I have been a contributor to TC and a few other websites for a couple of months now. Although I enjoy writing and have been submitting regularly, I would not yet consider myself a writer. I have a vested interest in continuing to learning and growing in the area of writing, and perhaps one day I will be able to consider myself a bonafide wordsmith. If you are considering writing and have always wanted to express your thoughts in the public sphere, my advice is, do it. It’s a ton of fun and it’s also a surreal feeling to know that thousands of people have taken the time to read what you have to say. Today I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve learned so far on my very short “writing” adventure.
1. Write your ideas down. The more you write, the more you will easily recognize instances in your daily life that are potential “material” for your next piece of work. Keep a journal, or use online apps like EverNote that will help you keep track of your ideas. You never know when a moment of serendipity will strike, so it’s best to always have a means of recording your ideas. Don’t trust your memory.
2. Only write when you have something to say. There have been times where I decided I was going to conjure up material to write about from thin air. I would sit down at my computer and think of what I wanted to write about, and the results were often anything but ideal. To me writing has more to do with conveying a compelling message than it does using a dazzling vocabulary with technically precise grammar. Use your idea-bank to figure out what you’d like to write next. Having a reservoir of ideas that came to you somewhat serendipitously is a great way to be able to write on various topics.
3. Write, Write, and Write some more. I guarantee you that you’re not writing enough. I personally feel that I am never writing enough, so I continue to do increase my output incrementally. Seasoned writers I’ve spoken with have an output of thousands of words per day each and every day. Make it a consistent habit. Do your best to try and write something every single day. There are many studies done which claim that it requires 10,000 hours of diligent practice to reach an expert level capability and to acquire virtuoso type skills. That equates to 7 to 10 years of dedicated effort depending on how much time you devote per day. Everybody wants to be a writer. The Internet writing scene is inundated with individuals like myself who are trying to make theirs a household name. I try to challenge myself to write as much as I can without risking burnout, and I really try to stretch myself. My advice for you is to do the same.
4. Play with different styles. Experiment with different styles at writing techniques. Sites like Thought Catalog are great avenues to tinker with your ‘modus operandi’. When you’re starting out nobody even knows who you are anyways, so it’s the perfect time to try all sorts of different approaches.
5. Read a crap ton of books. Reading and writing are intertwined with one another. I’m not sure how you can even like writing without enjoying reading as well. Read as many books as you can get your hands on. Read about subjects completely unfamiliar to you. The information provided in books can be used as raw material for your own ideas. If you take a glance at the bibliographies of many nonfiction books, you’ll realize that the author may have referenced several dozens of other books to create their own. Reading enhances your creativity, opens up new doors to the adjacent possible of your mind, and strengthens your voice as a writer.
6. Don’t worry about the views. When you write articles on the Internet it’s very easy to get caught up in the amount of views your pieces are receiving. You should care whether or not you’re getting a decent amount of views, but that should not be your sole focus when it comes to your material. When you worry too much about views you will begin to write about what you think is popular as opposed to writing about things you really care about and are unique to you personally. The gimmicky approach may work in the short term, but in the long run you’re going to need to stand out as an individual in order to rise above the crowd.
7. Don’t become a slave to your ambition. This is something I must remind myself on a daily basis. You’re not going to go from zero experience to New York Times best selling author and Pulitzer Prize winner overnight. In writing, just like any other endeavor, things take time to develop. Focus on the process and not the result. I catch myself dreaming about what it’d be like to write for a living fulltime, and it’s frustrating at times to feel like the world isn’t moving quite as fast as you’d like it to. All in due time. Time is the great separator of legends from mere mortals. It’s easy to want to play in the NBA, but it’s hard to shoot hundreds of jump shots and train for hours on end like Michael Jordan. Focus on yourself and your craft without worrying so much about the tangible fruits of your labor.
8. Don’t worry about what people think about you. I’ve suffered multiple tongue-lashings in the comment section of my articles. It’s a part of the gig. One strategy to use is to simply not look at them at all, but this is very hard to do. Motivational speaker and YouTube star Elliot Hulse has a wonderful exercise that can help you deal with haters. When you’re presenting your work to the public, it’s almost inevitable that someone will disagree with you, perhaps even vehemently. Suck it up. You have to have thick skin to survive.
9. Eliminate distractions. When you’re writing, focus on writing. It is my personal experience that having social media pages open and the TV in the background are very distracting and cause a great deal of time to be wasted. This is just my opinion, but I feel that it should just be you, your notes, and an open word document. Focused effort increase your productivity, output, and discipline. If you have dreams of writing a book one day, first try sitting down and writing non-stop without distraction for hours on end. Build a solid work ethic.
10. Be a liver who happens to write. Great writing is drawn from personal experience. Instead of focusing on writing, focus on living. Some of my work that has resonated deeply with people came from a very personal place and was based on experiences that were completely unique to me. Interact with different types of people, travel to new places, have new experiences, and live your life. The more time you spend doing ridiculously cool things, the more words you’ll have to share.