Your Writing Voice Will Come Naturally … Eventually

That’s why many aspiring writers never get past the “aspiring” stage. They don’t want to wait.

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My mom is a registered dietitian. She teaches college and graduate courses in nutrition and dietetics, gives talks and presents to groups in our area and has practiced in the profession for a very long time.

I tell you this because, when we were little, my brother and I used to make fun of her for having a “dietitian voice.”

Even when she wasn’t up in front of a group of people talking about cholesterol or whatever, as soon as she started talking about anything nutrition-related in casual conversation, her voice would change. She spoke differently. In her professional mindset, she did not use words quite the same way she would if we were sitting at the dinner table talking about a TV show.

Only when I started podcasting did I realize I have a professional voice, too. Everyone does, to a certain extent. Just this past weekend I participated in a panel discussion at a conference, and on our way home, my mom smiled and said, “You used your not-you voice.”

Transitioning into a way of speaking other than the conversational tone and mannerisms we use in normal everyday conversation helps us separate the casual from the professional. Especially when we’re speaking about something we know a lot about, or are enthusiastic about, we change our way of speaking subconsciously. It is authoritative. It makes people pay attention. We do it intentionally, but often without realize we’re doing it.

Is it easier for you to listen to a TED Talk given by a professional, seasoned speaker than it is for you to listen to a lecturer who would much rather be in a lab than in a classroom? That’s why.

There are a lot of blog posts out there about how to “find your writing voice.” We’ve even published one. I’ve always struggled with figuring out a way to explain the process that makes sense. It’s hard to explain a process that, honestly, comes pretty naturally over time. People want solid answers and concrete step-by-step how-tos on this stuff. They don’t want to hear that time and practice are the only way to get from here to there. But in this case, that’s just the way it is.

Over time, your writing voice grows and develops along with your writing skills. As you learn, you fall more into a pattern of sorts. A way of phrasing and presenting things. There are a few things you can do to reassure yourself that it’s happening.

How to solidify your writing voice

  • Become an expert in something. Well, sort of. Write about a topic enough to build up your own credibility and confidence. Over time it will get easier to ease yourself into a writing flow state, which is when your voice sort of takes over and brings everything together in its own way.
  • Explain things differently. When you’re talking to someone in a cafe, and you start to tell a story, it’s a mess. There are a lot of “likes” and “oh, and I forgot to mentions” and “So then what happened was’s.” That’s the way you talk, and that’s fine. You’re sort of scribbling out sketches on a piece of paper. When you’re writing, start with the same scribbles. But revise. Color in some adjectives. Make things more linear with fancier diction. Turn that rough sketch into a painting. Every artist has their own style. They develop it by spending time with it and practicing it. Do the same thing with your writing.

If you wanted a quick strategy for developing your voice, I’m sorry you weren’t able to find it here. Good writing requires patience. That’s why many aspiring writers never get past the “aspiring” stage. They don’t want to wait. But if you can hold out, if you can stand to give it time, you’ll be pleased to know that one day you will wake up, you will read something you wrote late last night that you barely remember writing, and you will realize it’s written in your own unique writing voice. And that’s a pretty amazing thing to see.

Image courtesy of Very Quiet/Flickr.

What Happens When You Finally Find Your Voice?

When you can clearly identify it’s yours and begin to settle into it, life as a writer, for the most part, becomes a bit more manageable.

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Every writer has their own unique voice, or way of writing. When you’re first starting out, it’s hard to tell whether the tone and style you’re writing in is more your own or largely influenced by other writers’ ways of telling stories. There’s nothing wrong with that. The more you write, though, the more you will be able to differentiate between your writing voice and someone else’s.

And when this happens, when you can clearly identify it’s yours and begin to settle into it, life as a writer, for the most part, becomes a bit more manageable.

So how do you find your writing voice? Start here. Then read on to lean more about how going through this process will actually make you a much more efficient and successful writer in the long-term.

