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10 things every online writer who’s starting out must know to save time and frustration
I've written (pretty much) consistently for over a decade and built an audience of over 150,000 souls. Not all of them read my stuff consistently, but many do, and it’s impacted my life in countless ways.
There's much I would pass on to a beginner without hesitation.
This could (will) save you frustration and time.
All of these apply to seasoned writers as much as those starting out:
Get clear about why writing consistently is essential for you.
Developing your writing skills and seeing traction with your words will only come with writing a lot over a significant period.
There are no buts or ifs about it. You need to be open to writing a lot if you want to call yourself a writer and make a dent.
Consistently pushing out words won't happen if you run at the first pang of discomfort.
Your mood won't be enough to keep you in the game. It's your commitment that will.
You must make a commitment in stone to write consistently.
You are a writer, so commit to writing today (and tomorrow).
Expect it to be frequently uncomfortable, especially in the beginning.
As an addendum to the previous point, you must factor in moments of: 'I have no idea what to write and am just not feeling it today' into the equation.
You may have had moments when you were in flow and loved the process.
But it won't always be fun, and you will not always be in the mood. Go for a walk if you just can't muster up the enthusiasm to beat keys. But ultimately, if you've made the commitment, you need to expect things to be hard occasionally and to write regardless.
When the expectation is there that things aren't always peaches and rainbows, you'll do better.
Understand the writing phases.
I hear from many writers, even experienced ones, who struggle to get into a flow.
But this is far more challenging when they forget or disregard the various phases of writing as part of the process.
When you start a new piece, you need to allow yourself to be loose and to make mistakes.
There is an absence of the critical voice, which is trying to get in the way and ensure everything's perfect too soon.
Leave that for the editing phase towards the end of your process. Start by free-writing, ideation and brainstorming. Then you can move into a phase of writing loosely with some direction.
Finally, you can bring out the critical voice and look more closely at grammar.
Learn a few article/short-form templates.
Have a hunt around for templates you can refer to as a guide for writing articles and online social media posts.
Instead of diving in cold, you have some valuable reference points as you go.
This will help you avoid staring at a blank page, making you want to escape to cat videos as you feel that sting of uncertainty.
Here's an example template:
1. Introduction: Begin with a hook that grabs the reader's attention and introduces the topic. State the central argument or thesis of the article.
2. Background information: Provide some context on the topic to help the reader understand the issue.
3. Body Paragraphs: Use each body paragraph to present a different point or argument that supports the central thesis. Evidence, stories, statistics, and examples are used to back up each point.
4. Counterarguments: Address any potential counterarguments and provide evidence or reasoning to refute them. This could also come before the main body.
5. Conclusion: Sum up the main points and restate the thesis. End with a call to action or a suggestion for further research.
Commit to a routine.
With a commitment to write in place, you could just proceed guns blazing and write as much as you can each day.
But you may find it easier to fall into bad habits when you don't have a routine to fall into, which maximises how you work best.
Note your ideal times for focused writing, and make those times non-negotiable and free of distractions.
Writing productively isn't only about putting pen to paper but should also feature supporting habits like going to the gym first thing and meditating.
When you have a routine, you'll find it easier to fall into good habits because your brain and body adapt to the regularity of it, helping you perform better.
Focus on writing as a 'craft.'
I've noticed over the years that when I tend to lose my spark for writing and feel my motivation wane, it's when I've forgotten to think of my writing as a craft to master.
If I didn't, I'd have quit a long time ago.
When I am committed to being the best writer in my genre I can be, I shift up a couple of gears.
This isn't an overstatement.
You need to think big. I have a big vision for my work and myself that excites me and prompts me to want to rise up to this identity.
Writing becomes fun when I'm doing it to become remarkable.
Focus on volume (and publishing before it's 'perfect').
One of the things that held me back the most when I first started, and barely anyone was reading my stuff, was trying too hard to write the best article.
Yes, we spoke about mastering one's craft, but that's to look at what you do at the zoomed-out level.
True mastery is composed of prolific output and much trial and error. Focus first on producing volume and quality second.
Especially if you're just starting out and your audience is small, this is the best time to experiment and make mistakes in the dark.
But even as you progress, the focus should remain on producing a ton.
Volume gives us an 'excuse' to make some mistakes.
Because you're not hinging your success on any one piece. That's scary and high-pressure.
No - your success should be tied to showing up daily and hitting 'publish.'
Double down on what works.
The most insightful information you will get as you progress as a writer won't come from any book, coach or guide.
It will come from seeing what is working for you and what isn't. Your aim should be to write plenty, look at the data, feedback, comments, numbers and your personal experience, and take note of what is working.
Then, use this to determine where your attention is best focused.
Knowing what's working for you won't come immediately if you're just starting out because it will be more challenging to get hold of that data.
But going into writing with this mindset will help you take a more pragmatic approach to your craft as you go.
It's not only data, be it views, likes and sign-ups, you need to keep an eye on, but also what feels good to write.
What do you most enjoy writing?
That's a huge indicator. Follow these insights closely.
Be willing to upset people.
If this doesn't sit well with you, I suggest doing something else with your life, like tree surgery or maybe baking birthday cakes.
I'm joking because there's little you can succeed in that is not attached to the risk of being disliked.
However, this is especially the case if you want to write publicly with a certain degree of impact.
You must be willing to have people say mean things about your work, unsubscribe and be otherwise unpleasant.
Being polarising is not a bad thing - it shows you're speaking your truth, and you need to factor this expectation into your writing journey, especially if you want to make a dent.
Consume plenty, but not more than you write.
You may often find yourself running out of inspiration and ideas.
Our minds all contain more ideas and stories than we know when we stop for a moment to access this intelligence.
However, being an impactful writer benefits greatly from you from being an active participant on the other end of the pen: reading.
Read deeply into your chosen topics, and read outside of your 'niche' too. You'll need to if you want to make new connections.
Reading will fuel your writing like peanuts fuel Nessy the Elephant.
Read and consume information, but don't spend more time on this than the actual writing.
Thank you for reading.
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