Six Things I Learned My First Year As A Writer
I joined the Coffee House Writers in June 2017, and my first article posted on July 3, 2017. Reading my first article, and a few others are painful. My first year has been intimidating, frustrating and downright amazing. I have loved the highs and learned from the mediocre and low points.
The good thing is this first year is all about the learning process. No one starts at the top, but if we learn, apply those lessons and adapt, it’s all good. Some of what I have learned is ludicrous while other items have proven to be essential to my success. Either way, it’s all been useful in its own way.
You are not a competent writer because you write.
The first thing I learned is that you are not a writer because you write. Ok, maybe you technically are, but you aren’t an effective writer without numerous other skills.
I once had a vacation selling blogger tell me I should take up marketing because anyone can write. Have you seen what people are writing online? It’s one thing if you have great content and an error or two, but if you have a limited vocabulary, poor grammar, and don’t edit and proofread your work, your readers won’t be able to get past your excruciatingly poor writing.
I also found that online writing is just as much about designing a space, much like architecture, as it is about the writing. You can’t put a bunch of black text on a white background like you would in traditional writing. You must design the space to flow the way a reader views the page. These are skills I not will learn in a marketing course.
Getting your audience’s attention is tricky. Online writing is designing a scannable work where you can tell an entire story in subtitles, lists, and other standout visual attention-getting cues.
“The Web is jam-packed with empty, incoherent, ill-organized, meaningless, repetitive pages. Gunk. Spam. Junk. Crap.” Rachel McAlpine
How do you know what will work? First, you learn to write, in college or university courses. As Rachel McAlpine says, “The Web is jam-packed with empty, incoherent, ill-organized, meaningless, repetitive pages. Gunk. Spam. Junk. Crap.” I spent years reading those how to become a successful freelance writer sites. They’re not worth the money you pay for them. Get schooled.
The most critical step, though, is to read. Not just for content inspiration or research, you read to see what works in formatting, vocabulary, style, and voice. You read the good, you read the bad, and you apply it to your writing.
Finally, my last lesson in being a competent writer is not to wait for the editor to edit your work. Oh no, if you want an editor to like your work, you give them a polished article when you submit it for the first time. Proofread and edit your work. Editor’s hate when you make them work. You look unprofessional if you submit crap work.
Writers need discipline.
It’s tempting to write around your personal-time schedule, but that leads to a lot of deadline close calls and fast equals crappy writing.
To be a writer, you must set aside a specific amount of time for practice writing, reading, research and professional writing every day. Not only will you make your deadlines, but you will improve in professionalism and skill.
It doesn’t have to be a typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work shift. It took some time to find my hours, but I write best between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. when I stick to a schedule I wind up with well-written, on-time articles.
Burnout is real.
I recently had no drive to do the one thing I am most passionate about, writing. I fell behind in my courses and squeezing in my writing became unbearably hard.
What I realized is that I wasn’t losing my passion, I stopped doing anything except writing, school, and taking care of my family. The problem with loading up my life with responsibilities is that it left me depleted.
Ben Franklin said, “Write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” I heeded too many of those online freelance writing guru’s advice to work hard and non-stop until you make it.
Their advice is a crash course in how to kill yourself physically and mentally. Ben Franklin has the correct idea. When you live a life worth writing, you will be a happier and an interesting writer. Now, I spend more time having fun and being inspired to write about that which makes my life amazing.
Writer’s block is questionable.
Recently, I wrote on how to overcome writer’s block, but I now wonder if I should scratch that off my Coffee House Writers articles. I am not sure I believe in writer’s block anymore.
It’s true we can all run out of ideas and rehashing ideas leads to self-plagiarism. I overcame writer’s block doing two things.
First, keep writing. I make myself to write an article when I feel uninspired. I do this by sitting at my computer and googling everything and anything. Then I free write anything that pops into my head. There are many false starts to articles that eventually lead to an idea that becomes a well-written article.
My other tool for writer’s block is reading. I read books, magazines, blogs, articles, Facebook posts and tweets to see what other people are writing. Once I find a topic that sparks my interest I write about it.
With a little perseverance, writer’s block is no longer a problem.
There’s more than one style of writing.
It’s funny how no one talks about the different kinds of writing. Everyone tosses around writer like it’s a one-size-fits-all title. It’s not. A fiction writer is entirely different from a journalist, and a poet is nothing like an ad copywriter. It’s like saying someone is an athlete, but what kind of athlete are they? Do they play football or roller derby?
It helps to clearly define what type of writer you are so you can concentrate on building an audience and honing your craft in that style of writing. That doesn’t mean you can’t write more than one form.
I recently started to write poetry for the Coffee House Writers. It’s how I teach myself to be more critical and descriptive as a journalist, like how some pro-athletes cross-train to get better agility, strength, etc.
I am a writer for life.
Don’t get me wrong, I have many interests, but I am a writer at heart. This past year has taught me that there’s nothing I enjoy more than reading, researching, and writing. I continually improve myself and learn new skills.
My first year has not been an overnight success, but I have grown as a writer. From my first article to this one there’s evident growth every step of the way. I’m looking forward to my next year as I am now in the job market as a writer. There is much more learning ahead, but this first year has taught me much and prepared me to move on. So, I tip my hat to honor my freshman year as a writer and look forward to the future.