Writing itself will come a lot easier to you

Once you go through the process of coming up with an idea, deciding whether or not it’s going to work and finding the time to actually sit down and make it happen, you actually have to write something. Which, when it comes down to it, is actually a lot easier than it seems … once you’ve developed your writing voice.

Don’t take this to mean writing is easy: if you haven’t figured it out by now, it isn’t. What becomes easier, when you start to grow into and get more comfortable with your writing voice, is getting into a flow once you do start writing. You won’t struggle as much trying to figure out how to word or explain things. It will come much more naturally.

Your stories will be more relatable

Another perk of establishing your own voice as a writer is being able to apply that voice to any character and setting you choose. In doing so, your stories will resonate much more with your audience. If you’re a YA author, for example, you’ll be able to write from a teenager’s perspective much more easily and successfully, even if you haven’t been one for awhile.

This does take time. It isn’t easy for one person to write the first-person perspective of four different characters in one story as if they truly are four different people. You’ll get there. That’s when it gets even more fun.

Eventually, you will also be able to transition much more smoothly between writing in a more formal tone and a more conversational one, depending on the situation and its audience. Readers won’t relate very well to something that sounds like it was written by a PhD candidate (that’s not an insult, by any means) when it should really be in a tone that suggests it was written by someone closer to the ideal reader’s age, education level or demographic.

You will feel more confident, at least a little bit

Confidence is essential as a writer. That doesn’t mean every successful writer is confident about every single thing they write. Rather, they spend a lot less time worrying about whether or not other people will like their story and devote more energy to making it the best story possible, regardless of others’ opinions about it.

When you are more comfortable with using your writing voice, it becomes a lot easier to focus on your work itself instead of how others might react to it. Also, because growing into your voice makes it a little easier to write and makes your writing more relatable, you’ll have a lot fewer reasons to criticize your own work. Confidence comes with time, but the more comfortable you are writing, hopefully, the more writing you’ll be able to accomplish.

Your voice is unique. Your stories are unlike anyone else’s. Doesn’t it feel amazing, knowing that?

Image courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI/flickr.com.

Your Writing Voice and How to Find It

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I used to not be able to read a book and write my own stories at the same time.

Unintentionally, my words and phrases would start to sound a lot like that published author’s words and phrases, paragraph structures looked oddly similar to those I’d just read several minutes before. The way I described things, characters’ inner dialogue; it was like I was copying someone else’s style without even trying or meaning to.

I could always tell it was happening the second it started, but could never figure out how to make it stop.

I’m not sure if any other less experienced writers have dealt with this, but I do know there wasn’t just one day where I could suddenly maintain my own style while deep in a work written by someone else. Establishing your own style and finding your writing voice isn’t hard. What’s difficult is strengthening it, so it can hold its own when up against different styles.

We’ll talk more later about how to refine and strengthen your voice. Before we get there, you first need to learn where your unique style comes from, and then, how to find it.

What influences our individual writing styles?

Many factors end up influencing the way we write. It depends on what we read, who we interact with, what our interests are. I read a lot of Meg Cabot when I was younger (still do) so if you look really hard you can find a little bit of her style embedded in mine (especially my very early blog posts).

There comes a point where we stop copying others’ styles and use the parts of their styles we really like to build our own. Granted, it has taken me years to define and refine my own style. I was a huge reader and had a huge group of friends when I was a teenager (that made me sound a lot older than I am). I was an early, circa 2008 Nerdfighter. But there’s a lot that fed into the way I started writing things and the things I started writing about, and I’m still building. Maybe I’ll go more in-depth on the details at a later date (if you’re interested).

How do you know you’re writing in your own style and not someone else’s?

This is actually a lot simpler than you might think. Ready? Close your eyes. No, really. Sit in front of a blank document with your eyes closed for a few seconds (or longer). Think about what you want to write about. It could be anything. Get a general idea in your head of where you want to start writing, maybe an idea of what you want your first line to be.

