I have been having a lot of fun with my writing over the past few days. It's up for debate whether that is a good thing or not but that debate is another blog post all together.
One thing that the past few days did bring up that is of value, I think, as a writer is --drum roll please--branding yourself.
No not burning yourself with a brand that would hurt, or doing something with Russell Brand that may be fun but is not advisable. Creating yourself as a brand. This can be difficult when you like to write in many forms and genres. It can be strength to be able to write this way because you can work in many genres and with many people and that can lead to more freelance work. However, it is also a great detriment when a writer is not able to make any traction in any one genre because their work is too spread out.
Add into that some attention deficit type qualities and what you have going is a hot mess. Because titles are scattered everywhere and the attention is scattered several unrelated subjects this doesn't work well especially in the world of search engines. You see search engines want you to define yourself. The more postings you have with the same word set in it the stronger your presence on the web for that topic is. For example the more I have with writing, writer, blog, author and other similar terms the higher up the web link food chain I go when someone is looking up information about being a writer.
Search engines, fans and publishers are the same. They want experts, people who know about a specific something, they don't usually call on Jacks (or Jills in this case) of all trades. They want to know that you are a sports writer, a romance writer, a poet, a political wonk, an entertainment writer, a fashionista, too much diversity is confusing.
This can be frustrating to people like me who are children at heart, that have never grown up. I am constantly curious and wanting to experiment with different things, I am bored quickly, and move on to something else that I can learn about. So to work at one thing day after day is not fun for me. Some would call it stability I call it tedious.
However, if I don't pick something and stick with it. At least until I am known as a brand, I will be one of the many "Gee I wish I could make some money at this writing gig." type of writers. Frankly, I think the world has enough of those already.
I just had one of those moments when things started coming into focus. I think they call it a moment of clarity. Just a moment in time when there is a flash of inspiration saying, "Look this is how it works!".
Over and over I have read and heard writers say, "Just write", and to a beginning writer it is easy to ask the question "Write what?". Because somewhere along the way, maybe in school a person picks up the notion that you must be doing something for a specific purpose in order for it to be valuable.
So, I did. I wrote. Today in my literary travels I came across a poetry contest. Submissions are due tomorrow and what do you know? I had something to submit! Something I had written months ago for no specific reason, just doing my morning writing. That poem was a perfect fit for the contest. I'll wait and see how it does against the competition.
The important thing is that I now see why they say Write, write, WRITE! Create a stack of work that can be taken out and used as needed. Write for every holiday, every occasion, just write and at some time down the road when material is needed you will be able to have a quick and thoughtful turn around on work. After awhile it starts to catch on and you have all sorts of material to work with and submit as needed.
It felt wonderful to get that flash. Now that I get it, now that I see it, there really is nothing left to do but do it and make it happen.
First off, I had this awesome moment looking at my computer desktop this morning thinking, I am becoming a writer. Besides my wallpaper that says "Don't judge a book by its movie" which I find to be very writer-ish. I also have a link to Kindle Reader and HootSuite which is an awesome tool for keeping track of all that is social networking. So my physical world is beginning to take on that of a professional writer.
I read a statistic somewhere recently that it takes about 3 years to get a blog noticed. That is about right with just about anything. It must build momentum, an audience and with that it takes work, and time to put out interesting content to build readership. I am very excited about some current projects coming to an end so that I can but some time in.
The last few years have been about gathering information and tools. About practicing and figuring out what the game plan is so to speak. So that has been good. There is still work to do as far as considering this endeavor a business. I will study that more and I believe that will come over time however I think the best thing a successful person needs to have no matter what their endeavor in life is good tools and great time management skills! That's the difference. May could do "it" whatever "it" is for them but so few do. As the great quote says, the future belongs to those who show up.
So I am showing up. However I need to show up much more. My weakness being time management and putting the time in. Having my energy spread out on many things that do not bring me to successful results for my writing goals and that is counter- productive. What should I be doing with my time? I have to ask myself what would a writer do?
