Read This if You Want to Be a Writer

Read This if You Want to Be a Writer


"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.

Popular Right Now

Me Saying I Don't Watch 'Game of Thrones' Is NOT Your Cue To Convince Me To Start

"Once you've accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you."


Yes, I have flaws. We all do. But it seems as if though my biggest flaw is that I have never seen "Games of Thrones." Nope, not even one single second. I don't know why I haven't seen it, it's not that I'm particularly against the show. I guess it's just too late now for me to start it, as the premiere of the eighth and final season aired April 14th. And for some reason, I just feel that I'm too far behind to even attempt to start it.

But please, I beg of you, do not try to get me to watch it. I don't want to; I've made my decision that I have missed the "Game of Thrones" train and I have accepted my fate. It's OK, you can use your heavy TV series persuasion on someone else, don't waste it on me.

But not being a Thronie (I have no idea if you "Game of Thrones" fans actually use that term, but it's fine) comes with its own set of hardships. Yes, I know that missing out on "unquestionably the most acclaimed and beloved show on television" is probably the greatest hardship, I know, I know.

But trying to scroll through social media while seemingly every single person on my feed is posting about the show? Now that's hard. I see memes left and right, constant reaction videos, clips of scenes that I will never understand. I see people being shocked by certain characters doing certain things to certain other characters and I just cannot understand! It's tough, it really is. I feel like I'm in elementary school, sitting on the bench beside the playground watching all of the cool kids playing together. I feel excluded and uninvited to the party that is the "Game of Thrones" fandom.

It really is hard. It's difficult not understanding the jokes and comments about all the happenings in "Game of Thrones." But to those who are obsessed avid watchers, I apologize. I sincerely am sorry that I can never understand your "Game of Thrones" talk. I am sorry that my inferior self is not interested in your favorite show.

As some character that I will never know in "Game of Thrones" says, "once you've accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you." I have accepted that my major flaw is the fact that I have never seen "Game of Thrones" and that I, unfortunately, have no interest in watching. So please, don't use it against me. Besides, that one character that I don't even know said that you can't anyway.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The Simple Words You Need to Hear This Fall Equinox

Lean in.


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.

Related Content

Facebook Comments