When you set out for a writing career, everyone told you it wasn’t going to be easy. There wasn’t a shortage of people to drone on and on about the low stats of snagging a career in writing.
But then you got the writing gig. And everyone stopped talking.
That’s when you could’ve used some solid advice. What should you expect? What mistakes can you avoid? How do you succeed?
Because most of us are well beyond the first day of our writing career, here’s some advice we wish someone told us before we started our career as a professional writer.
No One Cares That You Have An MFA
So what if you’ve endured a rigorous writing program from a prestigious university and you graduated with a polished manuscript?
The truth is that nobody cares.
Sure, it’s important to add your degree on your resume. It can move you up in the hiring process, but it’s only a step.
Once you get the job, all your supervisor cares about is that you write what needs to be written. They don’t want you to flower up technical copy. They don’t want 500 words for a banner ad.
But your MFA should have taught you that. Not everything needs to be literary. The words need to match the genre, the audience and the purpose.
So check your MFA at the door, but be sure to pick it up before you leave. You can always return to your creative writer ways outside the 9 to 5.
Everyone’s An Editor (& A Critic)
Never get too attached to your writing project. It doesn’t matter how pretty your repetition, how beautiful that word, how clever that phrase.
It’s probably going to get cut.
It doesn’t matter the literary background of the one holding the red pen. What the red pen says goes.
This can be devastating to writers. Or just really piss us off.
When it comes to your writing, everyone has an opinion. Sometimes it’s because it’s not reflecting the storyline or brand. And sometimes it’s because the editor doesn’t see her/his style in it.
Instead of letting this get under your skin, remember that the writing project isn’t you. It’s not your baby. It’s not a mini you. It’s not your adorable pet.
When you’re writing for a company, the writing project is a reflection of the company and of the brand. So if the edits reflect this, agree and make the change. But if the edits aren’t on-brand, then fight for the integrity of the writing project, not your ego.
Exercise is A Must
We spend most of our days sitting at a desk hunched over our laptops. Besides getting up for the restroom or the break room, we stay at rest most of the time.
That can’t be good for our circulation.
So commit to one hour of exercise. Pick a fitness activity that gets you excited and gets your adrenaline going.
(My fitness of choice: Running)
You’ll be amazed how much better you feel – and the ideas you come up with – while exercising. Plus you won’t feel as guilty for snagging that break room donut.
You’re Now The Expert On Everything
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen a shoebill heron or don’t have an advanced degree in ornithology. Sometimes you just have to write about why the bird eats baby crocodiles.
Fake it ’til you make it.
A big misconception about writers is that we know everything. The myth probably comes from how we digest a vast array of information: Through the written word.
Or we’re just really, really good at pretending that we know it all.
Whether or not it’s true, it’s expected out of a writer. So having mad research skills is just as essential as your writing skills.
Internet search is your new best friend.
A Lot of What You Do Isn’t Writing
Sure, “writing” and “creating content” is in your job description. But so is “other duties as assigned.”
The truth is that there’s a lot that needs to be done in order for you to write. You need to research, strategize, promote and analyze in order to write what you need to write.
And, of course, meet about it.
There will be other tasks – and emails – in between the writing projects. Think of them as rest breaks so that your mind remains sharp when you do get back to writing.
What did you wish you knew before you started your writing career? Share your story below.