Speaking of great quotes, my writer friend Sevastian Winters came up with a great one the other day that I will share with you. He said instead of Fake it 'til you make it, Do it until they notice. That is it in a nutshell my friends the great secret to how you really get there. Just keep doing what you know in your heart is what you need to be doing until someone notices. They will...eventually....right?
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.
One way a writer can make some money on her website is to add Google Adsense. That is my task for today in addition to completing some writing assignments I have due in the next few days so I won't be able to spend too much time on it.
The way it works is that you post a banner somewhere on your page and you get paid when people click on the ads. I think you also get paid for page views but I am still learning about it. I'll let you know when I find out for sure. I also remember reading some really great blogs about creating revenue as a writer. I will try to post them here as a resource over the next week. Well I'd better get to it today, busy, busy, busy!
The biggest challenge for any artist whether it be visual arts, writing or music is the same as it has been over the centuries. How do you make money at it? Where the very lucky have patrons or wealth from other avenues that they can use to support themselves while they hone their craft many of us do not. However there are many who do make a decent living writing and it is my goal to be one of those people.
I am writing now for Associated Content and Helium. com. They are both awesome venues to learn my craft in a hands-on manner and it brings in a few bucks now and then. The name of that game is volume and choosing content that is timely that the public is hungry for.
I liken it to a game of Hungry Hippos where many writers are out there trying to grab those hot titles and write to them before the topic is too saturated or the fickle public has already moved on to its next distraction. At first it seemed a little frustrating however over time it became exciting and fun.
It is easy to get your work accepted for what is called PPV- paid per view. You get paid based on the number of people who click on your page and view it, easy enough. This has driven the industry I feel to move toward the controversial, at time damaging, titles some which are more than a little misleading.
By mentioning a hot button word that gets folks fired up examples like abortion, gun control (they are taking our guns), or things like Jersey Shore you can get clicks. If you mention Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck you can get some clicks. Gay rights, immigration and drug legalization generate some clicks as well depending on the way the title is worded. The thing people do is to make people irate so they click, comment and share. It is good for getting paid but in my opinion it is not very healthy for society.
One of the challenges as I transition from hobby writing to professional is how to bring in the clicks without feeding the monster that media has become. That which the Rally to Restore Sanity spoke out about. I have a lot of moralistic ideals and not much money. That is one thing I wrestle with on my journey. Can I keep my ideals and my identity and still make money in this trade? We'll see.
The goal is to crack the code that will allow me to obtain larger up front payments for stories. I have not as of this moment cracked that code. One thing I know about myself though is I am very analytical and tenacious. In addition my kid's futures depend on my success. And as a mother that is more than enough incentive for me to figure this out. I'll leave it at that for today.
This blog is a field guide. A map of my journey from "just for fun" writer to a professional. I have been story telling since I could talk and writing came naturally to me as a small child. I loved the control I had over the page in a world that I had very little control over. My journal was my friend an a release as time went on.
As I grew up I learned the power of words, in a love letter, a letter to the editor, and in business. I grew addicted to that feeling when someone reads your work and a change is made, an impact is imprinted. I also love creating a literary or cyber escape world where devoid of fiscal challenges much beauty and peace can be created. That is why I do what I do. It is a calling.
Now I find myself almost 40 years old and like many in America in a harsh financial reality the worst of it is it doesn't reflect who I am as a person. I don't want to be behind on bills and other financial responsibilities. It is not who I am and I feel that. I feel that my expression of myself in the world isn't genuine right now. I think taking my words to the marketplace and making a living with them will allow me to be more of myself. If that makes any sense to anyone. It makes sense to me :o)
So I will continue to document my journey. It is a career journey and a next phase of life journey. I hope to find others who can relate and share with me on this journey. It's better to take a journey of this magnitude with friends.
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.