There’s a Difference Between Talent and Skill — Do You Need Both?

What’s the difference? And why does it matter?


Has anyone ever called you “talented”?

Have you ever really stopped to think about what this means?

Most people who compliment you on your writing — especially as an adult — they’re actually complimenting your skill. They mean to say, “Wow. You’ve worked so hard, and it shows!”

The reason I cringe at even the thought of these interactions is because regardless of whether you’re “gifted” or not, writing takes a lot of work. And saying someone has a lot of natural talent … that almost implies they’ve gotten as far as they have without effort. And that’s not cool.

Yes, talent and skill are two very different things, even in terms of writing.

Talent refers to your natural ability to do something.

Skill refers to your acquired ability to do something well.

Talent is effortless.

Skill can only be developed through active practice and long-term buildup of discipline and resilience.

Talent is passive.

Sill is active.

If you were born a talented writer, the act of writing has probably always come easier to you than it has your peers. You have also probably found that trying to refine your skills as a writer has also come more easily.

It’s still not easy — just easier. At least a little bit.

So then the question becomes: if you’re not a naturally talented writer, does that matter? What you need to know is that talent isn’t what makes a writer successful. Skill does that. And if you’re not naturally gifted in the writing department, you can still develop amazing skill. It just might mean you’ll have to work much harder, and longer, to succeed.

Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to accomplish something or to improve a desired skill. All that matters is that you TRY, and you DO YOUR BEST.

And to anyone who happens to be a naturally kick-butt writer, don’t you dare get lazy. Because guess what? Everyone who doesn’t have your talent is going to catch up to you eventually, especially if they practice for hundreds upon thousands of hours … and you don’t.

You’re never “too good” to get better at something.

That being said, this isn’t a competition. We are all skilled in unique ways. We all have different weaknesses and strengths. That’s why it’s so healthy to read books from a wide variety of authors. It exposes you to different styles and shows you the best examples of a handful of different writing elements. No two writers are exactly alike. And that’s how it should be.

Regardless of whether you’re naturally good at this whole writing thing or not, there’s no excuse for just sitting around waiting for something to happen TO you. You have to MAKE writing happen. You want to be a better writer, you have to write more. It’s not a complicated formula — we just make it complicated because we’re easily distracted and wait what was I talking about?

Talent or not, anyone can be a writer if they’re willing to do the work.

To be good at it, you have to do the work … and then some. And then some more.

It’s up to you how seriously you want to take it. If you’re ready, don’t just make a plan. Get out there and start writing.

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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Let’s Talk About the Worth of Your Words

You don’t know, yet, what you might accomplish with your words.

What are your words worth?

Seriously. When you publish something online, do other people care?

The answer is yes. And no. And it depends. Because, let’s be honest: a lot of people won’t ever read anything you write, and won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything. It’s not your fault. It’s just impossible to reach every single person on the planet in your lifetime.

I think too many writers base how “worthy” their work is on others’ opinions, comments, and various forms of reaction (or lack thereof).

Is that the digital age’s fault? Not necessarily. But the constant need for instant gratification and to be “noticed” online certainly hasn’t helped.

Listen. I’m a millennial. I got my first phone before starting high school. I’ve been on Facebook since I was 15. I’ve never lived in a world without the internet.

But being a writer in a digital environment means that I cannot depend on others’ feedback to fuel my work ethic. And neither can you.

I understand there are days you get disappointed when the response to your latest post or tweet doesn’t generate the responses you expected. Honestly, that’s pretty much normal for a lot of people.

However, if you’re letting that stop you from creating content … you have a problem.

I see this question too often: “How do I know if my stories are good without instant feedback?” This question is extremely problematic. Because it implies you’re going to get feedback on your writing at all — and that you need someone else to validate your effort before you can continue working.

Yes, at some point during the writing process, feedback is essential.

But not if you’re sitting alone in front of your laptop with an unfinished story in front of you, thinking, “Hmm. I wonder if this is even worth finishing.”

