I love facilitating writing workshops and recently I’ve been lucky enough to be helping other writers and running a series of ‘Writing for Publication’ workshops at the very lovely Lyndendale Gallery in the Ferguson Valley, Western Australia.
Before we moved to Australia, I ran workshops in South Africa and The Philippines where I met lots of wonderful wannabe writers, many of whom are now published in some form or another. I just love it when I can help someone to get their name in print, which is why I run an online eCourse these days as well.
It’s funny though. People I meet in the street often ask me what I do, and I reply: “I’m a writer.”
“Oh,” they say. “What do you write?”
So I tell them that my main genre is Travel Writing, but that I write observational humour and personality profiles and that I’ve also self published a children’s novel, written for travel guidebooks, produced marketing collateral for businesses and now I write and run this blog.
“That’s nice.” They say, as if I have a little hobby going on, before adding. “I’ve got a book I’d like to write.
“Great!” I say. “What’s it about.”
“Well, loosely … it’s about … but I haven’t started writing it yet, in fact I haven’t done any writing, because I don’t have the time. But I will, when I have the time.”
Now here’s the thing.
If you want to be a writer – you have to write. That is what a writer does! And that’s what I’m always telling people who attend my workshops, because those that do write (and write and write), are the ones who get published in the end. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.
Joseph Heller said: “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” There you go! It’s not easy – and easy reading is very hard writing. At the end of the day, writing can be a solitary profession and loneliness for a writer is a fact of life. Social butterflies, you might want to take note 🙂
Some people think that all they need to do to be successful is to write good English and know all the grammatical rules. While this helps for print publication, it certainly won’t make you successful – and there are lots of very successful blogs making money which don’t stick to grammatical rules at all.
When I started out, I thought that whatever I wrote was so brilliant that editors would be crying out for it! How big headed and naive I was. After all it was a bit like saying: “I have a brilliant idea to manufacture disposable musical dinner plates,” only to find that nobody wants anything of the sort!
What does the market out there want?
Obviously it would have been better to research the market first to find out what’s hot and what’s not.
Most beginner writers start out as I did. And the same goes for bloggers. They write what they want to write and then try to find a publication to accept their manuscript, or they then try to find a readership for their blog.
From a strategic point of view, this isn’t the best way to go about things.
How to go about it
For print publication – The best way to go about things is to come up with an idea, research your chosen market, contact a publication which publishes the same sort of topics you want to write about and take it from there. Doing things this way around means that you write you article according to the publication’s guidelines – format, style, length, angle etc.
I cover this in depth in my Writing for Publication eCourse.
For a blog that you want to turn into a business – Decide what you’d like to write about, but then do your research – find out what other successful blogs there are in your niche, what are they doing right and wrong, is there a readership you could tap into, could you refine the niche further to ‘make it yours?’
So First do your research.
Then place bum on chair and write. Even if you can only manage 15 minutes a day. Sometimes try and sit in a beautiful place.
Hazards to writing
Writing isn’t a like a walk in the park. Your quest to write will be beset by demons and ogres and hazards, such as:-
- Writer’s block
- Sudden Hunger
- An urgent unexplained need to clean the house
Don’t head for the Cookie Jar, Set Goals instead
Yes, write them down. And don’t wait for your creative muse to play a harp above your head because she doesn’t understand that you have rent or a bond to pay or children to feed (actually she’s not interested in your children at all – she’s only interested in her own ego). You need to write every day, even if it’s only for a short time.
Some people have to have a ritual in order to write, or at least a place of sanctity. Sadly in most busy households a place of tranquility to call your own is unlikely. If you can find a corner which is yours to write in then claim it. If not, learn to write anywhere. I used to write in the back of a Landcruiser, churning out my newspaper columns as my husband (a geologist) sped across the deserts of Namibia. My motive was of course to get my writing done so that I could enjoy the cold beers and conviviality at the end of the journey back at camp!
Why write at all?
Ok here’s the crux. Some people don’t want to be published. There is nothing wrong with this. Writing is an art, it can be therapy, and it can just be downright enjoyable. Some things I write will never be offered to a magazine because they are too personal – but they have been a therapeutic was of trying to find a way to understand, and describe the world and my life.
When you have writer’s block, read “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg and try some of her ‘Freewriting’ ideas – a great way to explore the rugged edge of thought.
Why not try 15 minutes of freewriting right now, and afterwards see if you have the bones for a blog post, or an article?
Here’s a prompt: “Not so long ago …
Start the clock – you have 15 minutes! Let me know how you go, won’t you?