What to Tell People Who Think They Can Write

Rachel Yerks

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It finally happened. Someone saw your writing online and asked you, “how do I write?” Worse, someone saw your writing online and said, “oh, I’ve been thinking about starting a blog, too”. For anyone who says the following, here’s what I would like to tell them. Feel free to share this article or its tips with the wannabe writers in your life.

Writing isn’t hard, but it’s not a cakewalk, either

You write by writing. If you can talk, you can write. Talk to the reader and try to make your piece about them, even if it’s secretly about you and your frustrations. Anyone can write, but if you want people to read it, that’s the difficult part. 

Read lots of other people’s work and use their formatting tips and tricks. Blend in on the platforms you write on so readers will have a seamless transition to your work from that of the other writers. Writing itself is easy, but making it an enjoyable read is the hard part, and not everyone who tries can do it. It’s hard to tell people that part because they don’t understand it. They think their stream of thought writing will be successful right off the bat because that’s what they think they read. 

No — your work is edited and painstakingly placed into different paragraphs under different headings and SEO-friendly titles and tags. Sentences are constantly re-written for maximum impact. The hidden labor of writing is high. 

Writing is an identity, not a fluke

I think about writing every single day. I write down article ideas on my notes app at all hours, whether out with friends or trying to sleep at 3 AM. I read countless articles every day before going to bed because if you write, you enjoy reading. Writing is not a one-off.

If someone is thinking about truly becoming a writer, they won’t ask how to write. They’ll have Googled “how to write” instead of asking you. They will be researching the best platforms to share their writing on and will be eager to get started. They will understand the money upfront is non-existent. At first, they will write for fun. After a while, then they’ll start looking for compensation and may ask you for some ideas.

I wrote picture books at the age of four. The series was titled, “Sam and Lily”. Sam was about a girl who had a talking dog and they would always get lost on adventures. Before age ten, I entered poetry contests online and wrote endless journal entries. I self-published a novel at fifteen and lost its sequel novel to a dead hard drive. Writers have these types of stories — they don’t head to the bar and suddenly commit to writing a blog when they see someone else doing it. There has to be a spark early in life — for most of us.

Writers write when they don’t want to

I used to think of Instagram influencers the same way many people think of bloggers and writers. They run their own careers [sometimes] and have a ton of followers; they could totally get away with posting once a week and have a relaxed life! This way of thinking is categorically untrue for most writers [and Instagram influencers]. 

In my case, I am a freelance writer. This is my career, and if I don’t write, I don’t get paid. Instagram influencers are paid per post, and if they don’t post a lot, they don’t make a lot. They also need to keep up posting non-paid content to keep their audience around and happy. Writing is the same way. I only get paid if I’m posting consistently, but I also want to keep my audience happy so I work on other projects, too. Right now I’m working on an ebook and starting a Substack email list. I plan for the ebook to be free as a gift to my readers.

I didn’t want to write today. I woke up annoyed and tired. But I have contracts to keep and goals to reach, so I powered through. It’s similar to going to a work from home job but better. I report to myself and don’t have to deal with people. As a former work-from-home Covid-19 Contact Tracer, this is a much better deal.

If you can’t take criticism, writing isn’t for you

One popular way to have a successful article is to ruffle some feathers. If your opinion and methods are far from ordinary, chances are you’ll have some haters [and a lot of views]. If you want to make money from your writing, you can’t hide. Eventually, you will run out of basic topics to write about and your experiences and opinions will need to come out if you’re ever going to have new content. 

In a more positive sense, people may correct your grammar or ask you to format your articles differently in the future. Writing is about honing your craft and improving the quality of your work. If you write in the same manner as you did last year, something is most definitely wrong. Most writers write to teach other people something from their own experiences. Who wants a teacher who doesn’t learn?

If someone is telling you about how easy it would be for them to reproduce your writing, challenge them to do so. See if they can become a blogger. Either they’ll never talk to you about writing again or they’ll come back to apologize after being served a slice of humble pie. 

Maybe they’ll even become a blogger and you will have created a monster — who knows. It’s all part of the fun.

Summary

It’s not pleasant having people treat writing as an easy career. Anyone can write, but not everyone can have a career in writing. It takes a specific desire to grow and improve constantly, and a willingness to face criticism and rejection. Self-discipline is a hard skill to develop, but I personally think it is worth it.

If any of your friends want to be writers for a living, I encourage you to share the hard parts of the job and help the profession get its reputation back. Please, do share the joys of writing with them too, and help them along the way if they truly are interested in writing. We’d be happy to have them.

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Freelance Writer. Contact me on my personal website with any business inquiries.

Owings Mills, MD
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