Open your eyes, position your hands on the keys and just start writing. Don’t even let yourself think about structure or spelling or any sort of technique. Just write what comes to you, in whatever way makes sense without too much thought.

Write enough to give yourself something to read back to yourself with substance, a few paragraphs, maybe even a page. What you’ve written just now in this stream-of-consciousness format is written in your voice. The way you phrase things, the words and metaphors you use, the way it sounds when you read it aloud, THAT is your voice.

Sure, it might not sound like your favorite author’s words sound when you read them aloud. That doesn’t mean what you’ve written isn’t good. Your voice is your voice, and the more time you spend allowing yourself to write in that voice, the more natural it will become.

Next comes practicing and refining that style. But what’s important right now is finding that inner voice and embracing it. Because our voice is literally an outward reflection of who we are, we’re not always going to like how it sounds. But we learn to. Eventually, we learn to let it shape our words, so we can tell better stories.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

NaNoWriMo 2015: So THAT’S Why Writing That Book Took So Long . . .

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When I first started writing my previous book (different than the one I’m working on during NaNoWriMo this year), I knew I wanted it to be different. I needed a challenge, which meant I needed to coax myself out of my writing comfort zone and try something new.

So I ended up spending three-and-a-half years writing a YA sci-fi/thriller, the first in an intended series of five books that told the story of five completely ordinary people who end up being recruited to become the leaders of a movement to bring equality to a divided subset of territories.

It’s a lot more complicated than that. But that’s the gist of the first book (sort of).

I do not write sci-fi and I especially do not write in futuristic settings. So while I really enjoyed writing a different kind of story, I really struggled. Sometimes, though I didn’t want to admit it, I wasn’t even really enjoying it. And it took me until now, starting a new book, sprinting back to my contemporary YA roots, to figure out why.

Here are a short excerpt from Premier, the book I just finished last month.

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In contrast, here are an excerpt from For Alexander Grace, my current writing project.

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Both are very rough drafts still, so take that into consideration before you read on.

Both these scenes have a few things in common, mainly dialogue being the driver of the action, but at least from my point of you, the similarities basically end there. There are first-person narrators in both, but they are two very different people.

The first example, to me, is rushed and dry. Now that could be because I’ve read it at least a hundred times over and it’s taken kind of out of context. I never got the chance to dive as deeply into Lyssa’s character as I wanted to, so she remains a mystery to me even now.

This is not the case with the second example. I know all these characters’ secrets and back stories. I know that Lacey is just putting up a front even though she still loves Derek, I know Derek still loves Lacey but isn’t going to stand for her shenanigans anymore. I know how the narrator really feels about both of her friends and would rather give them both up than have to choose one over the other.

But the biggest difference of all between these two scenes is the voice. My voice.

They say you don’t know your true “writer’s voice” until you start zoning out in the middle of writing something, go back and read what you wrote while you weren’t paying attention. That’s what happens to me a lot as I’m working through (oops, can’t use that acronym) Alexander Grace. That is my voice. That is not just where I am most comfortable, but where I can actually write the best way I can write. Maybe not the best ever written, but my best.

So I’ve solved the mystery. I spent three-and-a-half years not really writing in my own voice. I felt so lost and so out of place not because I can’t write a sci-fi/thriller, but because I wasn’t letting myself tell the story using the voice I should have been using.

I don’t know if, by looking at those two examples, you can tell the difference. But I can, and I’m ecstatic. It means I’m finally back where I belong, and it’s not going to be quite as much of a struggle (though still challenging) to write this book.

And more importantly, it’s not going to take nearly as long to finish this one.

Which means query letters will actually go out at some point, which means maybe, someday, you’ll actually get to read the whole thing.

No promises. But this project is much more promising than the last one, at least.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How To Really Stand Out In the Publishing World | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Writing isn’t easy, but there’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one struggling. There are hundreds of thousands of other writers out there typing their way toward the exact same goals you are.

Which is great. Unless you want to stand out, which, predictably, everyone does.

