As much as some of my haters despise the fact, I’m a writer who gets paid to write. I must be doing something right. While I am nowhere near my end goals, I am proud of how much progress I have made so far. I look back and think about how I got started, and it’s pretty simple: About three years ago, I decided that I would be a writer. I didn’t seek anyone’s approval or permission. I just made it a goal and decided it was what I was going to do, no matter what the task required of me. So I started reading various books and articles looking for some tips to get started. With those nuggets of information I took the first steps to making my dream come true. Here are some things you can do to get yourself on the same track.
1. Write 1,000 words a day in a private journal.
The most important step is to actually write. That sounds good in theory, but anyone who has tried to sit down in front of a daunting blank computer screen knows that it’s tougher than it sounds. There is all this pressure to think of something useful and insightful to say. Or something funny, witty, and intriguing. Or something informative and factual. It’s a tough way to start when you don’t know jack shit about the creative process.
Instead, start a journal. This can be handwritten, on a typewriter, or it can be a text file on your computer. That shit is superficial and doesn’t matter. What matters is that you actually write. Your goal is not necessarily to write anything interesting, but rather to pour shit out. Write about your day, write about what is pissing you off, write about some chick you want to fuck, write in the first person, second person, and third person. Talk to yourself and encourage yourself to keep on writing. Hop from subject to subject. Your goal here is quantity, not quality.
This will create muscle memory for your hands and will get it used to writing prose. Your hands will learn where every key on the keyboard is and if you’re a slow writer, it will hone your fingers so they can keep up with your thoughts. In turn it will make you become a quicker and more effective writer. This process of mind-dumping anything that comes to your wee little head will encourage you to say whatever you have to say instead of worrying about what someone will think about what you are saying.
About 99% of what you write in your journal will be complete garbage. But as you’re vomiting out sentence after sentence, occasionally one will flow out that is genius. Or you will think of good subject matter to explore and develop. Remember, no one is going to read your journal but you, so you can talk about anything you want. If you share a computer with a significant other, tell them you don’t want them to read your journal. You will automatically censor your random thought process if you think someone else will be reading it. If your significant other doesn’t respect the fact that you want to keep that part of yourself private, ask yourself why you wish to remain with such a person.
If 1,000 words seems too daunting to start off with, write 500, 250, or 100; it doesn’t fucking matter. All that matters is that you get the process started and steadily increase your output. Aspire to write every day, but if you can’t do that, do it every other day or every third day—whatever you need to get some sort of pattern started. Once you develop consistency in frequency and output for about a year, you will have developed your skill set significantly and will be ready to actually get what you have to say out there.
2. Start a blog.
When I had been writing in my journal for a little under a year, I decided to read the first blog post of one my favorite writers. He fucking sucked. “I’m a way better writer right now than that motherfucker was when he started his blog,” I thought to myself. That’s when I knew I was ready to start my blog.
You have to define your blog’s goal. Is it where you want to launch your career, or is it a blog where you’re just going to write about bullshit that no one outside of your immediate circle of friends will care about? This is where you start thinking about quality over quantity. What value do you bring to the reader? Why should they care about what you have to say? How can you say it in a way that’s insightful, funny, or witty? What makes your perspective unique? What can you say that no one else can?
One big piece of advice I’ve consistently read is that your blog has to have a theme: travel, make-up, gaming, cars, the military, picking up chicks, fitness, etc. This implies that the only way you can succeed is by being an expert in something. Unless you’re trying to build a business around the concept, that’s bullshit advice. By giving your blog a theme, you pigeonhole yourself into writing about a limited range of subjects. You need to explore different subjects and styles to truly develop your voice.
Your goal your first year as a public writer should not really be to thrive, but rather to survive. Maybe you post two articles a month like I did or you’ll post 20+ like my first writer friend Katie Hoffman was able to do. Ever since I started writing my blog a little over two years ago, I have seen many would-be writers come and go. They’ll get all excited, hitting the ground running and write five blog posts their first week. Then as quickly as they came, they disappeared.
I’ve seen many wannabe writers say things such as, “Well, if someone gave me the opportunity to write for their site, I’d write a lot.” Fuck you, no you wouldn’t, you fucking lazy piece of shit. Writing is merit-based, and an audience is not an entitlement. You must earn the readers’ respect and attention. You must create your own opportunities rather than just wait for someone to hand them to you. Starting a blog is how you create your own opportunity and get your work out for the world to see. Go through your first year consistently producing content without quitting.
3. Grow some rhino skin.
Writing is subjective. What one person believes is a wonderfully crafted piece, another will think is total crap. Understand that even if you write a technically sound piece, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be interesting or capture anyone’s attention. What matters most is the content.
You will be insulted. You will be told you should go kill yourself. You will be told you can’t write for shit. You will be told that you should quit. You will be told that you have no talent for this. You will be told that your articles are mundane and unoriginal. You will be mocked and laughed at. You will be trolled. Or perhaps worse of all, you will be ignored.
Fuck them. Keep your head up, be tough, and with an almost delusional attitude, keep your eyes on your goals. Remember, you didn’t need anyone’s permission when you decided you wanted to be a writer, and you sure as hell don’t need anyone’s permission to keep walking on the path. The only person that can stop you is you.
Some articles that you pour your heart and soul into will be complete flops. There will always be someone who is more successful than you. Instead of being jealous of their accomplishment, read what they write, analyze what they do, and try to figure out what you would benefit from incorporating it into your own style.
Becoming a skilled wordsmith is not something that happens overnight. It’s a long process that requires many lonely nights in front of the keyboard. Self-doubt, frustration, and writer’s block will always be looming. Yet if you’re willing to do what it takes, you will earn the right to call yourself a writer.
Check out more of my writing at Thought Catalog.