The reason many writers don’t finish is because they’re waiting for someone to tell them their words are worth pursuing. And that doesn’t make sense!

Struggling with self-motivation and relying on interest and passion to drive your work forward are very difficult for many of you. I do recognize that. I wish I could do more at this time to help — because I know that sometimes, as much as you do want to write more, you just can’t find a reason to. You aren’t broken. You just can’t see the worth of your words where you’re at right now.

Maybe we can work on getting better at that. More on that later.

If you’re feeling like your words aren’t worth anything to anyone, there’s something I want you to know. A few things, I suppose.

First, keep in mind that just because someone doesn’t express directly to you how much your words mean to them, doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by them.

You’ll probably spend the majority of your time as a writer wondering what people think of your words. Because not everyone will share their responses with you — especially the positive responses. It’s not because they don’t care. They just don’t share.

Second, never forget that your words won’t ever mean anything to anyone if they don’t mean something to you. Words become worthy the moment they’re worthy to their creator. If you’re writing something you don’t see the point in writing, don’t expect someone else to come along and contradict you.

Now, this doesn’t mean that self-doubt warrants worthlessness. You can feel bad about something you’ve written and still believe it was worth writing. I still remember the first novel I ever wrote. I knew it wasn’t a good book. But it meant the world to me because it was my first. To me, it was worth something, even though only a few people ever read it (or so they say — who really knows?).

Third, you don’t know the impact the thing you publish now might have much later on, even if it’s not getting attention now. This happens at the company I work for all the time. I’ll write an article, it won’t get a substantial amount of hits, I’ll shrug and move on. Then a few weeks or months later, out of nowhere, it will start getting attention. It doesn’t matter the reason. Just because it doesn’t seem to resonate with someone instantly doesn’t mean it never will.

You are a writer, which means you have the potential to one day find yourself in a position of influence over a large audience. There will always be people who disagree with you and say your work isn’t good (or worse, that they could have written it better). That doesn’t mean what you wrote is worthless. It means people have opinions, and taking them personally is a waste of emotional energy.

Some people are motivated by external accountability. You need to hear someone tell you that what you’re doing is good, and to push you and remind you to keep going.

Unfortunately, you won’t always be able to find someone to take on that role for you. And in those tough moments, you need to do your best to remember that no matter what you’re writing, it’s worth finishing. Because you’re writing it. You could not have even started at all — but you did. Now you should keep going. Just think how proud you’ll be when you finally get it done.

Your words matter. They always will. No matter what.

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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Find Joy In Your Work, Instead of Waiting for Your Work to Bring You Joy

Find joy in what you do, not what you’ve already done.

Ever since I first discovered it, Linda Ellis’s “The Dash” has been my favorite poem.

The second stanza reads:

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

(If you’re in a crying mood like I am for some reason, read the rest of the poem for yourself.)

Now, this doesn’t apply to writing line by line. Not necessarily.

But if you think about it, most of us don’t go through each day waiting for our last. We try to make the most of each day, attempting to build a fulfilling life.

Yet many writers pound away at their keyboards, practically holding their breath until they can finally call their project finished.

They hunger for that “high” that follows finishing something great.

But what about everything that happens while you’re actually writing?

Isn’t that enjoyable, too? It should be.

When you accomplish what you’re setting out to accomplish, you will feel happy. As you should. All accomplishments warrant joy.

But I can pretty much guarantee that happiness won’t feel quite like you’re expecting it to. And it most definitely will not last.

We often make the mistake of anticipating the finish line so intensely that when we get there, we’re almost disappointed.

But that’s not all that happens.

We also sometimes forget to appreciate — to enjoy — what comes between starting and finishing.

That’s what makes work worth it. THAT is what should make you happy most of all. Not the fact that you’ve finished, but the reality that you’re working hard to achieve a goal.