What can you do that makes you, and your writing, unique? Standing out is almost tougher than the writing process itself, but we’ve come up with a few tactics you can try to make the road a little easier to navigate. 

Build a versatile portfolio 

The biggest mistake younger writers (of lesser experience, not necessarily age) make is believing that belonging to a specific writing niche means you can only ever write about one thing. Regardless of your niche and what kind of work you hope to publish someday, writing the same thing over and over again doesn’t do much to show off your skills, even if you have a lot of them.

Potential employers, agents and editors want to see your work, but they need to see a variety of writing samples. They need to know you’re flexible, experienced and able to write for a diverse market. Your portfolio should contain snippets from different newspapers, magazines and blogs, if applicable. Don’t have any yet? Here’s how you can get started.

Don’t expect to make it big, at least not right away 

Very few writers stumble upon instant success, especially their first time trying. Even if you’ve been writing for awhile, it takes time to really immerse yourself in a consistent style and find your voice. The first few things you publish, even the first dozen, probably won’t be great. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.

Some of the most successful, well-known writers have been writing, rewriting and publishing for years. They didn’t find success overnight, and honestly, it’s not going to do you much good to expect to, either. For now, focus on refining your craft. Seriously. Put all your energy into getting a little better every day, and worry about publishing later.

Write because you enjoy writing 

Readers can tell when you’re fully engaged in a piece and when you’re not. We write differently depending on how passionate we are about certain subjects and ideas, even when we don’t realize it. If you’re writing just for the sake of writing, just to put your name on the Internet and increase your chances of getting published someday, honestly, you probably never will.

You need to write because you enjoy writing. If it’s not your passion, you’re not going to make it very far. Why? Because as we like to remind you here, writing is hard. It sometimes takes all your time and energy away from you. If you’re not fully invested in it, quitting will eventually seem like your best option. Besides, it’s not only ordinary readers that can tell when your heart’s not in it. Editors and the like can tell, too, usually within the first few sentences.

The biggest key to success in publishing is to never stop writing. Keep your eyes open for writing opportunities and know it’s okay if everything you write isn’t always your best. You’ll have good days and not so good ones. What’s most admirable in a writer, though, is pushing through till you make it count.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Your First Draft

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Have you ever read a book, closed it after the final page and just sat there for awhile thinking, “Why can’t I write something that good?”

Of course you have: we all have. But that book you just finished reading isn’t the original draft the author wrote. It has gone through more revisions and rewrites than you can imagine.

That’s right: every writer’s first draft is a rough draft.

But don’t let that discourage you from writing yours. It is an accomplishment not every aspiring writer can say they’ve achieved.

If you’re not sure what to expect, here are a few things to know about writing the first draft of your first or next short story, book, etc. 

It will be full of surprises

The story or book you plan for in the early stages of brain rush will almost never turn out that way once you actually start writing. Not only do your characters have minds of their own, but your brain somehow subconsciously manages to make creative connections between pieces of your story you never even realized could fit together.

Be prepared to be unprepared. It’s good to have a good idea of where you want to start and where you want to end up, but more likely than not, it will all change before you can call it a semi-finished product. 

Most of the time, you’ll probably hate it

No one looks at their first draft, at any point between starting and finishing, and says, “Hey, this is pretty good!” In all honesty, it’s probably not. The main objective in completing your first draft should be just that—completing your first draft. Making it “pretty good” (or maybe even better than that) comes later.

So if you find yourself “not in love” with your draft—congratulations! You are right on track.

The closer you get to finishing, the less confidence you’ll have

Most of us start off our stories thinking, “Wow! This is going to turn out great!” That’s good. It’s the kind of self-motivation that gets us through one of the toughest writing-related obstacles: actually putting something on paper. The further you go, though, the harder it gets. We’d be lying if we said you’ll feel that “Wow! This is going to turn out great” feeling the whole way through.

