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My Best Tip For Freelance Writers

writing tipI’m part of an the LinkedIN group, Freelance Writing CoachIt’s a private group and, as you might suspect, we talk about our work as folks who coach freelance writers.

A day or so ago someone asked us to post our “… ONE writing tip for freelance writers.”

So far we’ve all said, one way or another, the same thing:

Write and read.

Okay, maybe that’s two tips, but in my mind they go together. More about that in a moment.

At least one coach said “write every day.” That’s not how I put it. My writing career is now almost 40 years(!) long and it covers times in my life when I was raising kids, sailing on small boats in the south Pacific, before computers made editing both easier and more difficult, on the web, off the web, for myself and for a wide variety of clients.

All successful writers write regularly

I’ve never written every day. I do write regularly. Which was a skill I had to learn. In my case I left the house to write in a coffee shop over weeks until I could trust myself not to go back to bed.

Writing regularly looks different to every writer I suspect. Some will write every day, either out of desire or a fear that if they skip a day they’ll skip the next, etc. But some write only five days a week – a typical business-like schedule. Others write only on weekends, but they get the writing done. 

I write in the morning… early morning, like 6 or so. I can get in three or four hours of real writing and have the rest of the day for the rest of my business. But many people write better in the evening or late night. It does’t matter. All successful writers write regularly.

Let me repeat that: All successful writers write regularly. Whatever their schedule, they make writing a priority and find the time to get it done on a regular basis. If you don’t write regularly, whatever that looks like to you, your chances of continuing success as a freelancer are nil.

Successful writers also read

Every writer I’ve known and every writer I’ve heard about reads. We read books, printed and now ebooks. We read magazines online and off. We read blogs by friends and enemies. We read to learn about the stuff of the world, and we read with guilty pleasure whatever genre we happen to just enjoy – like mysteries which are my mind-candy.

I’m not sure exactly what the connection between reading and writing actually is. After all, there are a ton of people who love reading and don’t even want to write. But writers somehow want and even need to be immersed in words when they’re not writing. Oh, not all the time. Obviously taking a walk, going to a party, having fun with family and friends, art museums, travel, etc. etc. etc. are also important. Writers do need to get away from words, both the ones they’re generating and the ones they’re reading. Reading is, however, part of a successful freelance writer’s life.

Every now and again someone will tell me they want to “be a writer” but they don’t like to read. I ask them what else they’re interested in and suggest they pursue that.

So there you have it, my best time for successful freelance writing is to write and read.

Your turn: What’s your best tip for other writers? Do you agree writers somehow need to also read? Tell us about it in comments.


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by shorts and longs

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • jorgekafkazar

    Cervantes said, “There is no book so bad that something good may not be found in it.” Good books are inspirational. Bad books are inspirational, if only for their “I can do lots better than this crap!” moments.

  • jorgekafkazar

    What? Study writing? That seems like…cheating. Or so must many writers feel, based on what I’ve seen in workshops and e-books.

    “It is a strange thing. A composer studies harmony and theory of musical forms; a painter doesn’t paint a picture without knowing something about colors and design; architecture requires basic schooling. Only when somebody makes a decision to start writing, does he believe that he needn’t learn anything, and that anybody who has learned to put words on paper can be a writer.” — Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, as quoted in “The Tools of Screenwriting,” David Howard & Edward Mabley, St. Martin’s Griffin (1993)

    I have near me nine books on writing or related marketing, four of which I’ve either just read or will read in the next week or two. I’ve checked out others from the library, too.

    I’ve scheduled a lunch with my writing guru for next week, signed up for an online seminar (script marketing,) reviewed a screenplay formatting guide and written a report on it. And I actually wrote for 4 hours yesterday, and will today.

    I’ve been writing for over 40 years, and I will never feel that I know it all. [Nor that I’ve seen it all. Last month, I critiqued a published writer’s action scene containing a flashback. I jive you not, Anne.]

  • Thanks for the tips…

  • Study writing.

    It’s not hard — like you said, read. Also, if you take free courses online (Coursera.org is a favorite), you can learn techniques that apply to writing. Also, pull out a business book and read a chapter a week. Learn how to run a business. Plus all writers (in my opinion) should study and apply one page of a writing handbook every week. It never hurts to know one more thing about grammar, style, and punctuation.
    Lori recently posted..The Writing Client ChecklistMy Profile

  • Ashe, sounds like a pretty good schedule to me.

  • If I’m not writing, I’m reading. As a new writer I know I have a lot to learn so I read tons of material about writing well, getting published and some fiction to keep good examples at the front of my mind. I have learned so much but I also see that there’s a lot to learn so I have a writing schedule as well as a reading schedule. Right now I aim for reading one writing book per week. This might change or slow down when I feel more confident in my writing, but for now it helps me stay focused and motivated to try out the things I learn.

  • Hey Jake, good to hear from you… writing is so much a part of my life that I don’t even think if it’s fun or not… sure, some projects are more interesting than others… when I get bored or discouraged I listen to the traffic reports… and I know I’m having more fun than those stuck in a commute!

  • I definitely don’t write every day, and I never write for fun. I’m somewhat envious of the people who can craft fiction in their downtime, but I’d rather exercise, do yardwork, or a DIY home improvement project.

    Totally concur with the reading aspect of it, and particularly with reading stuff outside your comfort zone or area of expertise. I try to alternate fiction and nonfiction, classic and modern, when it comes to books. And yes, I’m an Amazon addict!
    Jake Poinier recently posted..New Dr. Freelance book: Help! My Freelancers Are Driving Me CrazyMy Profile

  • Amen, sister!

  • Absolutely, read. You constantly learn new information and different styles of writing. Reading is the energy pack when your writing needs recharging.

    I would also recommend you use all your senses to be inspired to deliver your very best. When you embrace life, your writing hugs you right back. 🙂
    Cathy Miller recently posted..An Armchair Quarterback With Advice for Business WritingMy Profile

  • Really great tips. Not reading makes you more uninspired and not as informed as you could be. Writing constantly means exercising those ‘muscles’ and it helps improve a lot.
    dojo recently posted..Personal Finance: There is no such thing as ‘good’ debtMy Profile

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