If writing professionally is one of your goals, getting from where you are to where you want to be can seem like nothing more than a faraway hope. You don’t have to – shouldn’t – wait to “figure things out” or “see what happens.” There are steps you can take to making this happen, and you can take them today.
So you want to be a writer. Now what? Here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to start making your ambition a reality.
Choose a project and decide on a publishing “deadline”
All throughout high school, all I wanted to do was publish a gosh darn novel. I wrote more often than I did homework (oops). For the record, I still haven’t traditionally published a novel (aka, “old-fashioned” going through the query process, as opposed to self-publishing). But I started and finished the majority of the novels I’ve ever written during that time period, because I didn’t have any other writing projects “distracting” me, like I do now. For a long time, I had a five-year deadline from the time I graduated. It was a major motivator for the fiction writing I did in college.
It’s great that you want to be a professional writer, whether that means you want to work for a magazine, get paid to blog, start a freelancing business, publish a novel, etc. But the first question I’m tempted to ask when I hear people talk about their writing ambitions is: when? When do you want to get published? When are you going to start looking for clients? What’s your deadline? If you don’t have one, you’re only going to keep putting it off. I can guarantee it.
Find a local or online writing group
It’s very difficult to recruit individual people to give you constructive feedback on your writing, especially people close to you. They either end up doing it because they feel obliged to or they’re “too nice” because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Seek out feedback from people who genuinely want to help you grow as a writer, and aren’t afraid to critique you on your strengths and weaknesses. How do you find it? By finding fellow writers also looking for feedback, of course.
It’s likely there are writing groups in your area for this exact purpose. If not, you can either start your own (talk to your local library or bookstore) or search online for writing groups (there are some good ones on Facebook). Online you might be able to find some strangers willing to form a virtual critique group with you. You’re very rarely going to get feedback without giving it in return, so expect to do some work on others’ behalf to get helpful critiques in return.
Create a writing schedule and find a way to stay consistent
I know, I know – you’re a “write when I feel like it” kind of creator. I’ve been there. The problem is, stuff will always come up. There will always be things that get in your way and excuses you can’t talk yourself out of. It’s very easy to live by an “I’ll get to it when I get to it” mindset, but this just doesn’t work when you have an outstanding goal you really care about it. Days will turn into weeks, weeks into months … before you know it, you’re having a quarter-life crisis and nightmares about your unfinished novel coming to life and kidnapping you in the middle of the night …
What was I saying? Oh, right. Goals. Schedules. Lots of words.
If this is really something you want, you’ll be able to get used to writing on a schedule. Yes, this might mean training yourself to write even when you don’t feel like it. Welcome to professional writing! May I take your sanity? It’s good practice for when you do start getting paid to do that very thing. Writing professionally means you’re going to be writing a lot. Possibly every day. You might as well get used to it now. Seven days a week is a little much, but I’d suggest shooting for a consistent Monday-through-Friday writing schedule if you can manage it.
Everyone’s journey, and process of getting to where they want to be, is different. It might take some time. Years, even. But as long as you take action and start getting those ideas down on paper, with a timeline in mind of when you want to have those ideas published, you’ll get there. Small, careful, consistent steps are the way to go. Are you ready?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.