No matter how iffy you start feeling about what you’re writing, though, the most important thing is to stick with it. If you let a lack of confidence stop you now, you’ll regret it. You really will. We’re just being honest.

The hard work is worth the struggle

At times, you’ll feel like you have no idea how you got to a certain point in your story, let alone how to get yourself out of it. You’ll have days where you hate every word you write, and your confidence will shake. Just keep going. Just keep writing. Why? Because “I finished a book” sounds, and feels, a whole lot better than “I tried to write a book once!” Even though, to be fair, “I tried to write a book once” still sounds better than “I’ve never tried at all.”

The satisfaction you will feel when your first draft is finished—no matter how awful you know it is, no matter how many plot holes, no matter how much you’ll have to go back and rewrite later—is worth every single word you wrote. YOU FINISHED! YOU ARE THE QUEEN/KING OF LITERARY MADNESS!

But before you get your crown, you have some words to write, don’t you?

GO! GO! GO! GO!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Find Your Writing Niche | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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It’s time to get serious, aspirers. If you want to be a writer, there are some requirements.

You need to want it, and we mean really want it. Editors and readers alike can tell when your heart’s not in it.

You need to know why you want it.

You need to know where you fit in the publishing world and carve your name into it, because a lot of people—a lot of people—want what you want, for the same reasons you want it.

You need to stand out.

How do you stand out? By finding a niche and, basically, dominating it.

How do you do that? This week we’ll show you how to find the place to chisel your name onto the wall. Next week we’ll show you what to do when you’ve found that wall but there’s no room left for you on it (yet).

 1. Write about a lot of different things

Wait. That seems a little backwards. Aren’t we supposed to be finding our niche? Exactly right. How do you expect to find your area of writing expertise if you haven’t tried writing on different topics, for different publications and audiences?

In the beginning, write what you can write. Write what you enjoy writing about, but don’t hold yourself back from branching out to different topics. For one thing, it’s helpful to get your name out there, but everyone’s trying to do that at the exact same time. What you really enjoy writing about might not even end up being your exact niche—hold on, let’s dive a little deeper into that one.

 2. Figure out your “mission”

You don’t have to have a blog or a business to have a mission. Personal mission statements aren’t just for college applications: they’re part of establishing your brand, which you should start doing if you haven’t already, if you want readers to be able to figure out who you are if and when they do find you.

Creating your own mission statement will help you maintain a common thread throughout all the work you do, so that even when you’re writing on many different topics, you can still communicate your overall message to many different readers. It’s easier to define which niche aligns best with your goals when you know the specific goals you’re looking to achieve.

 3. Explore blogs, websites and forums that set you off (in a good way)

Eventually, as an “expert” you’ll spend less time writing random posts and articles and more time in your niche. Before you get there, though, you have to get involved. You can’t be an expert if you’re invisible, and if you’re not even sure how to begin building your brand and anchoring yourself in a specific writing niche, you might want to surround yourself with people and ideas who can help build you up.

Get out there. Read, comment, participate in conversations and writing challenges. Know the mantras of experts in the niche you enjoy spending time in and connect with them if you can. If you’re tempted to post multi-paragraph replies to someone else’s comment in a forum—because you want to elaborate on a point, not to be a troll—that might be your place to settle in and hang for awhile.

It’s not easy, being a writer. We know.

But you gotta start somewhere.

Find where somewhere is for you. Where do you fit?

And how will that change the way you write?

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A Story Has to Fall Apart Before It Can Come Together (Midweek Novel Update #18)

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Can I be finished yet?

Does that question make me sound ungrateful? It probably does, and I’m really sorry about that. I am. But being this close to finishing my book, and still not feeling like I’m getting any closer to actually being done, is really discouraging.

Have you ever felt this way? Completely lost even though you know exactly where your story is going?

