If I Were to (Re)Start As a Writer Today, These Are the 6 Things I Would Do
NOT the run-of-the-mill — write daily, focus on your headline, accept rejections, blah blah
When I began my writing, it was a random act. I would write just about anything. Almost journaling.
A couple of months into it, I knew I was going all wrong. It was just like scribbling something here and there. I was lacking volume and growth. My writing was directionless and had no plan.
So, I started picking up my loose ends. Even that took time — picking, sorting, planning. But after a while I had clarity, I saw a path and tasted results. Slow, but yes.
Okay, enough chit-chat. Let’s dive in. Some you will love, some you will hate, but you need to roll up your sleeves and do it.
Stop wasting time deciding the niche
When I started my writing journey, I came across this word oh-so-often — Niche. Sounded sophisticated; I dug more. Okay, so it is like specialization in doctors. Great.
And the soul-searching began. What am I good at? I made notes, made lists, eliminated some, wrote some pieces, and felt like trash because those were not good enough.
I almost gave up. Writing is not my cup of tea. And then (thankfully) the rebellious me said- f**k the niche. I will write whatever I want. No pressure.
That worked. I just wrote, and eventually, I knew my strengths and likings. There was my niche!
Action point: Don’t start with the burden of finding your niche. You will waste precious time. Focus on writing. Your niche will surface on its own.
Collate the data from the word go
I can see your ironically arched eyebrows. Okay, I know it sounds foolish. You might be saying- I am a beginner and learning the ropes, and here you are suggesting collating my data?
Yes, I am. Because it is easier to start small. I caught the train late. I started the process almost two years into writing. It’s like, I say:
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The most important job of a writer is to write. Right?Well, yes. But it doesn't stop just there. You need to be able to…
But the question remains, why should you collate your writing data is a more pertinent question when you have a roomful of work. Sorting them then would be a herculean task.
Benefits of having your work organized/categorized:
- content for the newsletter: yes, you have to plan for the newsletter.
- repurposing a story (that had good engagement): you might have a more evolved view of it, add more information, and revive it.
- material for your book: something like making a salad with chopped veggies, all ready!
- linking to other stories: like I did in this one.
How to collate is up to you — Excel, Evernote, pick your berry.
Action point: Start segregating your work. Sort the writing space. And know exactly where you have kept that piece.
Collect good headlines
No, I am not going back on my words. I know I promised nothing about focusing on headlines. Come on, hear me out.
And I will not beat the dead horse by delving into the significance of a good headline. We all know that.
But when I was a newbie, I would put something funny in my headline and unleash it to the world. I was proud. I was sure, this is going up the billboards.
Took some time to realize that it doesn’t work that way. So, I picked up my magnifying glasses and started probing into others’ headlines.
What are they doing right?
That’s when I started picking good ones and putting them in an excel sheet. I would read the story and think of how the author has framed the headline. How would I have done it? What is different?
I could see a pattern evolving, almost at the subliminal level — I could come up with better headlines.
Action point: Pause when you see a well-formulated headline. Stash it somewhere. Get into the grind of getting to that sweet spot yourself.
[Here is a free list of 17 engaging headline templates that you can use for yourself.]
Create an alternate email
This single act has saved me hours. It can be for you too. Unfortunately for me, I was late in realizing the time drain this had been causing.
So, like many of you, I have a primary mail-id. I get my bills, receipts, notifications, etc in that. And as Google works, this is the default mail id that pops up whenever there is a prompt for one. And I used it. Saving time.
But when you are a beginner in a field, and you search for knowledge or insights, you come across a whole world of stuff;
80% of information being offered free.
And one thing leads to another, before you even realize it, you have signed up for 6 courses, 5 newsletters, 3 webinars, and 7 subscriptions. And where is this influx going to happen?
Correct — your inbox.
So, every morning I would open my inbox (actually it is automatic, as per my Google Chrome settings) I would be drenched with advice, upcoming classes, deadlines, and whatnot.
I click on one — oh, I need to do this.
Another — okay, I can write a piece like this.
Another — this is new, let me try this.
Information overload. Result — distraction.
And before I know it, I am that caveman hunter who has hunted a lot but gathered nothing. No productive work was done.
I do not deny that this is also part of the process but separate the two — writing and writing-related.
So, I created an alternative mail id and diverted all this writing-related stuff there. And only when I am in the right mindset for informational stuff, do I enter that arena. I now know what awaits me when I open that door.
Action point: Have one (or even two) alternate mail IDs to channel your information and prevent them from draining away your writing juice.
Publicize your work more
Link your accounts — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. A mistake I rectified much later in my writing journey. I was running like a racehorse, focused on one single track.
With people averaging out almost seven hours daily, consuming content digitally you cannot stand to lose out on this. Sell where the market is.
Gone are the days when we were told- Jack of all trades, master of none. It’s Master of one trade AND Jack of another ten. Do not see this as an additional task, see this as an opportunity.
And don’t fret that things aren’t happening overnight. They will not.
Let the things take time and trust the organic growth. Many writers hesitate to put their work out there for the world to see. Don’t. Just do it.
Action point: Be present on all social media platforms and amass your audience.
Do not shy away from real action —
- Subscription worksheets/cheat sheets/guides,
- Redirecting your audience to alternate platforms
I thought my job as a writer is to write. Just write. But no, if one has to be in the game, one needs to wrestle. If I have to grow at a decent level, I need to be ‘present’.
This can come under ‘collating data’ as well, but one practice I recommend for every writer is to:
Earmark your stories.
Which one should go for the newsletter, which one should go for that free ebook you are planning, one for the LinkedIn post, one for the Facebook group, etc.
Action point: Be that early bird and get the worms. Plan out your things and act.
Every writer will have their own journey with their own set of learnings, successes, and mistakes. I am having mine. And I am enjoying every bit.
This article is a summation of all that I could have done better and would want others, who are beginning their journey, to take note and adopt these.
To sum up here:
- Keep your focus on the trade. Write. your niche will eventually surface.
- Organize your data, because you will use it again in many ways
- Always be on the lookout for good headlines and treasure them
- Create an alternative mail id and divert your reference materials/contents to that
- Be active on social platforms and cash upon the existing audience
- Act. Act. Act. Do not shy away from prompting actions.
My bag’s empty now. I have offloaded all that I had to say.
Would love to hear from you. Do drop in a word or two!
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