To Be a Writer, You Must Do Some Writing

There is one way to be a writer. It’s not as complicated as you might think.

There are a lot of things you learn when you offer advice on the internet. One of them being that the best advice given on the internet is channeled through something like a blog or column — places where people choose to read (or not) your opinion and react accordingly (and this is something you intended to happen).

Possibly the most important thing I’ve learned about dishing out writing advice — sometimes on Twitter, which is always a mistake and never ends well for me — is that an alarming amount of people who fall into the “want to be a writer full-time” category have never published a single piece of writing anywhere. Ever.

The term “publishing” doesn’t hold quite the same meaning it did before the internet became a daily thing for most of us, but if we’re being honest, that change happened long before that. Before, if you wanted to be a published writer, you either had to submit something to a publication or hire an agent to do it for you.

That’s not how it is anymore — evidenced by the fact that what you are reading right now was created by me sitting down at my laptop, dusting off this website’s interior, writing a bunch of words, and hitting “publish.”

If it weren’t for the .com domain I pay for because -BRANDING-, this process would be free and would cost nothing but my time. If I took the time out of my day to list every free site that lets anyone anywhere host their own blog, I’d be here the rest of the day. Dinner would never get made. My kitchen would remain dirty. I might pass out from lack of hydration. You never know.

I’ve been publishing content on the internet since 2009, because high school me wanted to be an author and was obsessed with Meg Cabot, and because Meg Cabot was (is still) an author and had a blog, this Meg also needed one. I can’t say I regret it, though it did take a while for teenage me to understand that not everything needed to be shared online, even on a blog with 2.5 followers. There are a few more of you now, I’ve heard.

I’ve been around a long time, and trust me, I’m not old enough to forget what it’s like to want to write but to fear not the act of writing, but instead the possibility that someone might read it, or worse, have opinions about it.

But because that fear of being read never goes away (sorry to break it to you, but I’m also not), I must offer you yet another nugget of writing advice you’re going to hate. It’s my specialty.

Suck it up and publish your words.

Mean! Awful! How dare I! I know. I’m the worst.

But here’s the thing: So many people say they want to write for a living. But this is quite literally impossible if you never publish a single thing on the internet.

It’s not that you have to write every day (in fact, I strongly recommend not doing that — there’s a reason I stopped posting daily to this website in 2020). It’s not that you have to be published in The New York Times or BuzzFeed or whatever the “look ma, I made it” equivalent of these things are in 2022. You just have to publish something, Preferably many somethings. Good, bad, it doesn’t matter.

It. Doesn’t. Matter.

When I’m reviewing writing applications (with the aim of, yes, hiring writers to write words in exchange for currency — what a concept!), the first thing I look at is not the resume, or the reason someone wants the job (we all know it’s the currency, WE ALL KNOW). The first thing I look at are a candidate’s already published writing samples.

It does not matter to me where these samples are published. I’ve hired writers who have only ever published articles on Medium (free) or their own personal blogs that don’t get much traffic (can also be free). In fact, because I will never forget what it’s like to be in that awful space in life where you want to write but no one will let you do it for money, I make it a point, whenever possible, to recruit writers who aren’t already published in the NYTs or the BuzzFeeds.

Of course high-traffic bylines help. But speaking from experience, the only thing a writer needs to prove to me at first glance is that they can write.

If you have no proof, you have a very low chance of getting hired.

I understand that publishing content for free is hard. It’s draining. It takes a lot of time. And that’s all on top of the terror that often accompanies sending any of your words out into the void.

You have to do it anyway. If you want to write professionally in any capacity, you have to prove to anyone who might be looking that you are worth being hired.

This is not necessarily true for traditional publishing — the majority of manuscripts are not published before they’re sent to agents.

But if your goal is to freelance, or to become a staff writer somewhere, the only experience you have to prove you can do it is the content you publish yourself.

Which means you have to — actually — write — things.

This is challenging. I’m writing this post deep into a writing drought. I do not feel like writing. None of my ideas seem interesting. I have little desire to share my words with anyone, even myself.

Why am I writing anyway? Because I have to. If it weren’t my job, but I wanted it to be, I would also have to.

THAT is the mindset you must adopt if you want to become a writer.

It doesn’t matter what, where, how much, how often.

You must write.

That is, it turns out, the only way to be a writer.


Meg Dowell is the creator of Brain Rush, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words, and Not a Book Hoarder, celebrating books of all kinds. She is an editor, writer, book reviewer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.

Rimma Onoseta’s ‘How You Grow Wings’ Showcases the Change That Comes With Leaving Everything Behind

Rimma Onoseta’s HOW YOU GROW WINGS is about two sisters who learn what it takes to grow beyond your scars.

Not everyone is lucky enough to escape their bad situations. Those who do usually can never escape their scars.

Zam and Cheta may be sisters, but their parents are about the only thing they have in common. Not only do they look and act like opposites, but Cheta, the older daughter, bears the worst of her mother’s violence. And she resents Zam, the younger, for being their mother’s favorite.

Everything changes when Zam leaves the village to stay with their Aunt and Uncle. Not long after, Cheta realizes she’s been putting up with her mother’s wrath for too long. And nothing will ever be the same again.

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Jaime Winn’s ‘Pull’ Is the Intense Beginning of a Dark, Mysterious Series

Jaime Winn’s ‘Pull’ is the start of a series you’re not going to be able to put down.

