As I look back on my writing career, it’s easy to see the things I know now I wish I’d known then. Or maybe not. The experience of learning each of these has also been invaluable.
In the interest, however, of giving you some ideas about you and your writing, consider these seven things I wish I’d known in the beginning:
- My article ideas are good ones. Early on I thought I had to have a block-buster idea to sell an article to a magazine. Slowly it dawned on me that most magazines are filled with not mega hits, but with solid information that one way or another was about the human experience. So my experience as a mother was perfect fodder for a magazine aimed at mothers. Likewise my humorous approach to computer problems worked well for computer magazines aimed at the consumer. In fact pretty much anything that was going on in my life could be turned into an article if I found the right magazine and the right tone. Writing A Draft? Silence That Inner Critic! may help.
- Magazines really are open to new writers. Most magazines are happy to find new writers. After all, month after month after month the magazine must be filled with x number of words written by x number of writers. Although editors love having a stable stable of writers, the truth is writers get old, develop new interests, move on, die, stop writing for various reasons, etc. etc. etc. Replacement for those writers come from two sources, writers with lots of credits and writers with few credits. The former generally cost more while the later can be groomed to fit the magazine perfectly. The take-away? Go ahead and submit your article on spec or your query.
- Editors are not God. Well, editors are a sort of god or goddess for their publication in the way they can say yes or no to ideas or writers. They are after all in charge. But editors are also real human beings and they have a problem. They need to meet their deadline and please their readers. It’s the writers that provide what editors need to solve their problems. Sure, some of them are more approachable than others – don’t you find that true of all humans? But you’ll never know until you try. Until you submit a query or an article on spec, the odds of any one editor even suspecting you exist is minuscule.
- Most people don’t write well. I don’t know why, but I thought that since I wrote reasonably well, other people must be able to do the same thing. In other words, I didn’t value my abilities; I didn’t know how. I was fortunate enough to work where I got an opportunity to see the writing of others – it was in my father’s real estate office and most of the sales people there couldn’t draft a truly coherent written response to a client, or a sales letter or a real estate ad. As those began to fall to me because I could, I gradually began to recognize I indeed had some talent to communicate via words in print.
- My writing was good enough. I agonized over my writing in the beginning. Now I know that suffering, particularly around issues like that, are more a matter of fear than anything else. Yes, my writing improved over time which, I suppose, means it wasn’t as ‘good’ then as it is now. That’s not the point. The point is I did write and I did begin to submit. I somehow managed to sidestep that ego-driven drive for a perfection I wouldn’t have recognized. I still wouldn’t recognize perfection, or don’t. Who knows, it may be perfect just the way it is. I have no way of telling and insisting on perfection guarantees I’ll never finish.
- The simple desire to write may be enough as long as you keep writing. Although I longed to live by my writing, for so long it seemed an impossible dream. And then in wasn’t. There were, I think, two elements in this switch to success. The first is I kept writing and the second was I began to value myself and my writing. A FAQ About Getting Started In Freelance Writing may give you some more ideas about what works.
- Writing is physically draining. I’m still surprised by this one, but in the beginning I thought I was sick. When I’m deep in a piece of writing for an hour or so it’s both a lovely and a draining experience. I feel exhausted because at some level both my body and my mind are literally tired. I’ve come to honor that – sometimes with a gentle walk outside, sometimes with a nap. Getting away from writing for at least an hour or two is a must. There’s some sort of battery re-charging that has to take place. It’s normal, and I’m glad I know that now.
What have you learned that you wished you knew when you started writing?