One of the biggest problems for new writers is a lack of focus.
I’m not talking about falling prey to distractions like the internet – this is a different kind of focus. I see a lot of writers wasting a lot of time trying to make headway in an area of writing they really don’t care about, simply because it’s the one with the lowest barrier to entry, or the one where they can “grow” an audience the fastest.
When you do that, you’re usually not focusing on an area of writing you actually care about. Which is problematic, because you’re much more likely to get frustrated, suffer burnout and quit altogether.
In response to all that, I’m going to break down the different “kinds” of writing you can typically focus on, whether on your own time or as a full-time career path.
These aren’t necessarily official terms for the different ways you might use writing in your personal and/or professional life – it’s all simplified to help make the distinctions easier.
So. What kind of writer do you really want to be?
Do you want to be an editorialist – penning essays reflecting your opinions and beliefs? E.g., blogging.
An entertainer, seeking to create stories for a particular audience’s enjoyment? E.g., short story writing.
An informer – someone who uses writing to convey facts? E.g., journalism.
A marketer, writing for the purpose of selling a product or service or persuading an audience to respond to a specific call-to-action, such as donating, filling out a form, etc.?
A commentator, sharing your own ideas to build off of someone else’s stories, facts or opinions and facilitate conversation?
How about an adviser – a writer who uses facts and/or their expertise to assist members of an audience?
Perhaps you want to be an infotainer – someone who shares facts in a more relaxed, familiar writing style.
Deciding how you want to approach your writing is essential for continuously finding the motivation to write. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending all your time writing articles about current events when, deep down, you really want to be working on that draft of a T.V. pilot you haven’t told anyone about.
One could argue that a writer can act as more than just one of these roles – many writers have day jobs in corporate advertising, come home and write new posts for their fashion design blogs.
This all isn’t to say you can only be one thing – even if you write for more than one purpose, you still consciously chose those specific roles. You are still aware that when you go to work, you are going to be writing 100 marketing emails, and when you come home, you get to talk to your readers about something you are passionate about in your personal life.
This is why I can’t be of much help to newer writers who roam around exclaiming, “I WANT TO BE A WRITER!!!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready and willing to help anyone along this journey – I remember how exciting it is to discover you want to make writing part of your life for good.
But you can’t just decide you want to ‘be a writer’ and immediately start down the path toward success. Not only do you need to develop your basic writing skills, but you also need to try as many different kinds of writing as you can. That’s how you figure out what kind of writing you want to focus on, and what kinds you want to steer clear of as best you can.
The more time you spend writing, the easier this is to figure out. It took me until graduate school, dragging my feet through a particularly frustrating course, that I did not want to work in marketing, advertising or public relations. It also took me many, many years to learn that as much as I adore writing fiction, I want to keep that a hobby, and focus my career on information writing and “edutainment.”
No one who’s just starting out in anything knows exactly what they want to do. Writing offers a whole world of possibilities for people who are good at communicating ideas and telling stories. If you really feel like you’re struggling to decide how you want to use your writing skills, think hard about what kind of writing gets you the most excited – and what you could generally do without.
Always remember, you don’t have to be good at or particularly enjoy everything. It’s kind of like studying to be a doctor – everyone learns the basics, but eventually you decide your specialty and engage in further study to focus on that one specific area of expertise. You may never be a bestselling novelist … but your New York Times column is going to ROCK.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.