Developing a career in writing requires a balanced approach of consistently writing, reading and marketing. Though there is a valuable area that tends to go overlooked while developing an effective writing platform: experience. When I say experience, I don’t necessarily mean writing experience or schooling, rather personal experiences that make life enjoyable, while making you more cultured and strengthening your writing inspiration.
Getting away from your computer and experiencing the world around you is an important factor in becoming a great writer since credibility is built through these experiences. Also, you are given the opportunity to have some fun! The art of writing is and should be fun. Yes there are those times when you want to smash your computer with a hammer, yes it can be frustrating putting together a marketing strategy when all you want to do is write, but these are the times when you should look around at the world and do something you enjoy. Make every aspect of your life that would typically be considered playtime your work time as well.
I used to write for a wide range of entertainment blogs and publications when I was in college. I was (and still am, but have turned more towards writing) a film expert. Anytime one of my friends or family had a question about what movie they should see next in the theaters or on DVD, I was the one they turned to. I also built a respectable side income (mainly for booze and pizza) during college by writing film reviews and industry news for different publications online. Yes I marketed my services and yes I wrote as much as I could to tone my craft of writing, but none of my accomplishments or credibility came from those efforts. Rather, my credibility came from doing what I loved to do, watching movies, making films, setting up and running a film festival on campus and organizing a networking trip to Hollywood for students interested in speaking with industry professionals.
I built an adventure of learning about the history of film, making short movies, watching new and old movies and submerging myself in a lifestyle that was going to make me a movie expert. And the best part of my adventure was that none of it felt like work. I had an incredible four years in college because I was constantly having fun, while building a successful little writing business.
So how can we as writers experience our own adventures and truly love the craft we work on every day? Take the dive and submerge yourself in your craft. Become that person who everyone wants to cook them dinner, become that person who everyone turns to for finance help, become that movie buff who all your friends and family turn to for the nest film to watch.
This applies to all types of writers too.
- Children’s Writers – Take your kids shopping, on a camping trip, to the movies, or on a bike trip. The more time you spend with your kids, the more of an expert you become on the tendencies of kids and the way they talk and interact with people. Don’t have kids? Hang out with friends or family that do, coach a kid’s sports team or volunteer at a camp.
- Niche Writers (sports, cooking, crafts, entertainment, writing, finance, marketing, cars, technology) – Just like I did with movies, you should do with your niche. Go out to eat at the hottest new restaurants every other day if you write about food (I write about travel in Chicago and about 70% of the time if you just specify that you are writing a review for a certain publication you can get a free meal. It’s worth the email.) Read publications related to your niche (WSJ for business, Variety for entertainment, ESPN Magazine for sports, Crafts n’ Things for crafts, Bon Appetit for food writers). Reading about your niche should be a relaxing experience and will always help you in the future. Watch shows dedicated to your niche, read and post in forums. But most importantly, get out of your house and experience the world of your craft. Sports experts should be at sports games, entertainment experts should be at movies, theater shows or art galleries, cooking experts should be at restaurants and cooking shows, business experts should be at conferences and networking events, and technology experts should be at trade shows and new release functions.
Finally, we are all still writers, so we must get out of the house to learn about writing and experience the world of writing. For novel writers, writing conferences are the biggest chance you have of getting published. Sitting at your desk sending out dozens of manuscripts will most likely get you nowhere. Have fun, network and share your craft with other people who love writing by traveling to these conferences. The industry big wigs will be there so you can pitch to them or ask questions and you can network with authors who have been published in the past, figuring out what steps they took to do so.
Check out the Association of Writers & Writers Programs’ list of writing conferences to choose from here. Always remember that conferences should be fun. Help your writing career, travel to new places and embark on an adventure with writing conferences. Distance should not deter you either. Heck whenever I go to a writing conference it is my vacation as well as a work function.
We as writers need to not only create a writing platform, but develop a life built around that platform. Go out and do these things to develop a love or strengthen your love of writing. Your adventure is waiting.
See ya next time…