On Writing

Anyone can write! But can you be a writer?

While I am not yet a full time writer/blogger, I do get a lot of questions about my choice of this ‘second job’. So I thought I’d start a series of posts about writing and freelancing, for those looking to also consider this as a career!

When talking to various people about my writing adventures, about writing as a career on the side of my main IT career, I am often told by those I speak to that they want to write too.

Image source: Morgue File | Credit to: GaborfromHungary
Image source: Morgue File | Credit to: GaborfromHungary

And those bolder in their intentions and perhaps more to convince themselves rather than to impress me, would declare loudly “you know, I can write too! I can write an article about France as well!”

My counter question: Well, why haven’t you?

It is true, anyone can write! It does help if you have had some education on writing, but there is no formal qualification required of writers. All you need, is a flair with words, access to pen and paper (or in the modern day, a computer with word processing) and a great story to tell.

Of course, being a writer takes a lot more to begin with.

So you can write. But can you be a writer?

Do you write?

This might surprise you, but to become a writer, there is one important thing you need to do.

You actually have to write.

Writing isn’t just thinking about writing, but actually having to sit down, and put your thoughts to words.

If you don’t already write, even if it’s just on a piece of paper on a whim when you are commuting to and from work… then how do you expect to be a writer?

Do you have a great story?

There is a misperception about the idea of a great story. Most new writers, myself included when I first started, have gingerly approached the career in self doubt. What if I don’t have a great story?

Here it is. A great story doesn’t have to be absolutely out of this world. You don’t have to be the first women to hop on one foot across the world, you don’t have to have travelled to all the war zones in the world, and you don’t have to have exclusive access to the that celebrity chef everyone is talking about.

The world has been so well travelled, and society has changed so much that there really isn’t anything or anywhere that hasn’t been previously written about. You do not have to have a unique story to tell, you just need to know how to spin an old story in a new light.

Are you prepared to be rejected?

It takes thick skin and persistence to be a writer, because you will be rejected, over and over again.

It is the harsh truth of the creative industry. Just because you can write and you’ve got a story doesn’t mean someone will want to publish it.

Unless you are writing your own blog, there is always the element of having to cold sell your writing to magazines, newspapers and websites, even if you just want to write for free.

And you will be rejected more times than you are accepted when you first start, this is almost guaranteed.

working_MorgueFile_ Alvimann
Image source: Morgue File | Credit to: Alvimann

Of course, rejection does not mean failure. Rejections are simply learning points for you to improve, but it takes a writer (not just someone who can write) to take on rejections head on and see it as a positive exercise :)

Are you willing to work overtime?

Tell someone you are a writer and they assume you do nothing.

There is a general believe that writers spend only a small portion of their day ‘working’ and the rest of the time they are at leisure doing ‘stuff’.

Completely untrue.

As a writer, you are pretty much always working. Your mind is constantly churning for ideas, and you never know when the ideas will pop. It could be when you are on a bus, during a grocery shop, in the shower or in the dead of the night when an idea wakes you.

At this point, writers are compelled to write it all down immediately, because you might forget and you never know when your inspiration will return again.

Writers also tend to work a lot more hours than your average office worker. It’s not just the act of writing, but all the other little jobs that need to be done around it.

There’s also time for research, time for planning, time after writing for editing and rewriting. If you freelance and work with editors, you also need to spare time for meetings, communication and chasing invoices.

Time management is thus an important part of a writer’s life!

Image source: Morgue File | Credit to: dave

Have a read of My typical day as a freelancer to see what I spend my time on :)

Do you have the diligence to write?

Writing is a very isolating work and requires a lot of self management and control.

You are the only one who can motivate yourself to sit down at the computer to type your ideas away; you are the only one who can stop yourself by being distracted by yet another cat video sent by your friend.

You need to consistently and diligently set your daily writing goals without breaking the habit, even if it means missing your favourite sit-com on TV!

Anyone can write, and if you answered yes to all the questions above, there is a writer in you!

Welcome to the writing life :)

Share your thoughts below!