How To Transition From Amateur Writer To Professional Writer
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In this article, I am not going to try to tell you how to transition from amateur writer to professional writer. I am not going to tell you how to monetize your on-line writing. There are many articles available on these topics. But in my travels along the information super highway there is one thing I have not seen; so I will start there.
A Niche That Needs Filling?
As I said, there is plenty of material claiming to tell you how to become a better writer, or to turn pro as a writer, and how to make money from your on-line writing. But what seems lacking is a newbie-nuggets guide to taking those first tentative steps into writing for the public with an eye toward (eventually) making a career of it. That is what I offer in this article.
What Are Your Intentions As A Writer?
The internet has made it possible for virtually anyone to share their opinions and information with others through self-publication. Blogging sites have made this so simple that all you need to know is how to type. These venues run the gamut from flighty what I'm doing today to tightly focused special interests. Neither is a bad thing, all can enlighten, entertain, and rally support for causes.
But if you want to become the next great American (or English, or Canadian, or where ever you're from) novelist, blogging is a distraction. You can use it for writing exercises, or as a diversion, but focus on becoming a novelist if that is your goal.
If your goal is to become, say a sports writer for a magazine or a script writer for a TV show, running your own blog that showcases your work in those areas can help you attain that goal if used as part of your resume.
If you don't know yet what you want to write about; blog, and see what interest surfaces.
Do You Have Talent?
A lot of people who envision themselves as wordsmiths and want to follow the siren song of freelance writing aren't as talented as they think. Blogging allows anyone to express themselves, but if you want to take your work commercial you will want to get hooked up with some critics who will help shape your work and guide you in your development. Most public forums are not very good for this because people who aren't very good writers themselves can't tell you how to be a better writer.
There are many amateur writer web sites, most have a forum devoted to critiquing the work of new writers. Before joining one, lurk for a while. Read the work submitted and the evaluations. I've found a few that are populated by a handful of pretentious braggarts who live to quash newbie writers. Constructive criticism need not be soul crushing. Others are so positive and encouraging that they offer no constructive advice at all. Naturally, the best critique sites require a paid membership for these services, but there are, or at least we're when I was looking at them, a few that have volunteer staff and are pretty good at helping writers get going.
Do You Have The Time To Write?
Here again, casual amateur bloggers can sit down and rip off a post whenever an opportunity arises and it's no real concern that it's haphazard, but anyone hoping to become a professional writer, just like anyone hoping to become a professional athlete, needs to train. That means setting aside some time every day to work at writing. If your life is so full with work, spouse, kids, home, friends, family, the club, volunteer work that you haven't a moment to call your own; when do you plan to write? Some re-prioritizing may be in order.
Is Self-employment For You?
This is, in my opinion, the most important question of all to ask. My experience has been that most people in the world today can not handle self-employment. I went into this topic in depth in my magazine series on becoming a professional woodworker and I'd recommend that you follow that link and read the Is Self Employment For You article. Different field; same issues. This article asks several questions about your current work situation that will help you decide if you can be your own boss. I'll borrow just one paragraph from that article then move on.
In the same way, some people prefer the security of a regular paycheck and a time clock. They know when to work and when to go home, and they have an income they can plan on. Usually. Then there are those of us who have little trouble motivating ourselves to work when it's time to work and play when it's time to play. We don't see it as living on the edge, it's just a matter of discipline.
A Space To Call Your Own
Setting a laptop on the dining room table and writing while the pot roast cooks, then clearing everything away for dinner is ok for casual work, but as you get more serious you will need a dedicated space where you can leave your notes and feel a sense of separation so you may work undistracted. How we accomplish this territorial claiming will vary from person to person, home to home and situation to situation.
I know one gal who takes her notebook computer and an attach full of notes and walks out to a clearing in the woods where she has a beach chair. Here she reclines, in the shade of 300 year old poplars, listens to the birds and ruminates on all manner of wonderful things.
Another fellow commandeered the family junk closet, gave all the junk to the Goodwill and set up a compact computer station in the closet. Thats a bit claustrophobic for me, but he likes it, he calls it his writing womb.
Getting Comfy to Write
Wherever you write, you need to be comfy. Gone are the days when men wore a jacket and tie even when mowing the lawn and women wore full length dresses and high heels to do housecleaning. When my office was in our house there we're many days that my wife would come home from work in the evening and find me still in my PJs. Shed give me a funny look, but never said anything. One day I asked about that look and she said, No, it's not disapproval, it's envy.
Look to the ergonomic issues for maximum physical comfort, lighting to reduce eye strain, soothing background music, etc.
Keep drinks and snacks available but don't overdo them. Sitting at a desk punching a keyboard does not burn many calories. As you get to where you spend more and more time typing, you need to watch your snacking habits. But don't die of thirst or hunger either. These are distractions that will affect your quality of work.
Remember too to take a short break and work the kinks out once in a while. If you stop to ponder something, use the opportunity to rip off a few toe touches or windmills to keep your muscles from solidifying in the chair-sitting pose. One advantage of working on your own is that if you do jump up out of your chair and start bending and twisting without advance notice, no co-worker will be dialing the ambulance or wacky-wagon.
Writers Work Habits
A routine is good for most people, especially if you want to be effective with your time management. If the only time you have to write is early mornings before the family gets up, then set your alarm, get up and try to write for that time period. It may be tough at first but, as you get more and more enjoyment from spending your time this way, it will become easier.
Schedule training time as well as productive writing time. Things to include here would be reading. Writers have to read? Yes! Most writers want to write because they loved to read in their youth. Continuing that habit is a good study in writing; read great authors, as you read notice the way they construct things, the word plays they use, the illustrative analogies, the subtle humor. These are what make them great. Study them and try to incorporate those techniques into your work.
Also include some mind stretching writing exercises; write random paragraphs about the first thing that flits into your head, after you say go. Choose a topic at random from a newspaper and use it to write dialogue between two or more characters. Those development forums I spoke of will have lists of stretching exercises for you to try. Keep these in a notebook or special file on your computer, sometimes these kernels of thought will sprout and bloom into a beautiful piece of work if you go back and review them occasionally.
Setting Writing Goals
I know, you're just setting out, you have no idea where this will take you; how can you possibly set goals? So start with small goals; I will write 15 pages a week of completed work. Or; I will submit three blog posts every week. Start small, increase them as you grow to provide a challenge that is a challenge but is attainable. Learn to walk before you try to fly.
Open the Door to Writing
Only you know what your aspirations are, what your situation is and what your abilities are. Explore those, ask the hard questions, be honest with yourself in answering, and try. Standing, gazing longingly at a closed door will get you nowhere. Take hold of the knob, give it a twist, and see where it takes you.
I wish you the best of luck and I hope to be reading *your* works soon!
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