Writing for your soul can be wonderfully indulgent and creatively rewarding, but it doesn’t necessarily advance your career or pay the rent. Here are some steps to help you start earning by-lines and credits. The first thing you have to do is stop talking about writing and start doing it!
- Start young, start small.
One of the best times to start writing is when
you’re a student because your mind is open, you offer a fresh perspective, innocence is forgiven, you don’t have much to lose and chances are, you won’t expect much payment. To do this, offer to contribute an item to your school newsletter, church bulletin, local newspaper, or town annual report. If you like writing poetry, consider joining the National Association of State Poetry Societies. They offer activities and competitions that can help you test the waters at your own pace. Enter slogan contests, 25-words-or less competitions, submit song lyrics or jingles … all you need is one win to launch your writing portfolio!
- Look for work that involves writing.
Even a summer job can offer good writing experience. If you are asked to recap meetings or write research reports, propose an idea or draft a letter, do so enthusiastically and keep a copy for your files. Mundane tasks can lay the foundation for becoming a copywriter, research writer, grant writer, or marcom writer – i.e., someone who writes for advertising and commercial purposes, someone who analyzes data, someone who writes to secure funding, or someone who specializes in strategic messaging. If possible, ask for a byline or simply put a credit on your work.
- Voice your opinion.
Use your words to take a stand. Write a Letter to the Editor, comment on an online article, prepare something to say at a political event. Don’t under estimate the value in introducing a presenter, accepting an award, or sparking dialogue about a hot topic. This can prepare you to become a speech writer, script writer, or editorial (op ed) writer. If you’re not comfortable “going public,” remember there’s also a role for “ghost writers” who are paid well for letting others enjoy the limelight.
Hang around people who write, and you’ll start writing more. If you can become an intern for a publisher, jump at the chance. Go to poetry slams and book readings. Join a Book Club. Sign up for a free writers’ workshop at a library. Take or audit a college class or adult education course in creative writing. Volunteer to write something for your professional association to showcase your expertise. Check out resources like News Jobs.net for entry level openings or sites like Funds for Writers for insight. And remember publications like Writer’s Digest for real world information.
- Read Daringly, Dare to Write.
Force yourself to pick up a book or magazine that’s out of your comfort zone. Sure, you should follow erudite authors, but don’t overlook satirical resources like The Onion. A friend of mine pointed me to a site called All Politics is Loco which reminds me to mention that some people actually grow up and become comedy writers or screen writers. Don’t assume every writer has to be serious.
- Blog Your Brains Out.
Blogging is a great way to keep your writing fresh and frequent. If you’re not inclined to maintain your own blog, contribute to an external one. Wordsonthe fly, for example, posts different content to Technorati.com,
a site that shapes and monitors the Blogosphere. Check out the WordsontheFly channel under SoapBox Musings. Ultra local news aggregators like Patch.com and Examiner.com are often looking for reporters. You won’t get rich, but you could get some credits under your belt.
- Start the Great American Novel.
Most writers have a book somewhere… either in their head, in a scribble of notes on their nightstand, or in some state of development. Don’t
be afraid of it. Write what you can, when you can. Take it with you on vacation. Set it aside and come back to it if you’re stumped. Flesh out the plot line as a short story to see if it holds up. Use the web to get acquainted with book publishers. Most post clear submission guidelines.
If you’re serious, find an agent. Most publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. But that’s not the only way to go. Consider self-publishing or online publishing. There are many small presses and Print On Demand printers that can help you become a published author.
Most importantly, look in the mirror and say with a smile, “I’m a writer,” and someday you – and others – will believe it. And then you will bloom.