Sometimes I put off finishing a piece of writing — just for a little while, maybe five minutes or so — because I just don’t want it to end.

Because I loved writing it THAT much.

Writing may not be a life or death discussion, so to speak. But the words above are a constant reminder to me that the fact that you started or finished a book isn’t what brings you joy. It’s the fact that you savored every moment you spent writing your story (literally or figuratively, I guess).

You can’t spend your whole life waiting for your achievements to fulfill you. Because if you’re anything like me, the moment you finish something amazing, you’re immediately going to move on to the next amazing thing. That’s often how creativity works. Some minds don’t pause to reflect — or they have a very hard time trying.

Enjoy what you are doing, not that you have done something.

If you’re not enjoying yourself while your project is still unfinished, things aren’t going to get any easier.

Everyone goes through this “slump” where the excitement wears off and all of a sudden you realize … oh. You actually have to do the work. That’s normal.

What’s important is that you push through that. Keep doing it. Find enjoyment in small milestones and bite-sized accomplishments.

You’re not going to enjoy every single moment of your work.

But at least enjoy that you’re doing it. Find fulfillment in the doing, not the done.

That way, when you do look back on what you’ve achieved, you can say with honesty, “Wow. I really enjoyed doing that. I’m so glad I made it happen.”

That just makes the finished product so much more meaningful. Even if the after-buzz doesn’t last forever.

Make writing your dash. Note the starts and the ends. But don’t forget everything between. Don’t forget to enjoy the process as much as you enjoy the product.

Remember: you are a writer. You don’t just finish things. You create them. In the present tense. Right?

Write because writing makes you happy. Having written is great. Writing is greater.

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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You Don’t Have to Write Full Time Right Away — And Maybe You Shouldn’t

You don’t have to dive headfirst into writing when you aren’t ready.

Many writers sit down at their laptops and think, “I’m going to be a writer.”

A portion of those writers actually go on to write things. Many of them write things well. Some of those writers “make it.” Whatever your definition of “making it” as a writer means.

The reason many writers who put in the work required to “make it” (I call these active writers) isn’t because they don’t try hard enough or because they aren’t good enough at writing.

(There are some who miss out on success because of reasons like these, but these aren’t the only reasons.)

Actually, many active writers don’t succeed because they try too hard.

There is nothing wrong with the grind, the hustle, whatever you call your relentless pursuit of this passion-you-pray-will-become-a-job called writing. It’s hard work, after all, that kept me writing when I literally could not get hired to do anything else. (Dark times, my friends. Very dark times.)

But there is such thing as taking your drive to write full-time too far. Because the reality is, many active aspiring writers don’t know what they’re getting themselves into until they’ve committed to too many projects without any reasonable way out.

I’ve only been a full-time writer for about a year. Before that, I interned for a magazine, started building this blog, freelanced, and tried to figure out if I really wanted writing to be my full-time job/career at all.

I honestly don’t think I could have handled writing full-time before then. I had writing experience, don’t get me wrong. But I was bad at time management. I got caught up in writing a lot of things I didn’t want to write, but did it because I was trying to pay my way through grad school. I had such a rough time starting out as a freelance writer that it almost made me want to quit writing. (And that wasn’t the first time I’d ever considered quitting, either.)

The only reason I can handle writing full time now is that I’ve spent YEARS building up the discipline and resilience to Make Writing Happen even when I’m bored, overwhelmed, exhausted, or just having one of those days where you’d rather stare at a wall for two hours than force your hands onto a keyboard.

Many writers aren’t ready for this. Excited to grasp every new opportunity that comes their way, they tend to forget that part of being a writer is … oh …. right. Writing.

A lot.

All the time.

Many writers sit down at their laptops and think, “I’m going to write. I’m not going to do anything else. I was born to write, and that’s what I’m going to do. That’s ALL I’m going to do.”

