here now and ready to start writing. Congratulations.
Writing is a hobby that’s as magical as it is maddening. As frustrating as it can sometimes be to think of just the right word for a situation, it’s downright blissful when you find yourself in the zone and you’re churning out one page after another.
I created this website partly because I’m writing my own novel and I need a way to market myself, but also because I want to help other writers out there feel as powerful as I do when I’m writing. I’m kind of a gremlin in real life. I’m awkward. And a total dork. I pretty much live in sweat pants and baggy t-shirts and, thanks to the pandemic, I’m starting to look a little bit like Sasquatch. But holy hot damn, put me in front of a keyboard and I am a goddess.
I want to help you channel your inner deity, too.
If you were hoping to channel your inner Sasquatch, you’re in the wrong place. Sorry.
Getting Started as a Writer
In the beginning, you’re not going to feel very godlike. Or maybe you are, but it won’t last. The first time you hit a wall, or get some heavy criticism on something you were really proud of, that confidence is going to drop like a stone in a lake. You might even be tempted to quit. But if you keep at it, and keep learning, eventually you’ll climb back up to those lofty peaks again. (This phenomenon is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, by the way).
Imposter syndrome is still a thing, but that’s a topic for another day.
Today, I want to talk about some things that will help you start writing. Some of them will be things you won’t like hearing, but in life we have to take the bad along with the good.
Before you start writing, you need to have at least an inkling of a topic or an idea. Just a spark is enough; as long as you nurture your spark, it’ll grow. If you need help coming up with something, you can check out Pinterest, Google, or Reddit for writing prompts. I also have a post about writer’s block that offers some helpful tips.
Permission to write a bad first draft
There are people out there who don’t agree with this philosophy, but it has saved my butt a couple of times. I’m a much stronger editor than writer, and before I realized that I used to struggle with finishing projects because I felt like I had to write a story that was perfect on the first try. Experience has taught me that I just need to get my ideas down. I can fix anything, but I have to write it first and that means I have to be okay with occasionally writing things that are just downright bad. Perfectionism is the devil, and it will kill your motivation and steal your creative energy if you let it. So give yourself permission to write things that aren’t perfect and get to work.
A writing routine
It doesn’t have to be set in stone at this point, but you should play with the idea of blocking out time in your schedule to write. It doesn’t need to be every day, as some people suggest, but at least once or twice a week would be a good place to start. If you want to know more about creating a routine for yourself, check out this post.
A thick skin
There are always going to be critics. As a writer, you need to learn how to sort through criticism to find what’s helpful and valuable to you. It’s fine to be proud of yourself, but sometimes you have to put your ego aside before you can turn a good story into a great one.
For most writers, the ultimate goal is publishing. Trust me, I’m right there with you. But don’t buy into the temptation to query or self-publish your first draft of your first story. It’s self-sabotage. Agents you submit to will remember you and not give your future, better submissions the attention they deserve. Customers who bought your ill-fated, rough first book will remember it and not buy your new and improved works. Getting acceptance from an agent and/or marketing a good book is already hard enough. If you rush your way into a false start, you might have to use a pen name (or change your pen name) before you can find success later. (This is actually way more common than you’d think, but you still don’t want to go through it if you don’t have to).
When you first start writing, you need to be focused on mastering the craft of writing and not on how many zillions of dollars you’re going to make when you land on the best-seller list. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is what it is. If it helps, John Green wrote 284 drafts of An Abundance of Katherines before it was finished. If you want to achieve success as a writer, patience–and perseverance–are key.
It’s okay if you don’t agree with me
Writing is subjective. It’s a journey, and it’s different for everybody. I’ll share what I know, and whatever else I learn along the way, and hopefully someday soon you’ll learn to channel your own inner writing deity, too. I have faith in you. Have faith in me, too.
The original version of this post is here.