Honour Yourself as a Writer

Last night I went on a spending spree at Chapters, the mega bookstore in this area. I went in for The Writers magazine and came out many dollars lighter. (Debit cards are a blessing and a curse). I bought a new thesaurus which I already love and A Writer’s Book of Days which I’m building up into love for. Judy Reeves wrote it and I’ll look her up online later.

Anyway, there is so much encouragement, inspiration and creativity in this book for writers. I highly recommend you find it at your local bookstore.

I’ve paraphrased and added my thoughts to one of her articles. This is one of her essays which caused me to buy the book.

Honour Yourself as a Writer

Name yourself a writer. Give your writing preference over your day job, affirm the place it holds in your life. Tell them you’re a freelance writer when someone asks what you do. Let yourself be proud to be a writer, whether you’re raking in the bucks from writing or not. Don’t put your writing in second place, like a hobby you might mention if someone asks. Honour yourself as a writer, just like Judy Reeves says!

Make a place for your writing, furnish it with materials that support you and your writing. Keep the space sacred and go there joyfully. I especially like this idea from her book. Make yourself a writing alter, take notes from the Pagans on making an alter. But, whatever you do make the space where you write special, meaningful, uniquely you.

Get the equipment and accoutrements you need. Do you really let yourself spend a enough on what you need to write? Don’t over spend but let yourself have what you need to write well. Don’t give it hobby status if you don’t want to keep writing as a hobby.

Make time for studying and practicing your craft: attend writing groups, workshops, writer’s conferences, classes and lectures. If you’re too busy to go far try a few writing email lists. See which one works for you and then become a regular (don’t just lurk).

Schedule time with other writers. Find someone else who writes and plan time together to talk about writing and have some fun. Don’t let yourself become too isolated from others who write and think about writing.

Read your writing to others. Say it aloud to those who can appreciate it. Read it at writing meetings, family gatherings and no occasion at all.

Transfer your writing from your notebook to the computer and print it out. Everything looks more professional in print. Save your writing in printed format and keep it all organized in files. There is no reason you can’t even make up a zine yourself. Just add a little desktop publishing and you can create your own literary publication, starring you.

Submit material for publication. In spite of yourself and your fears respect your work in producing the writing and the writing itself and submit it for publications. Give yourself a chance, it only costs a stamp, some paper and the time to research your markets.

Celebrate when you’ve completed a work or hit a significant marker. Take a road trip, make a fancy coffee, get a manicure, soak in the tub, call a friend, buy that new thesaurus you wanted, whatever makes a celebration to you. You deserve it.

Accept compliments gracefully. Don’t become your own worst critic when someone says your writing touched them, was a great read or made them think. Instead say thanks and give them more to read, point them to your website, the latest publication to buy your work, whatever you have to offer. Instead of denying your work, promote it.

Proofreading is Boring

Proofreading is boring. If you’re a new writer I may as well give you the bad news now. It doesn’t get better with age. It’s boring even though I’ve been writing online for six years. It was boring when I began. Well, maybe not that first week when everything was new and wondrous.

Ugh! Why can’t we just get it right the first time? Is it some kind of brain blockage? Are our fingers not nimble enough? Do the words change so quickly that we can’t catch them fast enough? Is grammar really all it’s cracked up to be? I go with the nimble finger theory.

My fingers are complete klutzes. So often they aim for two keys at once. They miss the letter completely. Worst of all is when they think I mean ‘whole’ when I really meant to say ‘hole’. What’s wrong with fingers these days? I’d send them to school but I know they did that, I was right there with them, sort of watching over their shoulder. It didn’t seem to help. In fact, I remember crying over my fingers during a typing test in grade nine. We failed that course. It was the only one I didn’t pass that year. I blame my fingers.

There was that time when I had typed a whole essay for English class and my dratted fingers hit some strange key that deleted the whole thing. It wasn’t the delete key because that always gives you the chance to change your mind. I would have changed my mind, trust me! What can you do? We only get 10 fingers, no replacements, no warranties. Basically, you’re stuck with the fingers you’ve got.

So, proofread. Proofread till it hurts. Yes, it’s boring but you look like a fool if you can’t type. You see, everyone assumes the fingers are innocent and it’s YOU who can’t handle grammar or spelling. Yes, there’s the rub. No one ever assumes your fingers are the saboteurs.

Sales Technique for Writing

I’ve never liked being a salesperson, yet as a writer we are in fact, salespeople. You can’t get around it. We sell ourselves as credible sources for information. But, we also sell our ideas and our writing itself. If you’ve ever thought “Why should anyone read my stuff?” You can understand the relationship between sales and writing (even before publishing comes into it). We want readers to buy into our writing, to be believe what we write, take it seriously. So, we have to sell it.

The following comes from: How Stuff Works

“The foundations of most modern sales techniques lie in five stages of action. These began in the 1950’s and include:

Attention: You have to get the attention of your prospect through some advertising or prospecting method.

Interest: Build their interest by using an emotional appeal such as how good they will look to their boss when they make this deal that will save the company thousands of dollars!

Desire: Build their desire for your product by showing them its features and letting them sample or test-drive it.

Conviction: Increase their desire for your product by statistically proving the worth of your product. Compare it to its competitors. Use testimonials from happy customers.

