What should I write? That's the $1 million question right?
Or maybe several million if you are really lucky and get the movie deal.
However, for many writers we're happy to get something that others find meaningful to read. There is that line between a hobby writer and a professional writer. When writing for fun, just start typing and see where it takes you. When your writing for money one must follow trends and attempt to find that vein of gold that taps in to the collective consciousness to find that hot topic that millions of readers will click into.
There are some common threads though. A writer needs experiences the way a carpenter needs materials. The richer the better. Not necessarily expensive. Exclusive, unique, a novelty. Something that addresses the strange dichotomy of the modern reader. Someone who is at the same time overstimulated and bored, someone who can be apathetic and fiercely passionate, someone who has a million choices for information yet feels comforted by a few trusted information sources. This is an interesting market to manage.
So what to write? Something that pops you out of your cozy bed in the morning saying I have to explore that! I have to share that! I can't believe that! I wonder what readers would think about this?
Write about challenges you have overcome because most likely you are not the only one facing them. Write about beauty and hope that have been witnessed in the world. Write about experiences as a lover, a partner, a friend, an employee, a manager, a small business owner, a pet owner, a parent as a person from a unique cultural perspective maybe? It is a journey to find and create that unique voice.
Look up Google and Twitter trends and see if there is something there that you can lend your unique perspective and voice to. Ah there now you got it! The most important thing is to create quiet moments with yourself to allow inspiration to speak to you. Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way calls them Artist Dates. Time with just you, your imagination and Inspiration going out into the world to collect materials. Then a good nap and who knows you may wake up with some inspiration there. A good walk or sometimes drive. The type of activities that get you into that somewhat lucid state where inspiration strikes. Then go for it. Always bring something with you to record good ideas for later, a notebook, a recorder, a sketchpad. Customize a solution just for you.
What will make lightning strike and a person a world class writer? No one really knows for sure. It's like being a gold miner. Just show up every day at the claim, sift through some sandy ideas and who knows maybe one day you'll stumble upon a nugget or two.
Good luck !!!
I think the hardest part for me is consistency. It is easy when writing is just a hobby because it is something waiting for you. It makes no demands, sets no expectations. It is similar to the transformation in a relationship from dating to marriage.
Dating is purely voluntary. It is fun and exciting. You get to do it on your own terms. This is all the greatness of hobby writing. There is nothing expected of one another so there are no disappointments.
Marriage is career writing. Sure you love them, however there are fights over the checkbook and how much money is coming in. The stakes are higher which can make it seem at times not as fun. Production, consistent production is expected, is required. A writer must live up to the expectation the audience has come to develop of them. If a writer is not careful the art becomes an obligation. It does not do as well in that capacity. Art is like an untamed lover and thrives in that capacity. It does not do as well in the role of husband or wife.
Consistency in writing has to be there like a marriage to make it work, to make a living at it. That is part of the struggle or challenge of being a writer. The same challenge a married couple faces How to keep it fresh and new? How to keep the passion the excitement? How to do all this and be stable and consistent one that people can depend on.
A writing schedule helps. Writing minimums for the day helps. To be a pro one must show up and write everyday. A writer must be accountable to themselves because there is no one to answer to, with freedom comes responsibility. Joining a writers group can be good for this. Someone to be accountable to, to socialize with. Groups are great for that as long as they don't become a distraction to writing in themselves. Discipline, writing goals and accountability are the ingredients to consistent writing every time.
When working at home it is difficult to maintain a work life balance. For many reasons see my article about the challenges of working from home click here. Working from home to two worlds overlap a lot which at times can mean that not much gets done house wise, or work wise if I am not careful.
It is important to maintain a schedule of sorts. It need not be harsh though it does need accountability in order for goals to be accomplished. For example since the family is home I gave myself about 5 minutes to bang out a quick blog. However, with kids wanting hugs and friends popping up for a chat on Facebook it is easy to lose focus if I let myself. Again the word is balance. It is good to give kids hugs and have good communication with friends as long as goals are met.
In the end I want my family, my relationships, to be in tact. It can be a struggle sometimes when just one more thing pulls me away. The fact is that many times writing can be easier for me than other aspects of my life. However, that is because 1) I'm in control of it 2) It is on my time 3) I can choose not to participate in the writing process if for any reason I don't want to . The rest of life is not that cut and dry.
Work-life balance. A topic that can inspire volumes but for now I am going to spend some time with the family.
It is great to connect with shows like this and with other writer resources. I will try to share them as I find them.
Ok so yeah I know there are other writers who get millions of page views (PV) a day. My article about the Chamber of Commerce got 128 PVs in one day! Since I was previously psyched to see 20 PVs ever for a story this is a personal best. Hopefully I can build on it. This is part of the journey I was talking about as far as finding my niche market. They say baby-steps is how things get started. So a little celebration then back to work. How can I get more views, do better, be stronger at what I do? These are the questions I need to answer for myself.
