I recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview Rob Fee. He’s a professional writer who writes for Thought Catalog, Funny or Die, Epic Meal Time, Ellen Degeneres Show, and other sites across the interweb. Here are the top 11 tips I learned from him throughout our interview.
1. Stop Worrying About Being Viral
It’s hard not to stress and obsess over the viral stats of your written work. It’s difficult because we live in a time where likes and shares make or break our self-esteem. Results happen quickly and you’ll know for sure if your article rocks or is a flop. A writer lives off readers and it’s hard to fathom if readers are not reading your work. In addition, it is common knowledge that a viral post can lead to more opportunities in your future.
However, even with all that in mind you shouldn’t care… especially when it comes to the beginning of your writing career. You should worry about and focus on the quality of your writing. Quality as in the “ideas” you’re expressing to the world.
The point is that your work will be seen and shared if you’re consistently producing good work. Too many times we see writers give up and get lost in their path all because their first few pieces didn’t go viral.
Who cares about being viral right now because, in the end, it will happen.
2. Be Brave & Call Yourself a Writer
There are a ton of potential writers out there who are afraid to call themselves “a writer.” If you’re afraid to call yourself a writer, you’re essentially giving yourself an excuse to NOT succeed as a writer. Do not even call yourself a “struggling writer,” or a “hobbyist writer,” just say you’re a “writer” without hesitation.
You’re a writer, period.
You need to take accountability and ownership of who you are, what you do, and what you want to become. If you don’t, then well you’ll never ever become successful. Believe in yourself and your writing will believe in you.
3. Write With a Purpose
There is a big difference between just writing for the sake of writing and, writing with a specific goal in mind. Yes, professional writers doodle to get their blood flowing but doodling is not what gets you paid.
You need to think about the writing path you want to take: Poetry? Screenwriting? Novels? Blogs? Comedy? Drama? Politics? List articles? The “I Don’t Know What To Write” statement will not suffice.
You need to write with purpose because you want your readers to walk away with substance. Not everything you write needs to be in the same genre, but when you do write something make sure it leads the reader somewhere.
4. Forget About Grammar… Just Write Your Stuff
Grammar is great but it doesn’t really matter… in the beginning. In fact, in can slow your process down. Basically, stop worrying about perfection. Perfection will happen when you re-read and edit your work. It is imperative that you focus on the pace and beat of your piece. It is important you worry about how you’re expressing your written thoughts.
Mark Twain is known to have an abundance amount of grammatical errors in his work. But because his ideas were so entertaining, his stories outweighed any grammatical errors he had. His writing always pushed his readers forward.
However, the one stipulation is that grammatical errors can scuffle your ideas in the wrong direction. Therefore, you should always re-read and edit your work. Always.
5. Surround Yourself with Other Writers
This isn’t mandatory but it helps. The only way you can get better at writing is by surrounding yourself with people who have the audacity to critique your work. You’re not perfect and having someone there to help you grow as a writer is a priceless resource to have.
However, please know that your writing friends shouldn’t shape your writing style to match theirs. Your writing group should help grow your ideas so they can be written in a way that makes sense to your readers.
Sometimes writers can get lost in their own ideas while forgetting if their readers can truly understand what they’re trying to say.
6. Read… Read… READ… READ!
Reading will strengthen your writing skills. Period.
Surround yourself with articles, books, and other written material on a daily basis because you’ll be able to pick up new ideas and formats that could actually help your own writing. Again, being stuck in your own written world won’t help with your growth. You’ll plateau.
If you don’t like to read then watch your favorite scripted television show and study how the dialogue flows in the episode. (This method is pretty very helpful if you’re trying to get into screenwriting).
7. Build a Writing Portfolio
Keep a track record of all your writing material and post these links on your own personal online portfolio. It’s a way to reference and showcase your work to the world. The only problem about this is if you’re a ghostwriter (like myself) for companies or talent. Then, due to confidentiality issues you cannot link these articles… but you can use these people as references.
Either way, you should build a writing and reference portfolio. How can you get jobs if you don’t have anything to show for it?
8. Submit Your Work Everywhere
Having your own website is great. But, it’s harder to gain exposure by starting your own thing. Instead, submit your work to high traffic places around the world because your work has a better chance of being seen (like Thought Catalog).
The main thing to remember is that no matter where your work gets published, you should always have a signature that leads back to a single destination where people can reference your previous work: your twitter, your facebook page, your website, or an email address.
9. Write Every Single Day
Writing is a muscle that needs to be strengthened. Your work doesn’t have to be published every single day, but you should certainly be writing something. It could be your personal journal or an outline for an upcoming article. The point is you need to be writing. Strengthen that muscle.
10. Write What You Know
If you know nothing about politics, do not write about politics. If the only thing you know about are board games then write about board games. Readers know if you actually know what you’re talking about. And, if you don’t know about the subject you want to talk about then really do your research because readers aren’t dumb.
You may write something that readers may disagree with. But at the end of the day, if you’re writing about what you know, your pieces will shine.
11. Do NOT Expect to Get Paid Right Away
It took Rob Fee 2 years before he could make a living off writing. And, he got there because he would sit down and write 6-7 articles every single day for 2 years straight. Many of these articles he submitted were published for free or even rejected. But this is something you need to live with if you want to pursue a writing career.
You need to keep submitting and submitting until you gain exposure… it is then when you’re able to get paid. His work ethic carries today and he still writes a minimum of 5 articles or scripts a day.
It’s what he does and it’s how he stays alive.
As a writer myself, who ghostwrites for YouTube channels and is now getting into the public space, I will say that Rob Fee is definitely an inspiration. I hope his advice helps you as it has helped me.