I don’t know why I’m so impatient all of a sudden. I’m not even really all that focused on my word count, except making sure I crank out at least 1K per day to keep myself moving forward. I don’t want to rush through the rest of it just to finish. I don’t want to take things out just because I don’t feel like I have time to finish developing them and tying up their loose ends.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been working on this story for a long time, and I am looking forward to starting to work on a different project (I’ve had another story idea in my head for a month or so now, but I’m saving it for NaNoWriMo). Maybe it’s the fact that I know this story so well, even when I write intense scenes, they don’t surprise me anymore.

Maybe I’m just having a bad day.

I’ve really been dragging myself through my daily word counts this week. Some days I fly through them, and those are the best days. I know we can’t have good writing days all the time, or we’d get bored. But on the days I’m struggling to get the words out, I just wish it were over already.

I don’t even technically know how much is left. I’m filling in all the gaps I’ve unintentionally left for myself. Connecting the plot points. Making sure I locate those pieces of story I wrote earlier in the project that don’t really belong in the book anymore and taking them out. Trying not to worry if my book is too long, too complicated, too simple, not realistic enough.

I don’t remember if I’ve been through this before, coming up on the end of a story I’ve basically given my life over to and suddenly feeling like I want nothing to do with it. I’ve probably just unknowingly burned myself out, writing every single day for two and a half months. But I’m afraid that if I stop and take a break, I won’t start again, and the first draft will never get finished.

I’ve already decided that when I’m done writing, I’m going to take a week off from the story. Close it out and let it just sit there. That’s the other reason I’m so fixated on getting it done. I just don’t want to look at it anymore.

It isn’t that I’m not proud of it. It’s normal and totally okay to be proud of your own work. I guess I just secretly wonder if it will ever actually turn into anything. Or will it end up like all my other books, only ever read by me and a few people I trust, never shared with anyone else?

All this hard work can’t be for nothing. But I’ve seen this book come undone too many times to let it fall apart again. I’m so far, I’m so close, even if I did have to restructure it and change it, I think it would still survive. I don’t give up that easily. I just hope that doesn’t happen.

Stories are like people. Sometimes they can’t become all they want to be until they’re stripped down to their basic elements and woven back together again.

Will it all come together in the end? Will you finally get a break from all these crazy Wednesday updates?

Hopefully. Hopefully soon.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

[DISCUSSION] If No One Else Ever Read What You Wrote, Would You Still Write?

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When first asked this question alongside hundreds of other writers, probably in a forum somewhere or in a Tumblr thread, I was convinced I knew the answer for sure. Of course I would still write: writing is my life.

But as I learned more about how to separate my different writing styles to fit different audiences and genres of writing, I realized quickly that as much as I would love for others to read what I was writing, no one really was. No one really is now, either. Yet I keep writing. I keep waking up every morning telling myself, “You’re going to write today,” and I always do.

I keep writing, even when no one is reading. Does that mean, if it were guaranteed no one would ever read a single word I wrote ever again, that I would keep writing anyway?

Lately, it’s difficult to say for sure. There is a small flame of satisfaction that burns inside every writer when they get a hit on their website or a compliment in a forum. A comment on an article, good or not so good, at least means someone is reading. That’s often better than nothing. After all, don’t we always write for an audience regardless of where our words are going to end up?

It gets tiring after awhile, writing and writing and writing without feedback or any indicator at all that someone’s paying attention. But as exhausting as it does become day after day, I don’t think writing without a foreseeable audience should be enough to make us stop writing if we’re attached enough to our craft.

Can it be proven that just because no one is reading your work, the universe is telling you that your work isn’t good enough to be read?

No, of course not. And maybe there are writers out there who don’t want anyone to read their work, and go out of their way to make sure it doesn’t happen.

I’m not one of those people, though sometimes I wish I were. I journal every day, though, and that’s my one chance to write only for myself, probably about things I would prefer not to share with an audience. I use that as my private outlet.

But I have my public outlets too—this site and other random places I’ve published articles and blog posts, for the sake of developing my skills and showcasing that I can write anywhere, about anything, that I’m not just stuck in one place writing about the same things over and over again.