Imagine showing up to prom in a dress you technically got on sale prepared for the best night of your life … only to end up fleeing desperately from a possible murder.

Yeah, Mischa isn’t going to have the night of her dreams after all. It doesn’t help that her dreams lately have been more like nightmares, a faceless boy, terror and all.

And then there’s Casey. There’s just something about him, something that seems to be pulling her toward him as if she’s not actually in control of anything at all.

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THE MISSING SCOTT CHRONICLES Will Remind You That Grief Always Hurts

THE MISSING SCOTT CHRONICLES is a heartbreaking yet hopeful deep dive into grief.

I’ll never forget the day my grandfather died. But even more vividly, I remember my grandmother’s face the first time I saw her after he was gone.

As I’m writing this, it was eight years ago to the day. I woke up; got dressed to go for a run. My dad stopped me on the way out and told me grandpa was gone. I went running anyway, but half a mile in, I turned back. It all sank in. I physically couldn’t push myself forward anymore. And he wasn’t even my husband, or my dad.

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Hello, I Read THE LIES I TELL in One Sitting (and You Should Too)

THE LIES I TELL is next to impossible to put down.

No one likes being scammed. But what if she isn’t who she says she is because she’s trying to get revenge?

I can only speak for myself here. But for years, I’ve judged the quality of a book based on how long it stays in the forefront of my mind after I’ve finished the last page. This system has never failed me. One of my favorite books of all time, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, still enters my mind for a brief moment at least weekly. And it’s been years since I last visited the story.

The Lies I Tell came to me because of a book roundup I wrote for my day job. This is my first Julie Clark novel, but I included The Last Flight in one of my book lists and happily agreed to review this one too.

I didn’t expect to still be thinking about it now. But here we are.

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SLIP Is a Graphic Novel That Will Make You Fall in Love with Graphic Novels

Even if graphic novels aren’t your thing, SLIP might change your perspective.

It’s not very often that I sit down to write a book review immediately after finishing a book — unless I’m on some sort of deadline, and by “on” I probably mean “procrastinated on.” I’ve had Slip on my NetGalley shelf for months, so I guess you could say I procrastinated. The book came out this week, and now that I’m back from traveling and assorted major life events, I thought I would spend some time on my day off catching up on my to-reads.

I did not expect to start and finish Slip in a matter of hours, and certainly did not expect to be reaching for my laptop with a literal hunger to write about it after the fact. But here we are.

I’ve developed a format and style for these reviews in an effort to make this review half of the blog stick, but I guess that’s all out the window for this one, because I have emotions, and I have to put them into words or I won’t get a single other thing done today.

Anyway. Book. Graphic novel. Slip. Where do I begin?

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Like a Sister Will Keep You Guessing Until the Final Chapter

Everyone has already made up their mind about how Desiree Pierce died. But Lena isn’t convinced the story about her sister’s suspicious death is true.

Everyone has already made up their mind about how Desiree Pierce died. But Lena isn’t convinced the story about her sister’s suspicious death is true.

Even though Lena and her sister Desiree don’t have much of anything in common, that hasn’t stopped Lena from caring about the reality TV star everyone thinks they know. In fact, she must know Desiree better than anyone! At least … that’s what she thought before Desiree was found dead.

The police and the public are quick to rule the tragedy as an accidental overdose and close the case. But Lena isn’t convinced that’s what really happened — and she’s going to do whatever it takes to figure out the truth.

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‘Message Not Found’ Will Make You Feel Better About Being a Messy Human Being

Your best friend is gone. But you have the ability to bring her back — sort of — with the power of AI.

Your best friend is gone. But you have the ability to bring her back — sort of — with the power of AI. Very Black Mirror, sure. But there’s so much you never got to tell her. There’s so much she never had the chance to tell you. Do you bring her back? Just for a little while?

Bailey is smart enough to capture the essence of Vanessa forever thanks to years of text messages and Instagram posts. Her best friend may be gone, but she could live on forever thanks to machine learning.

Although … that Black Mirror reference wasn’t just for jokes. Things could go very, very wrong. Very, very fast.

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Our World Needs More Books Like ‘Lakelore’

Lzkelore isn’t just a good book. It’s an essential story.

We all long to be understood. Not on a surface level, but in that in-depth way that creates unbreakable bonds between people. Imagine feeling like no one will ever know you, and then finding the one person who might know you better than yourself.

Bastián and Lore aren’t your average teenagers — and that’s a good thing. At least, it should be. But the world isn’t as accepting of “different” as it should be. Which is why these two friends are the only ones who have ever seen the world beneath the lake.

It’s hard enough growing up as it is. But being non-binary and living with ADHD sure doesn’t help. Perhaps the universe brought Bastián and Lore together because it knew they both needed a friend who understood what it was like to be everything the world said they couldn’t be.

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‘Apples Never Fall’ Offers the Best Kind of Twist at the End of a Mystery

Apples Never Fall has the kind of ending that will probably haunt you forever. It’s worth it.

When your mother goes missing, the last thing you’d expect would be to blame your father for her possible murder. But that’s exactly what happens to the Delaney children when their mother walks out of the house and doesn’t return.

An investigation into Joy’s whereabouts forces the Delaney family to look back not just on the past year but at their whole past as siblings, sons, daughters, and spouses.

But there’s nothing more suspicious than a mysterious woman who has also disappeared after appearing at their mother’s doorstep, wrecking everything, and leaving a shattered mess behind.

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