I love giving writing advice. I love offering tips and encouragement in hopes it will help aspiring writers tell the stories they want to tell and achieve their dreams of becoming “real” writers.
I also know that I’m not always the best writing advice-provider out there. That used to really bother me. It doesn’t so much anymore. Usually.
It’s not that my advice can’t help the struggling or discouraged creator. It’s just that, in a nutshell, there are a lot of people more qualified on paper to give this kind of advice than I am.
Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging for over a decade, and I’ve published hundreds of articles across various sites as a freelancer and staff writer over the past seven years, I’m “technically” not a published author. At least, not in the traditional sense.
I’ve written plenty of book drafts. More than I can count. I have a degree in analyzing and writing about published works. But aside from some self-published work that I’m not totally proud of, I don’t have a book available for purchase anywhere. You can’t go to a bookstore and find a book I’ve written or find anything when you search my name. At least, not yet anyway.
Obviously, this hasn’t stopped me from continuing to do everything I can to help other writers get to that point. There’s almost a stigma though, if you will, toward writers who aren’t “authors” as we generally know them. Should there be?
Maybe the way we define “published author” has changed enough in recent decades that you no longer need to have a published novel to your name to be considered credible. In some contexts, anyway. Or not.
It’s arguably easier to “get published” than it used to be. And by that I don’t mean finding an agent or getting your work accepted into your favorite magazine is somehow magically easier than it was 20 years ago. But it IS much easier for anyone anywhere to publish content with their name on it. Is that a good thing?
Think about it. Within the span of an hour, you can create a free account on WordPress.com, create your own blog, and publish your first post, all under your name, hopefully all your original words. Pretty much anyone can do it, even if you’re not “tech-savvy.” Even if you have zero professional writing experience to date.
This is a great thing in many ways. I landed my first magazine writing internship with pretty much only my experience as a blogger on my CV. Things like blogs can create more opportunities down the road for those who are truly dedicated to learn and grow in the publishing world.
It used to be that you couldn’t get published unless you submitted to dozens of magazines or journals, or found some other way to get your work out there to the masses. This is still the preferred route for many writers, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But it does mean that the way we talk about “professional writing experience” is slightly more complicated. Does it “count” if the magazine you interned for in college was so small it only had two official paid employees? Are you a “published author” if an article you wrote goes up on a company’s website with your name on it?
That’s really up to the person judging. And these days, editors, employers, and the like really do look at where you’ve been published and what you’ve put out into the world.
So when you’re in a position where giving writing advice makes sense for you, you just have to cater it to what you know best. Whether or not others treat it as “credible” is up to them.
You can usually trust generic advice from writers who know what they’re talking about. I swear I’m not trying to make this post all about me, but hey, I discuss what I know and go from there. What you find when you come to my blog is a lot of down-to-earth “here’s what it’s really like to be a writer” type content. Some of it tries to inspire and encourage. Some of it hopes to entertain. I’m fascinated by productivity and process, and my main goal is to help you figure out how to get writing done.
Some might wonder why my advice stops there — what about what to do when you have something you’ve written and you want to get it published? I know a little about that, but only nonfiction-wise — articles on websites and magazines. I leave the advice about agents and book publishing to those more qualified to speak about it.
Because I’m not there yet, you won’t find advice from me on this blog or elsewhere about how to get published, how to query an agent, or how to market a book. I don’t have personal experience with those topics, so unless I were to interview someone who did, I’m generally going to stay away from handing out that kind of advice.
That doesn’t mean I can’t talk about writing or other types of publishing I’m more familiar with. Published authors, especially the most successful ones, are great at giving advice from their own perspectives, so of course everyone is going to trust them the most. But in the right contexts, anyone can offer tips and tricks in areas they know well as long as they have experience to back up what they’re saying and are doing it for the right reasons.
Don’t ever let other people try to control your confidence. I know there are people out there who aren’t going to read content about writing from someone who has never traditionally published a book. And that’s okay. I don’t take it personally … but that wasn’t always the case.
I used to try my hardest to sound like I knew what I was talking about in all contexts. I used to worry that if people thought I wasn’t an expert in every area pertaining to writing, they wouldn’t listen to what I had to say. That wasn’t something I needed to worry about. Not everyone can be an expert in everything, and there’s really no point in trying to be.
Technically, anyone is allowed to talk about whatever they want on the internet. If it’s not hurting anyone else and it makes you happy, and it’s how you want to spend your time, you can’t let someone else’s opinion stand in your way. If I let something like that deter me from blogging 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer, an editor, or a storyteller.
Write about what you want to write about. Get experience, practice, get good at what you do and build up the confidence you need to succeed one day. You’re going to face enough friction throughout your life as a writer. Don’t let others’ judgment of you or your experience slow you down too soon.
The only way to get better at writing is by writing, right?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.