I used to think that, too. But you can’t just jump headfirst into something you aren’t ready for and grind until there’s nothing left of you. You have to ease your way in. I was 16 when I started blogging about my life as a writer. That evolved into so much more as I learned and matured. I used to think I had to publish a book as soon as possible or I’d fail.

But by the time I got halfway through college, I was tired. Over it. I didn’t even enjoy writing anymore, because for years, that’s all I thought I could do.

Then I took a step back. I stopped trying so hard to succeed. I blogged when I felt like it, about what I felt like blogging about. I started only taking on writing opportunities that aligned with my career goals. Only then did I figure out what it was going to take to work my way up to writing full time.

And even then, it still took years to get there. Here.

Don’t get me wrong — here is amazing. Every day, I get to wake up and feel like my words actually mean something to at least one person reading them.

I don’t think it would be worth it if it hadn’t taken so long. It’s the experiences I’ve had a long the way, not the job and success I have now, that matter most.

You need to be prepared. You need to try many different kinds of writing, and work with or for many different people. You need to figure out what your interests are and find people who share those interests. It’s OK to start slow. In fact, in my experience, it’s the best way to do it.

You don’t have to write full time to be a successful writer. You can have a day job. An unrelated business. Friends. A family.

You can work your way up to that, if you want. But don’t do it because it’s what you think people expect you to do. Do it because writing fulfills you in a way nothing else can.

Build your figurative empire. One word at a time. If you feel pressured to do more, first ask yourself if it’s really what you want to do. Writing can be Your Thing, but it doesn’t have to be Your One Thing.

What makes you a writer isn’t that you write until you’re sick of it.

What makes you a writer is that you allow writing to be a central part of your life, without letting it take complete control of your existence.

Love what you write. Love that you are a writer.

If you end up doing it full-time, that’s cool.

If not, that’s cool too.

Be the writer who writes, who follows through, who “makes it” in your own way.

Don’t burn yourself out. Don’t push yourself too hard. Writers are people, too. Be good to yourself. You deserve 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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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The Best Piece of Writing Advice I Ever Received

You don’t know which projects are going to succeed, and which ones are going to fail.

Many people assume that because I’ve been writing for a long time, I now do so professionally, and I give advice on my blog, I’m the expert who knows it all.

And with that point of view comes the assumption that I’ve already learned all I need to learn to be a successful writer.

Thankfully, these wrongful assumptions are the reason this blog lives and thrives despite being one of many (MANY) in its niche. It’s when I draw from my own experiences, and the things I’m learning as I slowly build my career, that my readers seem to resonate with my content the most.

Which is why I want to share something important I learned last week. Rather, something a fellow writer shared with me that has completely changed my perspective.

So here’s the deal: we all want everything we write to do well. We know not everything we create will go viral, but we still hope what we publish gets as much attention as possible. As much as you might love writing because creating is just part of who you are, we all write partially because we want people to read and connect with what we have to say. The more people that discover our work, the more we’re filled with a sense of fulfillment every writer dreams of.

But the reality is that most of the writing that gets the kind of attention we strive for starts with a really good idea. And what too many writers tend to forget — or never seem to realize — is that many of the ideas you come up with aren’t “really good.”

So if you want more of what you publish to do well and circulate on the web or around your local chain of bookstores and coffee shops, you have to come up with a lot of ideas to generate enough “really good” ones. And this also means you have to write A LOT. Even if much of what you write never makes it past the self-editing stage of the review process.

What my writing “mentor” reminded me of was this:

“Eighty percent of what you write will never go anywhere.”

Such a simple string of words. But words I didn’t even know I needed to hear.

It’s hard for many writers — especially beginners — to swallow the reality that they’re going to spend a lot of time writing things that won’t succeed. I know it can feel like a waste of time. I know you might feel like it’s hard enough to manage your time as is — why spend more time writing when what you’re creating might not even “make it”?

But you have to be honest with yourself here. Much of the writing you do in your lifetime will be practice. If you only wrote when you knew something was going to do well, or only because you’re depending on a paycheck, you’re never going to learn anything, or get better, or test out new — even crazy — ideas.

