What It Really Means to Write from Personal Experience

When all else fails, write what you wish you could read.

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It took me probably longer than it should have to figure out what kind of content I really wanted to bring to you on this blog every day.

That’s the way you have to go about it, when you don’t have a big enough audience yet to tell you what it wants to read. You start with “I’m interested in this” and go from there.

So I eventually settled on whatever this is — some hybrid of semi-educational and occasionally inspiring (?) content largely based on my personal experiences as a once-aspiring, now professional, writer. (It’s my blog after all — my experiences; all our benefit, maybe).

At some point I realized that I was looking for something to read that reminded me writing was not a waste of my time. That’s how this all started — I began following Meg Cabot’s blog (SHE’S STILL POSTING!!). I loved reading the sort-of-in-real-time thoughts of my favorite published author. But those were thoughts from a published author about, well, everything.

I wanted to tell more people about what it was like to be a sixteen-year-old aspiring novelist. And nine years later, it’s something a lot less self-centered. At least I like to think so.

Whenever I’m stuck on what to write about — when I’m not planning any days off, I write a post a day, seven days a week — I ask myself, “What do I need to hear/read right now?”

This is the tricky thing about how online publishing and social media algorithms and all that stuff works. Fewer people actually seek out specific content. They scroll through their feeds until they find something interesting to click on.

I frame this thought from the perspective of a frustrated or blocked or discouraged writer scrolling through their news feed, searching for something that will mirror their thoughts and make them feel less alone. Or give them something to work toward. Or remind them they’re not dumb for dreaming.

The advice I give is the advice I follow. I know it works for me; therefore, it’s likely at least a handful of readers will also find it helpful.

The concerns I voice are my own as much as they are yours — and if I’m not worried about them now, I used to be.

If there is a problem I have not experienced, or something I cannot help someone solve, I say so. I get comments on here all the time asking me how to get a literary agent. I’m the wrong person to ask, because I don’t have one (yet). This is not in my personal scope of experience, so I don’t feel comfortable addressing it.

Does that limit the range of things I can discuss here? Of course. That’s because I’m 25, haven’t even been out of school (technically) for a year, haven’t gotten around to publishing a book yet, am still figuring a lot of stuff out — and I’m not sorry about any of that.

 

I call myself a professional because a company trusts me enough to write things for them. Millions of people read these things. I would not be in this position if I weren’t capable of excelling at this whole writing thing. I don’t know why I always feel the need to justify my experience, but whatever.

I appreciate everyone who visits me here, whether they actually read my about page or not. Weirdly, writing from personal experience often means I’m not “experienced” enough for some readers. But the more I experience, the more I write about those experiences. And the more I learn and grow. And the more credible I (maybe) become.

A blog isn’t a diary, not in the traditional sense. Or it shouldn’t be. It’s a documentation of your development as a human, whether professionally, personally, or otherwise. Every story you tell should have a purpose that serves an audience, not just yourself.

You’re not just saying, “I am going to college to get a degree in writing and it’s hard.” You’re saying, “This is what it’s like, here’s what I’m going through, and here’s what we can all learn from it.”

We talk about ourselves not because we like it (well …), but because we’re constantly gaining knowledge from our adventures in the world and we want to share that knowledge with those who might benefit from it.

Whatever you have to share, don’t think it’s too self-serving. You never know. Someone out there might really appreciate it.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

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