What is the best way to begin writing for a living?

I usually don’t get this specific—a writer writing to writers about writing—but try to focus more on general ideas, like discovering and bringing your value, building relationships, etc.

So this might be fun today : )

And I’m sure what I share will apply to finding success in any creative field.

Getting Started

You’ll feel that inward spark of destiny or calling (to become great writer) long before you ever find and hone your voice, and long before you shore up all the holes in your technical game.

That’s ok.

Get used to writing in many different mediums. Answer questions online. Blog about a new thought each day, and then keep track of how your thoughts (and how you share them) evolve over time.

Fall in love with what Terry Pratchett called the “joy of plot” . . . which is when you can’t fall sleep for the plethora of new angles, scenes, and character arcs dancing ceaselessly through your mind.

On that note, get used to capturing all relevant intuitions and ideas, even if that means having to rip yourself out of a comfortable bed and crawl across a frigid room to fetch your notepad at 2am.

“The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Read for fun and to unconsciously study the conventions of written communication; but don’t hold yourself too rigidly to any conventions.

For example, your blog posts don’t have to stick to some bland intro-to-statements-to-explanations-to-illustrations-to-outro format.

Your stories don’t have to climax into predictable resolutions of tension.

Just get a feel for the power of word pictures painted as simply as possible (using fewer and fewer words).

Creating Your Masterpiece(s)

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
 -Allen Ginsberg

As you practice writing in different forms, your voice on screen (or page) will start to become unmistakable. You’ll find yourself typing in your own natural rhythm, with decisive purpose . . . and probably a huge smile on your face.

Now go spend a portion of your life creating the best book/story/literary masterpiece you can. It will never be perfect, but after re-re-re-re-re-editing (as many times as it happens to take), you’ll reach a point when you know the page/section/chapter is good enough to share.

Then face every contrary demon of fear, and hit the “post” or “publish” button.

Then do it all again. Then again. Then again…

Building Your Audience

If you’ve been blogging and interacting as mentioned, you’re already building your audience.

The key: Find a way that works for you to come to life online.

Can you speak off the cuff? Start a YouTube channel or podcast.

Are you better at planning out and documenting in detail? Scale your blog, using social media to drip life experience, along with quotes and what-you’ll-gets from all your work.

This stage is about deciding on, learning, and using platform specifics to put yourself and your work in front of those who share your values or style, or who appreciate the type of writing you’ve chosen.

The platform you run with should be fun for you and fit your personality.

Use your platform to add value to your audience consistently over time, for free, until they can’t wait to hear from you. That’s when support and sharing will become automatic.

There’s no point approaching traditional publishers without evidence of an already growing and devoted audience. So since you’ll have to at least initially learn to market yourself anyway, decide whether you think the creative control you’d be giving up is worth the extra reach a publisher promises . . . which usually amounts to a single short-lived shot at dominating in bookstores.


“Read everything. Write all the time. And if you can do anything else that gives you equal pleasure and allows you to sleep soundly at night, do that instead. The writing life is an odd one, to say the least.”
-Alice McDermott

Writing is a lifestyle. It’s fun and rewarding; but it also involves a lot of work, rejection, ridicule, loneliness…

Chasing a writing dream means following after mere whispers of faith and potential for whole seasons before you see any manifested return on your efforts.

Such pressures can push you to all forms of excess and cheap relief.

But the lifestyle of an artist can also motivate you to develop as a person, to live at your best, and to appreciate every stage of the journey.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s