The best, most promising writers out there are the ones who write, no matter if what they’re writing has any chance of success.

If your fear of failure stands in the way of getting any writing done … that’s something you really need to work on.

If your lack of confidence is what’s stopping you from pursuing a big idea, you need to remember that creating doesn’t always produce the best product. But something is so much better than nothing.

In your lifetime, you’re going to write a lot of things.

Probably about 20 percent of those things will do well.

So stop worrying about whether or not your ideas are good enough, interesting enough, or worthy of becoming bestsellers or prize-winners. Just write. Because you don’t know which projects are going to be part of that 80 percent, and which ones are going to make it into the much more favorable 20.

I have a feeling some of you really needed that reminder today.

I know I did!

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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What If You Write Something No One Else Is Interested In Reading?

This is one of those things you really need to stop worrying about.

When I first started blogging, I knew I wanted to focus on documenting my life as a writer.

Over time, I realized my friends, family, and classmates really didn’t care that much about writing — at least not the way I talked about it.

For those first three or four years, I had I’d say about 10 occasional readers. Almost all of them were people I didn’t know. But they were people who thought my topic — writing about writing — was interesting.

Even though my audience was small, and there were times it felt like no one cared about what I was doing, I kept doing it anyway. I liked writing about my passion. And slowly, over time, more people who also liked my passion found and started reading my blog.

It would have been very easy to give up early on in my blogging journey. I say that because many people do. They’re so worried about their small audiences and whether or not what they’re saying or talking about is “interesting” to the people around them that they just quit.

I wish they didn’t give up so easily. But there’s this mindset that if you aren’t getting thousands of readers a day on your blog, or your friends aren’t constantly praising you for your hard work, you’re doing something wrong.

You might not be writing for the audience you want or expect.

But it’s very possible that you just haven’t found your true readership yet.

I started blogging in January 2009. It took until March 2015 for my blog to start growing, and for a loyal audience to start following my posts.

If I’d worried about being “interesting,” you wouldn’t be reading this post in September 2017 (or whenever it is you’re stumbling upon this — hi, hello, how’s it going?!).

I don’t think it’s possible to write something that doesn’t appeal to any audience.

Is it sometimes difficult to break into a small, specific niche? Absolutely. Look at how long it took me.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

You don’t need someone else to tell you if your story, blog post, or whatever, is interesting. Not yet. Not if you haven’t finished writing it yet … or worse: you haven’t even started.

I understand that many people worry they’re wasting their time if they end up writing something that “isn’t marketable.”

But this is one of those things that stops many writers from ever getting anything written. And it really shouldn’t. You can’t worry about an audience you don’t have if you aren’t writing for readers you want.

If you’re so worried about spending time on a project you aren’t sure will succeed that you can’t actually get anything done, honestly, you need a bit of a reality check.

A large percentage of the things you write will never go viral, get clicks, or even get published.

If you wait until you find the “most interesting” things to write about, you’re going to spend your whole life waiting to write, instead of actually writing things that someone, somewhere, will want to read.

Part of being a writer is practicing. Giving ideas a chance, trying them out, and seeing what works, as well as what does not work.

You need to get out of the mindset that writing is all about writing only what other people want to read. Sometimes, yes, that’s how it works. But for people who don’t already have a stable following, sometimes you have to start with writing what YOU think is interesting, and finding the audience who shares your specific interest and really enjoys reading what you have to say.

Your writing may not be interesting to your friends or family or local community.

That does not mean someone out there won’t enjoy it.

For now, focus on writing, building up your backlog of content, getting more comfortable writing in your own style, and having an absolute BLAST writing about your passion.

There is no quick or easy way into writing for a large audience. Write first. Find your audience second.

You’re not wasting your time creating something you enjoy. Generally, we just call that writing.