Action: Encourage the prospect to act. This is your closing. Ask for the order. If they object, address their objections. There are then many variations of closing techniques that can help get the business. “

It’s not too hard to see how that applies to our writing. Think of copywriting, fiction writing or even writing an instruction manual. The first thing you need to do is pull them in, catch their attention. You do this by surprising them, perking their curiosity, giving them what they want or showing them you have what they need. Whichever works for the writing you are doing. In website reviews a catchy headline is everything. If it’s a book you need a great opening line. Magazine articles use headlines and highlighted phrases in the article.

Interest, desire and conviction sort of roll into one theme, keeping your readers reading. How do you pull them through your writing? Some may only read the catchy beginning and then skim to the end for the conclusion. Keeping their interest through the middle is the real trick. This is where your writing style comes in. Don’t let them stop reading, keep providing content they need, want and must have. Keep the writing lively rather than droning on.

Then, as with any good sales pitch, you want them to take action. If you are writing fiction you want them to leave the world you created feeling they have left something of themselves behind when they read that last word. If you are writing copy for sales you want them to understand how important the product is. If you are explaining how something works you want them to feel confident enough to proceed and use the product. Even if your only purpose is simple entertainment, you want them to buy that from you. In order for it to be bought, you have to sell it.

Assignments for Home-Based Writers

From the book – How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business by Lucy V. Parker, these are sixty key assignments for home-based writers:

  • Advertising copy
  • Anniversary materials for corporations, organizations, institutions, municipalities
  • Annual reports
  • Articles for employee magazines
  • Articles for single-sponsor magazines
  • Articles for trade journals and small magazines
  • Brochures
  • Calendars
  • Capability brochures
  • Catalogues and product sheets
  • CD-ROM/ Interactive media writing
  • City and newcomer guides
  • Collateral materials
  • Conference and trade show materials
  • Consultation
  • Contributing editor assignments
  • Critical reviewing
  • Direct-mail packages
  • Directories
  • Editing
  • Employee benefit materials
  • Environmental materials
  • Family histories and genealogies
  • Flyers
  • Fund-raising materials
  • Ghost writing and collaboration
  • Greeting card writing
  • Indexing
  • Industry-specific writing
  • Instructional materials
  • Investor-relations materials.
  • Letter writing
  • Manuals
  • Menu writing
  • New product regulatory writing
  • Newsletters
  • Newspaper feature writing, reporting and stringing
  • Packaging design and copy
  • Policies and procedures writing
  • Political campaign writing
  • Press releases and press kits
  • Proofreading
  • Proposals
  • Public relations services and materials
  • Radio and TV ads and promotions
  • Researching
  • Restaurant reviewing and writing
  • Resume writing
  • Retail and mall promotions
  • Sales presentations
  • Scripts and storyboards
  • Speeches
  • Sports materials and services
  • Teaching writing
  • Technical writing
  • Telemarketing scripts
  • Transcripts and other forms of word processing
  • Translations
  • Travel writing
  • Website content providing

Go through the list and pick out which you like to do, could do more of, or could learn to do. It’s a great list. Find a copy of the book for more information about any of the assignments above.

You can also look up information about being a virtual assistant. I know some writers/ web designers/ virtual assistants – people who are leaving their options open and learning a lot of new skills. The key is to find your niche, the area(s) where you can flourish and grow and really love what you’re doing.

Cranking It Out

Here’s something I found among a list of jobs for writers:

We are looking for writers to work on the following project:

  • Author many short (100-200) word articles on a variety of keywords (keyword list will be provided).
  • Author site map for your work.
  • Ensure the content achieves an 8-12% keyword density rating.
  • Ability to crank out at least 50 such articles a week

Qualifications:

  • Use Dreamweaver or Frontpage
  • Know how to FTP content to a site
  • Previous web writing experience (send URLs)

Compensation:

  • Paid on a per article basis.

Is this the job for you? You can find it on Craigslist.org if you want to. It sounds like they want someone to write spam, to me. I guess I still have a bit too much pride in my writing to consider it something I’d “crank out”.

I’m not being stuffy, just thinking of the work and creativity and craft involved in creating a readable article and then comparing that to something you’d crank out 50 times a week.

Could you do it? Even if you would take the job, could you write 50 short articles about random topics each week? I guess if it really didn’t matter how interesting or unique they were, you could. Of course, you have to consider how dense the keywords are. That seems to be the only content that matters.

Kind of sad if web writing comes to this, cranking out keywords for search engines to latch onto.

The funny thing is that search engines don’t all use spiders any more. Some have real people who aren’t impressed with a lot of half-assed articles full of keywords. Even if those sites get listed and show up at the top of the search that’s no guarantee of getting clicks. Not real clicks that stick around and actually look at the site. After all, getting clicks isn’t enough. If people come to the site, find nothing and leave. You’re not ahead of the game.

So, it’s paying work for some writer. Not me though. Not that I couldn’t use the money. I just don’t want to be known for cranking out articles when I could be creating something unique, with real value.

Absynthe Muse

Absynthe Muse

Apply to be a mentor for a young adult who wants to write. I don’t think it’s all professional writers or writing. Some just want to write better and don’t have goals for publication. At least that’s my impression from reading another page of the site.