Read This if You Want to Be a Writer

Read This if You Want to Be a Writer

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"First, try to be something, anything, else," author Lorrie Moore advises.

She's not alone in saying this. Other mentors, friends, and quizzical family members have offered similar bits of advice throughout my initial writing career.

I have humored them at times.

There was that one unfortunate year when I thought I could be a linguist, for example, and then that time when I fell in love with filling out Excel spreadsheets. (I love formulas!)

I also thought I would be a great professor of Greek, if only I could learn Greek. And that week of "construction work" I don't talk about now.

But most of the time, I don't humor these nay-sayers. I forge on ahead into the world of endless Google Docs, invoices, writer profiles, and cover letters.

This, however, is what I wish those skeptical aunts and wavering besties actually said to me those many moons ago when I whispered my desire to be a freelancer.

Read it once--read it again. Keep it by your computer. Trust me. You'll need it.

Learn how to claim your title.

You may be tempted to say the word "writer" the way you bite into an hors d'oeuvre filled with something unexpected and slimy. ("I am a writer," I say behind napkins at cocktail parties. "You're a what?" the person will say.)

You may also be tempted to add, "But I also do other things." (Babysit the neighbor's dog. Question your degree. Contemplate selling clothing.)

You may, quite simply, lie. ("Oh, I, you know, read things…")

Don't do any of these things. Claim your title. I assure you that when you do so with confidence, the right people will respond with a warm smile and a, "Oh, tell me about that!" So tell them about it.

Get ready to acquire a new language.

If you're keen to be a freelancer, get ready to study. The world needs writing, and it needs all shades. You'll be acquiring a new language regardless.

For example, if you dip your toes into the world of digital marketing, you may have to learn about landing pages, Search Engine Optimization, and meta descriptions (!). If you want to be a technical writer, make sure you know what a white paper is before you jump on board.

The same goes for resume writing, email copy developing, and ghost blogging.

The more fluent you are in such terminology, the easier it will be to promote yourself and develop a portfolio. (Don't worry, I'm covering that soon.)

Establish your niche.

It's hard to learn a language without establishing your writing niche. What type of writing do you wish to pursue?

Technical? Medical? Fiction? Vampire-Love-Death-Fiction? Haikus? Memoir?

Know your corner of the world before you start really inhabiting it. If you aren't sure, think about what intrigues you most. What moves your pen quickly across the page, besides the crush you have on the neighbor boy?

Spend some time on the internet if you need to see "what's out there." (But be careful with this. The internet has some weird corners.) Even a quick job search for "freelance writer" can give you a sense of industry needs.

Self-promotion is critical. Yes, I mean business cards.

If you're anything like me, you would rather eat fingernails for breakfast than talk about how great you are. (I think I actually have.)

If you want to be a writer, you're going to have to get comfy with promoting yourself. Especially as a freelancer.

This doesn't mean ordering cardboard cut-outs of yourself to put up around town. Although I appreciate the idea.

It does mean the usual, though: a website, business cards, a portfolio. You'll need these at the very least if you set up a profile on platforms like UpWork or Fiverr.

If you're nervous about the idea of authentic self-promotion, read this.

Keep redefining "challenge."

Yes, this is all going to be hard. Harder than an awkward Thanksgiving dinner, or cleaning up frozen dog poop. (Sorry.)

Freelancers must do a lot of the work themselves, including attracting clients, building a portfolio, and learning the art of industry writing. In many cases, we have wallets emptier than our dreams for a quick end to global warming.

(Just don't underestimate the power of a can of tuna, or a packet or ramen noodles. I'm serious.)

The key to navigating the challenge of freelance writing is to keep redefining what "hard" means to you. If the notion of productive challenge to you means doing what you love--and if that means writing words for a living--then you'll know you're doing the right thing.

If your current career path does not live up to your current definition of challenge, it's time to look elsewhere.

Practice until your hands bleed.

Okay, little extreme. But the metaphor is apt.

No freelance writer succeeds without practice. (Although the term "succeeds" here is very relative.) And practice doesn't just mean writing, writing, writing.

It means reading, too. In general, read more. See what else is out there. Studying other articles, books, and writers' works. (These don't necessarily include Buzzfeed, sorry, guys.)

It may even mean seeking out a mentor. Working with someone who's been-there-done-that can be the cure for needing a step up.

Hold the faith.

There will be days where you feel incurably awkward.

There will be days where you just want the cash, maybe, to buy a pumpkin spice chai latte. There will be the days where you talk to your computer screen, maybe even consider naming it.

Have faith, friend. In fact, hold the faith. Some say there is nothing so rewarding as writing, even in the digital age.

