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So you want to be a writer? You want to publish a book or two and see your work on store shelves, library shelves, and digital stores. You want to know that your writing has helped many people overcome life’s challenges. But you don’t know how to get there. Or maybe you’ve tried and failed.
I am a mom of two, who went from teaching to doing office work for a library system. I don’t have a lot of free time. Although I have more free time now than I did as a teacher (because I was literally making lesson plans and material through the late hours of the night), I’m not using that time wisely.
My goals and aspirations have always been to be a full-time, published writer, in the realm of fiction. This has been my dream since middle school. However, fast-forward many years and I became a teacher instead for almost a decade, and then I made the switch to library and office work. Although I am writing, my name is not plastered where I want it to be–on the front of a piece of fiction. My name is on lesson plans, extra resources, personal statements, letters of resignation, blogs–anything but fiction.
And let me tell you, I’m doing it all wrong. In this article I’m going to tell you what NOT to do if you want to become a published writer, aside from what I’ve listed above. In other words, don’t make my same mistakes.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
- DON’T TAKE ADVICE FROM NON-WRITERS
There are many people out there who love to give advice, from productivity to marriage to other areas. They can be experts in the field, as well as people who just want to be seen as knowledgeable but don’t preach what they teach. It’s up to you to decipher the experts from the fakers.
The fakers are not going to encourage you to pursue this creative route. Because they don’t know where to steer you–or they really don’t want you to accomplish this goal and actually become better than them–they’ll discourage you from writing and pursuing your goal. And this will hurt.
Instead, take advice from those who enjoy writing, and writing is either their hobby or career; Listen to the writers who want to help others. Read their books, watch their videos, take their courses; Take their advice and don’t give up.
- DON’T TAKE WRITING CLASSES THAT COST MONEY
Again, there are tons of people who love to give advice, and they’ll give it to you in the form of a course or two. And these courses may cost money. If you don’t have the money, because finances are tight or you have family–like me–putting money into a writing class may not be in your budget.
Instead, look for free courses–such as those on YouTube or through your local library. LinkedIn Learning also provides courses on writing. (Personally, I have access through my public library account.) And read books on writing. Books are more affordable than courses, and they are easily accessible through your local library as well.
In addition, I don’t recommend taking writing courses that cost money because you may not know what courses, or instructors, work for you. Instead, look around for free material. Once you find an instructor who suits your liking, you can then start paying for their master classes. (I’ve taken writing courses in and out of college, and they’ve been a waste of my time because the lessons weren’t what I needed. I learned more through books and free material. I highly recommend Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat Beat Sheet.)
- DON’T PURSUE A WRITING DEGREE
Obtaining a higher education does not guarantee you a job after graduation. Just because you went to school to gain a writing degree doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to land a big writing gig or get a publishing contract. Like ALL of us, you start at the bottom of any company, doing something you may not enjoy for several years. (Personally, I started my teaching career in childcare. The pay was low, the days were long, and it was not my cup of tea. But I did it to build up my resume.)
Instead of a writing degree, pursue another degree, if you want a higher education. Many published writers will tell you, “Don’t quit your day job” because writing may not sustain your living. With your day job, continue writing on the side; Make writing your hobby and side gig. To do this, you don’t need a college degree. (I have a degree in elementary education because I love kids, but teaching was killing my joy, mental health, and physical health, so I quit.)
- DON’T JOIN ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS
Accountability groups have a great purpose, but they take time and energy. If you work full-time and have a family to tend to afterwards, the last thing you want to do is jump back into your car or join a zoom call. Some groups are not nearby, and their timing may also not be ideal. (I joined an accountability group, over zoom, a couple years ago. Although the evening time frame sounded nice for a working mom, it just added to my level of “work” and anxiety.)
Instead, set aside a time that works for you to write. Maybe you only have a 15-minutes window at work for a break–use this time to write; get up 15-30 minutes earlier to write; or have friends or family watch your kids after dinner so you can squeeze in some writing time as me-time (read more about me-time in my Self-Love article.)
- DON’T WRITE ABOUT TOPICS OF DISINTEREST
Freelancer Meg Dowell put it simply when she wrote, “When you write about what you’re interested in, you’re more productive, you might find it easier to focus, and you’ll just be happier overall.” Think about your school days, assignments and essays were more enjoyable when you got to choose the topics; they were a bore when you had to stick to specific topics or restrictions.
Same goes with your personal writing. Choose topics of interest. If you like historical romance, write it; if you like horror, go for it. Being the boss of your writing is going to be a lot more enjoyable, and you’ll still have steam for it when you don’t feel like writing. (If you look at the rest of my blog, you’ll find that I write about self-development, parenting, and mental health. As much as I enjoy the topics, I’m losing interest because it’s not what I really want to focus on.)
- DON’T LOUNGE AROUND AND EXPECT RECOGNITION
It’s easy to sit around the house and play on our phones or binge watch the latest TV sitcom. It’s hard to get up and go to work; it’s even harder trying to start a writing career out of thin air. However, an aspiring writer, who is not making their writing public, is not going to gain recognition nor a readership.
Start writing and posting your writing somewhere. Your writing could be blog posts, magazine articles, reviews–any place that has your name attached to it. Doing this will give you writing accountability, improve your writing, and start building an audience for you.
To take this one step further, if you want to draw in a bigger crowd, delve into script writing and start creating video content. Start advertising yourself and your skills. (I’m on YouTube, working on scripting and content creation, in the hopes of finding my niche/following. Follow me as aWritersCorner, if you like.)
The crowd who enjoys your writing, your content, and your personality will eventually come. But don’t expect it to come while you are living in your comfort zone.
- DON’T WRITE OUTSIDE OF YOUR PREFERRED GENRE
If you want to pursue fiction writing–or other genres–stick to the genre. (Look who’s talking–er, writing.) In other words, if you have a piece of writing you’re working on, continue to work on it. If you delve into other realms, say nonfiction, it may be hard to turn the ship around. And then you’ll find yourself writing about topics that eventually fall flat. (My blog posts are about anything but fiction writing thus far, and, although they are interests of mine, I’m growing bored–hence I’m writing about writing in this article.)
Stick to what you have and what you enjoy. Therefore, when times get tough–and you don’t feel like writing or conducting research–you can still ride the waves and keep striving forward. Not to mention, it’s fun to go back and reread what you’ve already written.
If you’re an aspiring writer, you may not know where to start. Or you may have given writing a try and failed. I’ve failed in many areas too, and this article is to inform you NOT to make my same mistakes. Instead, take my advice and keep writing. Your writing will continue to improve and your readership will come. Becoming a full time writer takes perseverance.
You got this!