If I didn’t have those things, if I only had my journal and kept a blog set to private and never tried publishing anywhere else, would that be enough?

Writing is as much a part of me as any of the tissues and organs (and awesome, DFTBA) that make up my existence. Once, at a point in my life I wouldn’t revisit if you paid the rest of my student loans and future tuition, I stopped journaling. And back then, that and the blog I kept that had an average of 2.5 readers at any given point in time, was all I had.

I wonder, sometimes still, if I stopped writing because I was miserable or became miserable because I stopped writing.

I like to think I’ll never stop writing, even if people stop reading. Which is likely: I’m not always very confident that what I’m putting out there is necessarily helpful to my intended audience all the time, and where audiences are concerned, if they’re not benefiting from the material, they stop seeking it out.

You’re still learning, with every piece of writing you develop, even if you keep it to yourself. You don’t need someone else to be there to critique it or comment on it or share it. Those things only help; they’re not necessary. But I don’t think I would be where I am today, working toward a professional writing career, if I had just one day decided to keep everything to myself.

I don’t write to get noticed, I don’t write for the sake of writing something for the fun of it. I do write to help people, communicate messages and (hopefully) start conversations. So I’ll end this rant with a question. And I think you already know what I’m going to ask.

If no one else ever read what you wrote, would you still write?

Would you still play with words?

Would it still be worth it to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or should I say, read your words. Go on. Compose your words of wisdom, as the comment box politely requests. Don’t be shy. I’m not a robot. I really will read what you have to say.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

Five Things Aspiring Writers Should Never Do

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The list of things all aspiring writers SHOULD do always seems to get longer: write often. Have a writing partner. Join an online writing community. However, the list of things you shouldn’t do as a wannabe writer isn’t quite as set in stone.

If you have a successful career as a writer in your sights, here is a list of five things to avoid, and in a few cases, what to do instead.

1. Delete their work

Sure, everyone hits backspace five times a minute to correct a would-have-been typo. But deleting entire paragraphs, pages or even entire projects without saving back files first shouldn’t be your go-to revision strategy. Always save over a new file of a draft, instead of just overriding the current one. For example, use dates to keep track of your multiple revisions. You never know when something you wrote on the fly will actually be usable for something else, or become something you want to reference, later.

 2. Ask everyone they know to read their work

It’s a good idea to have at least one, maybe two close friends, a teacher, family member or writing companion of some kind who is willing to read and critique your work from time to time. It is not a good idea to offer this “privilege” to every other writer, classmate or acquaintance you meet. Not everyone will want to, but some won’t feel comfortable turning you down, and that’s not a good way to get solid, honest feedback.

 3. Copy other writers’ styles

This isn’t something writers usually do on purpose, but it’s easy to do it without realizing it. The more you read, the more you are exposed to different writers’ writing styles, and while this can be a good thing for your own style, it can be tempting to want to mirror the styles of authors you love. Keep to your own voice. Have you ever spaced out in the middle of writing a sentence, gone back and read what you wrote without remembering it? What you find there is your voice. Completely yours, straight from your brain to your Word document without second-guessing yourself.

 4. Judge a book by its cover/title/author

If you ever publish something, you definitely would not be pleased to know potential readers were passing up your story because of silly snap judgments. So when you’re browsing to add to your own to-read shelf, try not to make those same kinds of premonitions about others’ hard work. Give all stories an equal chance, no matter what they look like on the outside or who took the time to write them.

5. Stop writing

There’s nothing wrong with taking short breaks every once in a while to give your brain a rest, and every now and again projects come along that just aren’t going anywhere and have to be put on the back burner. But whether you think you’re a good writer or not the greatest, never stop forever. Always let your creativity out once in a while. Write a haiku. An email. Anything that exercises your skills and keeps your mind stimulated.

Never forget: writing is your passion. Even on those days you just can’t put your thoughts into words, they will always come to you eventually. Just keep going. You got this.

Image courtesy of psychologytoday.com.