For now though a friend has invited me to lunch and being a writer I need to defiantly get out more. Much more, so I will prepare for that and get back to more writing later. And I hope to get some of those useful links I promised up on the Home page. Those should be happening soon.
Write, edit, repeat. Write,edit, repeat!! :)
Ok hokey title yet still very important, it is something that I have been thinking about and discovering on this journey from hobby writer to professional writer.
What do you think of when I say writer?
At first I am thinking New York Times Best Seller List, author. People who write are authors. I need to make big money and be one of those! Yet even as I looked into it, which list? There are so many now, non-fiction, fiction, thriller, romance, children's literature? On and on it all comes back to the question anyone who takes on the blank page faces... "What do I write about?"
Time tells all.
Time tells a lot about what a writer can do. With small kids, a family, volunteer work and other various things that need to be done I don't have the brain cells or energy left at the end of the day to create cohesive string of thoughts to create a novel of any sort. Maybe one day.
I like the short bursts of information from blogging and article writing. The beauty of the blog is the ability to just let it go. Let the words flow and see what is there. Articles should have research behind them though I have read some articles where that clearly was not the case. However, to me integrity is so important and as such it is important to put best practices and best work out there. All you have as a writer is your reputation it should be protected with good work.
Journalism is another way to go. To be a journalist you need to be able to be mobile, do research and meet deadlines. This tends to be rather consuming and is good for single young people, or others who are otherwise unattached and have a much shorter list of distractions. There isn't much creativity going on in journalism just observe and report. If you do it well the story is there already you just put it on paper in a way that people might want to read. As opposed to the creative writer whose challenge is to keep it believable. However, other than that a creative writer can construct a completely new reality. I think that is why I am so attracted to the idea of creative writing one day.
The poet plays with words and pushes limits. Poetry done well is magical. However, it is not for the timid or impatient. I can create some poetry in the right mood, consistency is another thing. Patience is something I have little of and so I blog. That is my favorite method. Short and sweet, reality-based with some latitude of creativity. Not too much of a fact check extravaganza of course I do my best to be genuine and speak from the heart it's what I am most comfortable with.
A timeless truth and no less true in writing. Know thyself. What I am doing now on my writer's journey is trying out many kinds of writing styles to answer the question " Where are my strengths?"
Many topics, many styles trying them on like a child tries on her mother's clothes. Seeing what works and what doesn't as I take the journey to self discovery as a writer. I really like Julia Cameron's books from her program The Artist's Way to help with this process. I have found benefit from them. Yet I know enough to know ultimately it is a very personal and private experience (though I am sharing it with you).
No one can do the work for you nor tell you what will work for you. Primarily what I find works for me are the topics that get my heart racing. Which unfortunately for me has little to do with celebrity news. Which brings us to the second part of the equation of writing for a living and that is finding something you want to write AND something others want to read. People want to read Cosmopolitan however I can't stop blushing enough to write even a sample article. As my skills improve I may be able to fit in more with the Oprah magazine crowd that plays more to my strengths. However, I feel I need much more practice before that happens. We'll see how it goes. I believe in miracles. :)
Well that's it for today's installment. Children are now going crazy in the other room. Time to put the mom hat back on.
So my action item for today was to set up a QuickBooks file for my writing business.
Having accounting in order is probably the most difficult task of owning/ operating a small business or being self-employed. They sure don't make it easy, yet it can be done.
I was lucky to already have QuickBooks because my husband was using it for his business. There wasn't exactly one for freelance writer or at least not one that I have found yet. I'll continue to look. I just used the Marketing and Public Relations for now because it was the closest type of business to what I'd be doing. So we'll see how it goes.
If you are just starting out there are spreadsheets and easy accounting programs that can get you started for less money. However if you can invest in a good small business accounting program and get it set up by an accountant it saves a lot of headache down the road.
A few weeks ago I opened a really simple bank account that I'll be using for now and then upgrade as time goes by. If you plan to take your writing seriously enough to make it a prosperous business it is a really good idea for tax purposes to have a separate checking account to run your business out of and not to use it for personal expenses. This way easier to say than to do. However in writing, blogging and web content creation it is difficult to prove until you are making the big bucks whether it is a hobby or a business. Whether it is a hobby or a business means a lot as far as taxes and exemptions are concerned. Which I can talk more about on another blog. Anyway long story short don't mix business with pleasure financially or the IRS gets mad at you.
The other important thing I did was to start a business account with PayPal that is because that is the way I get paid by sites like Associated Content, Helium.com and others you can even receive payments from sites like this one on Weebly.com. Please see my donate key on the Home page. :)
So things are moving a long. I am working on the foundation work and it feels pretty good.
Well that is it for today. I have a few articles to write that need to be finished today.
Create an amazing day!
Sophia Tesch is a graduate of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. Sophia is a community advocate. She lives in San Tan Valley, Arizona with her husband and children.