So you want to get into writing..
Maybe you have journals full of scribbled poems, or people have told you you have a way with words.
And so you want to try. See if you can be a writer. Express emotions you’re feeling or experiences and anecdotes with just words.
But where do you start?
Nobody is born a writer. You become one, much like the oft-quoted rough diamonds that undergo a brutal polishing process to result in bright jewels.
So this is where you can begin.
It is an almost unspoken rule that to write well, you must read well.
This is something very important, and the reason is simple. Reading helps you find inspiration, increase your vocabulary, understand grammar rules– the list is endless.
It doesn’t matter what you read– fiction or nonfiction, blogs or newspaper articles. This is where you start.
Read everything you can get your hands on because that will subconsciously become a part of you. You’re only the sum of everything you’ve seen, heard and read.
So read, and then read some more.
2. Start Writing.
Now, you actually start.
Write a sentence every day.
If you don’t know where to begin, use a prompt list. They are a great place to start, if you need inspiration or want to challenge yourself.
All you have to do is to get up and write every day.
Set a target for yourself, whether it is a word limit or a time duration.
And write, write, write.
3. Keep going (Discipline).
If writing is your priority, as it must be if you’re reading this, you need to set goals for yourself.
You need to stick to those goals. And they need not be big things. Even writing for 30 minutes daily is a good goal.
Motivation is one thing, but you can’t always be motivated- so you have to learn to be disciplined. You need to hold yourself accountable for those goals.
Catch yourself slacking off, and reward yourself if you’ve done well. But keep going.
“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards.”
4. Learn (Take classes).
There’s no limit to how much one can learn. Choose your means of learning, and dive right in.
There are thousands, if not more, of YouTube videos on any given particular topic that you can watch and understand.
Alternatively, there are courses that you can take, both online and offline, that can help give you an overview of all things writing.
5. Create a swipe file.
This may include your favourite blog posts, stories, poems, articles, headlines and emails.
Every writer, marketer and designer has one- it mainly serves as inspiration for you to go through on a certain rainy day, where you can’t seem to come up with anything to write.
6. Don’t edit (yet).
Austin Leon, author of Steal Like an Artist, mentions, “The computer is really good for editing your ideas, and it’s really good for getting your ideas ready for publishing out into the world, but it’s not really good for generating ideas. There are too many opportunities to hit the delete key. The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us–we start editing ideas before we have them.”
Writing and editing are two different steps in the writing process; do not mix up their order.
I have caught myself doing this as well, and the only solution I’ve found to it is to actively stop myself from using the backspace key before I’m actually done with a piece.
Now that you’re in the flow, try out different things.
Maybe you like to write poems. Still, push yourself to write things you may not like, like longer articles.
Understand what you like and why you like it, and also what you don’t like and why. You might realise things about your writing that you haven’t noticed before like maybe you prefer poems without a rhyme scheme, or opinionated pieces do not resonate with you.
This helps you understand your work as a writer, and what you can do best.
Now is when you use the backspace key.
In fact, editing is like rewriting your piece. And rewriting might sound like a terrible thing, but it doesn’t need to be so.
You now know the thoughts that were running through your head when you were writing, and you get to rethink the way the sentence is written. And so you have a better chance to shape these words the way you actually want.
9. Put it out there.
There are multiple benefits to putting out your work online– whether you start a blog, website or even an account on social media.
-Your account essentially becomes an online portfolio, and everyone can see the work you do. This is especially beneficial if you’re interested in freelancing or getting commissioned work and earning a little, on the side.
-It could help with consistency. Obviously, there’s a fine line between posting regularly and obsessing over your content. But in a sense, it keeps you accountable for your writing, especially if you need an external push sometimes.
-You could join related communities online. They have competitions, e-meets, and you could connect with people in your field and increase your network as well. In fact, you could also ask for feedback regarding your work. But tread cautiously, the internet is a crazy place.
-Your stuff could go viral! It’s not something you can aim for–but again, the internet is a crazy place, who knows what could happen!
You’ve probably written a bunch of stuff by now, experimented with things you know you don’t like or think are tedious.
Now, it’s time to choose a niche.
Becoming a writer doesn’t just include writing books or blogging. In fact, there is a wide variety of types and styles of writing that you could explore–copywriting, social media content creation, journalism, content writing, microblogging, scriptwriting, novel writing, creative writing and humour writing are just some of them.
11. Try (freelance writing).
Now that you know your niche, and you have at least a few people in your network that you have had conversations with, it is time to step out and look around for gigs you might be able to help with.
Consider your existing skills as you talk to potential clients, and, especially as you are just starting out, prioritize experience over a paycheck. Gradually, your portfolio will develop, and you can dive head-first into the world of freelancing.
12. Continue to keep writing.
Consistency is key, and that’s all there is to it. Follow steps 1- 12, and repeat, in any order.
Keep writing, keep your social media account/blog/website active, and you will definitely start to get various opportunities to write.
And voila, somewhere between the editing and re-editing of your two-page document, and a few (hundred) cups of coffee, you are now a writer. Not to say you always weren’t– you just had to hone your skills, as any craftsperson does.