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Your First Steps To Becoming A Writer

What’s the first step to becoming a writer? You’d think it would be “write”, but it’s not. In speaking to other writers and from what I know of my own journey to becoming a writer, I’ve come to realize that the biggest obstacle for new writers is that they don’t think of themselves as writers. They have trouble developing the belief that they are writers and yet it’s something you have to do. When you haven’t developed that belief, that conviction, it becomes a source of sabotage–you don’t value your work enough to give it the time and the space it needs. How do you come to think of yourself as a writer, especially when you’re not earning a paycheck as a writer? Here are a few tips:

What Happens When You Write?

If you want to be a writer, I’m assuming you feel you have something to say and a strong desire to say it. You may not know how you’re going to say it or in what form (poetry, novel, essay, etc.) but you know something is there. Okay, you pick up your pencil or pen or you sit down to your computer or typewriter. Write something. Whatever you write, just make sure your heart is in it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be neat. It does have to be expressive.

Next, as painful as it may be, you have to show this writing to someone. It can be a friend, it can be a family member. Then, pay attention to what happens. Did the person reading your work cry, laugh or get angry? If so, you did that! It means you can have an effect with your writing. It’s worth something. You have to keep going!

A teenager recently wrote to me concerned because she’s writing fiction and she’s worried her mother will read it and get upset because she thinks it’s stuff the teenager really did. On the one hand, that is a bummer to have to explain yourself to your mother, but on the other hand–wow, that means the young lady’s work is believeable and effective. That kind of feedback is hard to ignore. It’s powerful motivation to keep you going–if you take the time to notice and honor that it’s happening. I once had a writer say to me, “I don’t know if my stuff is any good. I just know that when people read it, they cry.” I told her you can’t get a message any clearer than that kind of response. Now she just has to listen to it.

Cultivate Silence

If you’re having trouble thinking about what it is you have to say, it may help you to spend some time each day in silence. Some writers pray. Some meditate. The idea is to get used to clearing your brain space and tuning in to your inner voice. You’ll also be more aware of those little scraps of possibility floating around in your head that can later grow into big ideas.

What Do You Want to Write? Experiment!

It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to write about. It may take a long time journaling for you to see what keeps coming up for you. And it may take longer to find the form that fits you best. I went from poetry to essays to long-form letter writing before I settled on fiction. It took me years to do that. It doesn’t mean I won’t do anything else in those genres, but what I’m doing right now just fits. I encourage you to experiment until you find the form that suits your writing best.

Continually Remind Yourself You Are a Writer

As you develop your belief that you’re a writer, it’s helpful to set up reminders that will jog you back to that brain space that you need to be in to write. When you sit down to write it’s easy to get distracted and starting thinking about doing laundry or what’s for dinner. You’ll want to have something either on your desk or on the wall in front of you that reminds you to get back to work and that you are a writer.

It might be your list of values that remind you that writing is a part of who you are. It may be simple words such as CREATE or INSPIRE. Isabel Allende, who writes beautiful, historical novels will sit in her office with photos around her, old photos of people who essentially represent her characters so she’s surrounded by them. That puts her back into the brain space of her book because she is sitting in their world; these people are all around her.

What world do you need to be in? The journey you take to get there will be one of many you’ll take as a writer. I hope these ideas will help you take those first steps. What you write–and where you go from here–is entirely up to you. Bon Voyage.

 

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Young Writers

If you are between the ages of 8 to 18 and love to write, be it short stories, plays or poems, then you are a young writer. For the writer nothing is more satisfying than finishing a story, play, poem etc. In fact some young writers decide to make it their career of choice. This is not always an easy path but if you have a passion for it you will ride out the difficult times. Here are some tips to help you.

1. Read widely,a good writer is one that reads constantly and widely. This helps you to get a good idea of how the language is to be written and exposes you to several different styles of writing. Reading is an excellent way to develop good grammar. You shouldn’t just stick to modern works of fiction but you should also read classic authors, study their work and the way they developed their characters. Your aim as a writer is to create characters that your readers care about, once they care about the characters readers keep turning the pages.

2. Write everyday, this may be in the form of journal writing or adding to a story, poem or whatever you may be writing. Make it a routine. You have heard that practice makes perfect, well this is true for writing as well. You might want to have a special desk or area in which to write, many writers have a favorite spot in their house in which to write, being in that space puts them in touch with their creative side.

3. Editing is important. It often surprises me as a writer, how many times I revisit and review and rewrite a piece. You may think it’s perfect but a few days later when you approach the work with a fresh eye you may find there are more flaws than you saw before. So be prepared to edit a lot. You might also consider showing your work to a trusted friend, who could proof-read or help you edit. Don’t let the number of edits you have to do discourage you or let you question your ability. You might write something today that you think is brilliant and a few days later you hate it and just throw it out. That is part of the process.

4. It is often said that you should write what you know. This certainly makes writing easier and more believable. It is also true that writers should be researchers so whatever you don’t know you can always find out about through extensive research and then it will become something you do about. Live vicariously as well, remember you can learn a lot from others especially those who are older than you. Listen to their stories, they may inspire you as a young person to write something great.

5. Share your writing with others by joining groups and entering writing contests. This gets you into the habit of putting yourself and your work out there. These experiences are valuable as it provides feedback that you can use to evaluate your writing.

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4 Hassle-Free Ways To Write How-To Articles

You want to get your e-mail newsletter started, but you don’t want to be burdened with writing articles every time you turn around. Fact is, writing how-to articles isn’t that much of a hassle once you have a system for it.

Creating short, how-to articles allows you to:

– connect with your audience

– position yourself as an expert, and

– increase sales

Bottom line: Give clients information they need and you’ll be the first person they’ll think of when they run into challenges.

Consider creating a template for your e-mail newsletter articles that will fit the needs of your audience. Ask yourself if they want detailed information, or if they’re happy receiving broad ideas that will allow them to tailor the information to meet their specific needs.

If they want specific info, you could always include a teaser paragraph in your newsletter and then provide a link at the bottom of that paragraph. The link can lead to more detailed information about the subject your that audience is interested in.

Once you understand the needs of your audience, place your information in article format. Here’s a system I’ve often used to produce quick, informative articles.

1. Begin with an identifier paragraph.

This is an introduction to the subject. Just let people know exactly what you’re getting at.

2. Tell them why they should be interested.

This is where you just get into the reader’s world. You will what you’re talking about help them do their jobs better? In essence, that’s all people really want to know.

3. Give short, realistic pieces of advice.

You have so much to say it’s hard to fit it into short bits of info, but do it you must. Otherwise you’ll lose your audience’s attention. Try to stick to the points that have the most impact or the ones that are completely opposite to what people in your industry are currently doing.

4. Wrap it up.

One of my mentors used to always say to me, “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Then tell ’em. Then tell ’em what you told ’em.” No, he wasn’t senile. His advice actually worked. At the end of every article I just wrap up what I’ve said by reviewing the key points of the article. It’s called a “takeaway.” What’s the one thing you want the audience to take away from your article and implement in their daily work lives? Once you’ve answered that question, you have your final paragraph.

Whatever you do, keep it short and simple. Sure we may want to use sophisticated language if your audience craves that, but you’d be surprised. When reading e-mail especially, readers won’t mind short, concise words and phrases. And that’s especially true if those words and phrases add more to the bottom line and/or help them become more efficient.

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