Professionally, I’ve been writing since 2013. Personally, I’ve “been a writer” since first grade. I’ve had a lot of time and many opportunities to figure out exactly what works for me and what doesn’t.
I know my best time of day to write blog posts, which hours of the day I struggle to focus the most, which projects are going to take me the longest, and how to appear much more confident in pitch emails than I actually am.
I know exactly what works for me. But what works for me might not work for you.
I love giving writing advice. But I’m not here to force my methods on you. It’s my mission, as a blogger, to help you figure out how to succeed as a writer — in whatever ways work for you.
So here’s how you can take some important steps to create your own “success formula” as a writer. This is about you, what you want to accomplish, and how you can best tackle every project you take on. Answer the following questions, and you’ll have the exact formula YOU need to make writing happen.
What motivates you?
When it’s Monday and you have a headache and all you want to do is crawl back into bed and ignore all your responsibilities, what’s the one thing that drives you to write anyway? For me, it’s career goals. For you, it might be a paycheck. Or page views. Maybe your goals are short-term — writing a certain number of words this week, or long-term — getting something published this year. Motivation could be a combination of all these things and more. If you want to succeed in writing, you have to know what motivates you to get work done even when you’d rather be doing everything else.
What distracts/halts you?
However, knowing what motivates you does no good if you don’t also know what keeps you away from your work. Is it stress or anxiety? Video games? Do you keep trying to get work done at a certain time of day, even though it’s never effective? Once you know your biggest roadblocks when it comes to writing, you can start taking steps to overcome them. If I could, I would spend all day every day reading and watching videos with Huskies in them. I don’t. Unless I’ve gotten all my work done for the day. Then I’m allowed to dive into Husky heaven. It took years for me to build up the discipline to avoid my distractions. I’m not perfect — but I’ve improved significantly. You can, too.
What do you care about?
Writing is pointless if you don’t care about the subject matter you’re covering. You won’t want to do it. You’ll fight it the whole way even if you do manage to get it done. And even when you do, your lack of enthusiasm will show through in your writing. So if you want to be a successful writer, one of the most important things you can do is to focus on writing only about what matters to you. Only then will you find readers and fellow writers who are just as passionate about your niche as you are.
Who are you trying to reach?
Speaking of niches … do you have one? You need to. There was one point, while freelancing, I was writing about health, dating, fashion, education, and self-improvement simultaneously. That’s too many things at once. I’ve had more success as a health writer than I ever would have if I’d kept trying to focus on all those other topic areas. You don’t have to be an expert in your niche, but if you want to establish credibility, it’s best to focus in on a niche, target the people in that niche, and build your way up from there.
What message do you need to deliver to the world before you die?
This sounds a little morbid, but maybe that’s a good thing. Imagine you’re a messenger with one sole purpose: to deliver a package to the “who” part of this equation. If life were an adventure novel, you, the story’s protagonist, would stop at nothing to accomplish your ultimate goal. Despite struggles along the way, your greatest motivation is getting that package to its destination. Why can’t you treat your writing the same way? Your message is that one thing people get wrong that you barely hesitate to correct. It’s that thing you feel you understand better than anyone else. Whether that’s true or not, go on a mission to write until the world — or just your audience — is aware.
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.