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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The Most Important Lesson You Need to Learn Before Giving Advice On Your Blog

There’s a right and a wrong way to give advice on the internet.

There are a lot of bloggers out there trying to establish themselves as authority figures in their niches.

It’s what you do, when you have a background or hobby you really want other people to learn about in blog form.

Unfortunately, whether it happens inside the blogging network or somewhere else on or offline, many aspiring “experts” don’t actually know how to give their readers advice.

Most of them don’t know any better — I’m not pointing fingers, saying it’s their fault. But there’s a reason advice on the internet is so risky.

You literally are not capable of giving advice to every single individual who seeks out your wisdom.

If you’re going off personal experience alone, you’re digging yourself into an even deeper hole.

Before you start giving advice, take a moment to realize one very important thing …

Not everyone is like you. The way you think and the way you act aren’t necessarily how your audience processes information or behaves.

You can say, “This is what has worked for me.”

You can say, “I’ve seen some people benefit from this thing.”

And of course, you can say, “Science/Research says …”

But you cannot say, “This is what always works, and you cannot do it any other way.”

“My way” mentality isn’t smart, attractive, or helpful. There are a few ways you can rationalize this. The most down-to-earth point of view is that you may be an expert, or you may have had a personal experience with something, but no two people are exactly alike. No one’s circumstances perfectly mirror yours, or your friend’s cousin’s girlfriend’s hairdresser’s.

You might know a lot about this thing you’re writing about. But if your only message to your audience is “I am the king, bow down to me and my advice,” well … good luck, I guess?

But you can also think of it this way: what if someone takes your advice, the advice you’ve promised works for everyone, and it doesn’t work for them? Out of frustration and disappointment, they might lose all faith in you as the authority you’re clearly trying to be.

Don’t let your audience think they’re not good enough for your advice, or that you don’t know what you’re talking about because your “surefire” tips didn’t work for them.

NOW, BEFORE YOU START GETTING WORRIED: This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to talk about your personal experiences. Storytelling is an extremely powerful strategy for guiding others through figuring out their own stuff. If you’ve gone through something, and your story adds value to your audience, of COURSE you should share it!

Just be aware that when you do talk about the things that have helped you and what you have learned, you can’t assume your advice is one-size-fits-all. Advice doesn’t work like that. (We’d all have it a lot easier if it did … this is coming from someone who tries to give casual health advice on the internet, sometimes.)

How do you give generic advice to a whole bunch of people who need advice? You give a lot of advice. You offer a handful of different strategies instead of just one. Or you ask your audience to share their experiences after discussing yours.

It’s hard. That’s why you really need to know what you’re getting into before you dive in headfirst.

Unless you like reading comments from annoyed people telling you you’re wrong because “that’s not what worked for them.” I mean … that’s still going to happen. But we’re trying to prevent this kind of stuff here. There is no real cure for “my story is the most important one, I must dominate the conversation and not listen to anyone else” (the reason I am trying to detox from Facebook comments).

Advice is advice. Some people take it too literally. Just be as clear as you can that you’re offering suggestions, not guaranteed solutions. The best you can do is communicate as honestly and clearly as possible. Then, it’s up to your readers to interpret your suggestions how they see fit.

Your most important job is to provide the credible info, give your input, and act with professionalism.

Testimonials, anecdotes — they’re great. But never forget who your audience members are — people who are going through things you don’t know about. Only assume you’re an expert in fixing your own problems, and do the best you can to help others find the paths that will help them fix theirs.

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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How to Connect With Your Readers

Here’s what you can do.

The writer-reader connection is delicate.

Possibly one of the biggest challenges new writers face is figuring out how to create a bond between themselves and people they may never meet face-to-face.

How do you connect with someone in such a way that they feel you’re speaking only to them?

How do you make a stranger feel like someone, finally, GETS IT?

