If my Inbox, Facebook page, and Twitter feed are any indication, there is a nice bit of business in giving bad advice to people who want to write. Even more bad advice is doled out after those same folks have become writers and have written something. There is so much bad advice floating around out there, it is a wonder anything ever gets written or ever gets published.
It is true, I don’t know much about how to get paid or how to write a best seller, but I do know what makes good writing and what makes for bad. I do know about writing as avocation. I know about the progression from writer-in-secret to I-am-a-writer to Being-writing.
I spent most of my working life in sales, adept at separating an individuals and corporations from their money and having them thank me for the pleasure of it. I have read the psychology of sales and motivation and I can smell a close a mile away. And there is a lot of closing going on among people who are looking to get published.
I am used to negotiating between two worlds and in my life as a writer, this skill has come in handy. I am going to put my years of master sales skills to a good use.
The Big Mistakes Everyone Makes
*If it costs money, don’t do it. It’s that simple. There is nothing anyone can teach you about writing, blogging, publishing or any other part of the business that you can’t learn for free with a little effort and a decent public library. That includes self-publishing, blogging, writing, editing, marketing, everything that others are trying to sell you on. You can do it all, for free.
*Stop spending so much time on blogs, reading about blogging, writing, and publishing. Especially stay away from “10 Tips to BlahBlahyBlah”. No one really knows what works to get eyeballs to a page. The writers of such pieces are repeating what they have read somewhere else. Moreover, what works for one kind of writing will not work for another.
*On Twitter, stop sending automated Direct Messages. For the love of all that is holy, please stop. It is obnoxious. It is the Web 2.0 equivalent of spam. It does not endear you to anyone. When a person clicks on the Follow icon, all they are doing is showing an interest in your tweets, nothing else. They don’t yet care you have a Facebook page. They don’t care you will send them a free! e-book! They don’t.
Things To Do
*Read everything. Read across genres. Read nonfiction and fiction. Read good journalism. Read everything. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader. Read every day.
*Write everyday. If you want to write, write. Stop waiting for the perfect time. There is no such thing. Stop telling yourself you need the perfect space or the perfect desk or the perfect anything. All you need to write is a pencil and paper. Don’t wait for inspiration. The difference between a writer and someone who would like to write is writing. A writer is writing. Someone who is waiting for inspiration is a waiter.
That’s it, two things. You want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a good writer, read other good writers. It is as simple and complex as that. Find what works for you and do it. Don’t worry about readers, that will come later. Don’t worry about publishers, that will come later.
Read as much as you can but don’t make the mistake of thinking that reading about writing is the same thing as writing. I’ve committed that mistake many, many times over. If you think you don’t have time to read, there is no helping you. There is no such thing as good writing without good reading. Make the time.
The only thing that should concern you is putting words down on the page. Put your ass in a chair and start putting words on paper. Guard your writing time the way a hungry dog guards his supper. If there is no peace in your home until the kids are in bed, fine. Write after the kids have gone to bed. Write on your lunch break. Wake up fifteen minutes early and write then. Just write. Fifteen minutes of writing, every day, can change everything.
For the hell of it, try my advice. Stop giving people your money. Stop reading how-to blogs. Stop sending spam. Do read. Do write. Try it for thirty days. The worst that could happen is you save money, read a novel, and write a few thousand words. Try it. Let me know how it goes.