And it really is possible to write for a living. Trust me.

Write on.

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8 Lyrics From T. Swift's New Song 'You Need To Calm Down' That Will Give Your Instagram The Strong Female Empowerment It Needs

Let this girl-power ballad spark your insta-piration for your next post.

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If you've ever experienced cyber-bullying, or if you ever feel caught up in our over-critical society, Tay Swift's new song "You Need To Come Down" is the song for you. While we live in a world with free speech, and especially as a journalist I am all for that, sometimes its best to think before you speak - or tweet. We should all try to be understanding and kind no matter what the circumstance, even if it means not clicking send on some Twitter rants. These lyrics are a friendly reminder to stay calm and focus on what's important.

1. "Say it in the street, that's a knock-out. But you say it in a tweet, that's a cop out."

If this isn't the call-out message of the year on cyber-bullying (in song, at least), I don't know what is.

2. "But I've learned a lesson that stressin' and obsessin' about somebody else is no fun."

We all need to remember at times that getting mixed up in drama isn't fruitful for our lives or growth.

3. "Like can you not step on my gown? You need to calm down."

Don't let the haters control you or stop you from living, just tell those voices to calm down.

4. "Why are you mad when you could be glad?"

Focusing on hate or being critical can be exhausting, and it's better to focus on the good things.

5. "Sunshine on the street at the parade, but you would rather be in the dark ages."

Show people that going into the light is so much easier than they realize when they are stuck in a drama-cloud.

6. "You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace."

Instead of trying to have the last word in every fight, try to be the peace-maker instead.

7. "Control your urges to scream about all the people that you hate."

Hate never made the world go 'round. Hate was never what Jesus spoke about. And some things just aren't worth using energy to yell at.

8. "But we all know now we all got crowns."

Don't be afraid to show that you are a princess and no one can take your crown.

This song is not just a collection of Insta-quotes, but also a call-out for all of us to live better lives, to remain a positive and uplifting human in this cancel culture world. By no means should we remain silent on important issues or let people get away with bad things, but we can choose to not get mixed up in petty drama that won't matter in a week. Let's agree to be kind to one another.

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The Simple Words You Need to Hear This Fall Equinox

Lean in.

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In the past, I haven't paid too much attention to seasonal equinoxes. I barely managed to recall their actual passing, let alone their relation to the stretches of light and dark in our days.

Now, I've developed a keener eye to these momentary days. While this fall may be "just another season," its arrival deserves our notice. This fall equinox, after all, has been marked by the famed Harvest Moon, a moon so vivid and immediate its light aided the ancient harvesting of crops for three straight nights.

We are also now losing a little smidge of light every day, tilting closer to winter.

You don't have to believe in astrology or any meaning held by the stars to acknowledge this equinox. I do hope, however, you take a moment to hear these few inspirational words as we move more closely towards dark and cold.

Lean in.

It's natural to want to resist any motion that urges us into darkness. I tend to particularly resist winter and any premonition of it, including the snow that currently tips the mountains where I live. I find the early dark of winter days to be unbearable, the sliding into depression inevitable.

Resisting this irrevocable change, however, isn't helping anyone—least of all yourself. This recent full moon may have brought impulses of change and transition with it; lean into these. Let them occur and trust that what emerges on the other side of the change is meant for your greater good.

Why not now?

We're so good at saying we don't deserve things. We're so good at closing off opportunities, shutting down channels. We mention tomorrows and future years without acknowledging the potential of the present.

If you're nurturing any ideas about anything, whether it's a creative project, what to do after graduation, where to travel, how to dress—why not now? Identify what's holding you back and then, maybe, choose now.

Self-care starts when you want it to.

Easing into colder months often means reaching more for hot drinks, fuzzy socks, and indoors. But don't let the weather alone give you permission to indulge in some self-care.

Caring for your needs—identifying them and consciously meeting them—can happen at any time, provided you give yourself permission to care for them. These bright fall days and crisp air may have more energy in your step, often a productive energy, but don't let the anxiety of production and cold mornings keep you away from what you long to do, whether that's taking a soothing bath or turn off your phone for a hot minute.

Relish possibility.

There's always potential wrapping its arms around you, even when you are most blind to it. Take this equinox—this deliberate turning away from the sun—to seek out the most unexpected potential in your life.

Where are there holes of possibility? Where can you fill them? How might you be closing yourself off to newness and change?

To hell with it.

Fall is not the time for convention or giving in to others' desires. Nor is it the time for perfection. Fall is the time of kicking up leaves and watching a favorite series on Netflix. It's the time of lingering longer than you feel you should.

Don't get caught up in the monkey mind—let loose. Your heart will thank you.

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