I have an answer to these questions. And at first, it’s going to seem a little simplistic. But trust me, it’s much deeper than it seems. This is one of those things you tend to forget the longer you write — or don’t really understand when you’re first starting out. So bear with me.

How do you make a connection with your audience they’ll never forget?

Write from your heart.

I know that sounds all sparkly and full of fluff. But I mean it. If you aren’t investing even a small piece of you into your project, your readers will feel disconnected from it. It’s not just about being able to relate to what a writer is saying. The “passion” behind their words also matters. And you can tell, reading, when a writer put less than full effort into their work.

I’m not saying passion is the only thing that makes people want to read your work. You also have to write well, and connect your ideas, and, maybe, stand for something a large group of people can willingly and easily get behind.

But if your heart’s not in it, how can you expect anyone else to care?

I know for a fact this blog wouldn’t have grown so much in the past few years if I didn’t care. If I just kept cranking out blog posts because I wanted the views, it would be obvious. But people find their way here and maybe aren’t always drawn into my blog as a whole, or me as a person on the other side of a screen. They find what they’re looking for here because I am a writer who cares deeply enough about writing — and my fellow writers — to insert myself into every post. Every day. No matter what.

I’ve read blogs written by people who aren’t fully invested. There just seems to be something missing, something between each line of text that’s hard to describe.

It becomes much more obvious when all a writer seems to care about is selling something. If all you care about is making money, and you couldn’t care less about what you and your words actually stand for, I don’t really feel the need to invest actual time or money in your product. And it’s likely others will feel the same way.

Your readers want to be informed, entertained, and mirrored — they want to see themselves in what you’re writing. But they also want to feel like the words they’re reading are coming from someone who not only knows what they’re talking about, but would genuinely sit down with a reader, if the opportunity ever arose, and engage in productive conversation about that topic — simply because they LOVED talk about it THAT MUCH.

That’s what you need to write about. These things that other people will want to learn more about because you’re so deeply invested in talking about it.

I wish I could do a better job of explaining this. Because I know there are going to be things you have to write, even though you don’t want to. And how are you supposed to write those things with purpose if you’d rather be doing literally anything else?

I think that’s where your voice comes in. Part of creativity is learning how to put your own spin on everything you write, even if it’s not your favorite project to tackle. (Think: query letters, PR emails, memos to your department — except, I don’t know, I used to love that part of my former job….).

The more you allow yourself to write about whatever brings out your truly passionate self, the easier it becomes to connect with those who share that passion with you.

No more writing about “what others want to read about.” No more writing “what’s going to get the most clicks.” Just write about what you care about. That’s what I did. And … well, this isn’t the greatest blog that ever lived. But I think it’s safe to say it’s made it past its very early “nobody cares” phase.

Unless there are 600 of you who don’t actually care. No! Don’t tell me that. I’d rather be oblivious, and just go on writing about writing because THAT’S WHAT I LOVE TO DO. (:

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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Create a Virtual Scrapbook to Remind Yourself You Don’t [Always] Suck at Writing

Have fun!

In the ‘business’ of mentoring writers, I come across a lot of people who get discouraged. Often.

I mean, it doesn’t surprise me. Everyone gets discouraged, especially when you’re a writer trying to convince the world your words matter.

Okay, fine. Yes — I GET DISCOURAGED TOO. I don’t think you can be a creative individual — or a human being, for that matter — without doubting yourself every once in awhile.

The ‘fixer’ in me constantly tries to come up with new ways to solve common problems like these. (Hence, uh, this blog.) Discouragement is a problem. It draws a lot of creative, capable writers away from their work. And that’s dumb. You shouldn’t ever feel like your words aren’t worth writing (or reading) simply because your brain doesn’t want you to believe you’re awesome.

How do we combat discouragement? There are the usual solutions — keep trying! Don’t let other people bring you down! Suck it up!

And then there’s the more creative approach.

(And just to warn you — it involves some digging.)

