As a writer, some people (especially aspiring writers) often ask how to become a writer. Sometimes it is necessary to keep things simple. Building up a resume as a writer is important. And the best way to become a more effective writer is to follow five simple rules that I’ve used in my own experience and writing pursuits.
1) Writing is a work in progress. Writing doesn’t necessarily end when you finish your first draft, or whatever draft you think is “final.” Sometimes a paper expands and expands and expands. When you write for publications, a paper may be rejected. That doesn’t mean it is “done.” Some of my own published articles and essays were years in the making (stretching as far back as my university career) and were rejected at several publications before being edited and accepted for publication. Writing, therefore, should always be seen as a work in progress. Even a published work can become the springboard for a larger, more expansive, essay, article, or book.
2) Consistent writing habits are a must. Simply put, if you don’t carve out the time to write, you will not be a writer. Whether it’s everyday, every other day, or a devoted time period once or twice a week, writers need to get into the habit of writing and writing consistently. Don’t fear writer’s fatigue. When you experience writer’s fatigue but have been consistent in writing, you can take a week off because your habitual writing affords you the opportunity to take a break.
3) Don’t let rejections defeat you. As mentioned, rejections are part of everyday writing in the publishing world. Even though I’m regularly and routinely published in various magazines, newspapers, journals, and other publications, I am still rejected from time to time. And as with Rule 1, those rejections serve to further improve those papers. I’ve had numerous essays/articles rejected at one publication only to be re-worked and accepted at another (including some that pay better than the original publication where I was rejected). Learn to make failure an inspiration for becoming a better writer.
4) Find yourself and your core; don’t write for everyone. While trite, finding your voice and style in writing is a must. You cannot, and shouldn’t, try to please everyone in your writing. If you try to write for everyone, you are really writing for no one. Finding your voice and style and then finding publications that fit you is the path to success and growth.
5) Network and expand. It is imperative for writers to network themselves with other writers and editors. When you have a writing accepted by an editor, try to maintain or build that editorial relationship. Networked writers will often find themselves as significant advantages compared to unnetworked writers. For instance, through my own editorial connections I am a “reliable” contributor; my editorial networks help expand my writing profile (sometimes by receiving invitations for writing contributions, academic and public); my editorial networks help in the promotion of my own works (like providing book reviews to their subscribers about my publications); editorial connections are often willing to help you if you have a good relationship with them (book endorsements, intermediary networking, invitations to conferences, events, media, etc.). Never abandon an editorial connection either. Even as you expand your writing abilities and networks, it serves a writer well to keep earlier connections. You never know when they may come in handy.
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