Here’s the problem with all these generic ‘solutions’: they either assume you can rely on someone else to lift you up, or that you’re good at talking yourself off the figurative ledge. These things do not work. In general, other people are unreliable accountability partners (not always), and when you’re feeling disgusting, the last thing you’ll want to do is tell yourself you’re being unreasonable.

So while you’re feeling relatively good about your ability to write good things (these moments do bestow themselves upon you, I’m assuming), I want you to dig through your past writings and find your favorite phrases, lines, or paragraphs.

And I want you to put them all together and create a “you don’t suck at this as much as you think you do” poster, box, folder, document, or collage.

It doesn’t matter what the thing is. It just has to include — in your opinion — the best tiny pieces of writing you’ve ever produced.

When you keep snippets of your best writing — and don’t necessarily look at them often — you give yourself something to turn to when you feel like you’re doing a terrible job.

A snippet could be a few sentences you just loved writing.

It could be something funny, something insightful, something that gives you chills.

It doesn’t matter what the snippets say. As long as you think they’re well-written, and looking at them will make you feel good about your capabilities as a wordsmith, they count.

How you collect and keep these snippets is really up to you. A bunch of sticky notes stuck to your computer monitor? A file folder on your hard drive? You could even create a physical scrapbook, printing out and decorating your favorite small doses of writing to cheer you up when you need it most.

Doing something like this forces you to be proud of your work — an added benefit to actually doing this activity, instead of just reading about it here, reblogging it, and moving on with your life. You’re forced to look at something you’ve written and go, “Huh. Yeah. That’s pretty good. Wow.”

Is this time-consuming? Oh yeah.

Will it be worth it in the long-term? Probably!

Sometimes you have to be the one to encourage you to snap out of your funk and keep writing.

You can do this. Make it fun! (And if you do end up doing it, and remember that I told you to, snap a photo or screenshot and send it to me!)

When I get around to doing this (at the time of writing, I’m about to move, and I can’t do anything extra or I’ll probably die) I’ll share my results with you too.

Save your work. Go back to it. Remember that you aren’t terrible at what you do — at least not all the time.

Just … don’t forget to actually get some new writing in this week, too.

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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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How to Tell a Story Without Writing Actual Words

You don’t have to write to get your story out.

Have you ever wanted to write something …

But you’re just having one of those moments when your brain can’t connect to your hands?

Our first instinct, when this happens, is to give up trying to get out whatever story idea might be trapped inside our heads.

(Some people call this Writer’s Block, which I just think gives too many people a lazy excuse not to figure out how to get writing done anyway.)

Though you might be tempted to just give up and try again later, this isn’t always the best strategy. Sometimes you have an idea that just refuses to SHUT UP. You have to do something with it. You can’t just let it roll around in your brain … you MUST GIVE IT ATTENTION.

But … writing is a struggle. Regardless of the reason, the words just aren’t coming out the way you want.

This isn’t a good enough excuse not to pursue your idea, though.

Because, you know — there’s more than one way to tell a story. Even if you do end up writing it (eventually) you can keep your inspiration alive in other ways.

Here are a few ideas for ironing out your idea:

  • Make a video that introduces your story (or it’s just you talking about it to a camera!)
  • Do the same thing with an audio recorder
  • Draw/sketch/paint/virtually create a picture
  • Make music!
  • Create a photo essay (the photos don’t have to be good)
  • Look at your story as the concept for a video or board game
  • Turn your story into a comic strip (again, it doesn’t have to be good!)
  • Create a representation of your story idea using LEGO or Play-Doh (you know you want to)

There are probably plenty more writing-free storytelling methods you can use to “write” without actually writing. You don’t actually have to share these creations with anyone — in fact, it might be better if you don’t. Sometimes, we’re more willing to create to our full potential when  we don’t have to think about how others will react to it.

You don’t have to write to make writing progress. Of course, at some point, you do have to actually sit down and write. No one has ever published a book “written” only in Play-Doh.


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 nine-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 now.