10 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Full-Time Writer

Time flies, doesn’t it! Well, now that I’ve been writing full-time for three years, I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned. A few of these are really simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy. On to the list.

1. Writing is rarely just about the writing. It is often more about presentation, marketing, and networking. If your website looks absolutely terrible, that is a contributing factor to why you don’t have many readers.

2.Your writing must be interesting. 99% of readers don’t care about Oxford commas, sentence fragments, run-ons and, in most cases, even typos. As long as the message is clear—that is, clear enough to let the writing entertain the reader—that is what matters most.

3. Publish less and edit more. I’m not saying don’t write a lot—you should—but don’t hit the publish button as often. One great or even good blog post is better than 40 mediocre ones.

Don’t try to compete with other writers putting out more posts or words than you are. You’ll never win.

4. Headlines are ABSOLUTELY critical to your success. Without a great headline, it is very likely only your mom and a few bored Facebook friends that read your posts.

5. Most advice about how to do things is just a preference or opinion. Very few other rules apply today as things change so quickly. Don’t be afraid to break the rules.

6. Your writing is not about you. If you want to write for yourself, that’s fine, but let’s be clear—that’s really more of a journal or a diary. Unless you’re Oprah (or some other huge celebrity) it is best to write for a particular audience or you will spend the majority of your time spinning your wheels. Write to help the audience. Even if you write fiction, you want to take the audience on an adventure and solve the problem of boredom.

7. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a marketer as well. It is UNAVOIDABLE. Marketing is NOT a dirty word. It is just how you spread a message or share a story. Don’t let the sleazy, pushy guy in an ugly sport coat skew how you view marketing.

Marketing is just storytelling. And if you write a good story, over time, some of them will spread.

8-10. But most importantly, I’d like to ask you to write these three things forever on your brain forever in regards to your writing:

Entertain. Inform. Don’t be a jerk.

That’s it. And yes, I know I mentioned your writing has to be entertaining twice in two of the points above. It’s THAT important. I’m not saying this is easy though. Even this post right here is competing with MILLIONS (if not billions) of other options fighting for your attention.

Want more writing info? Just click here and I’ll send you some helpful writing resources.

Got anything you would add to this list? I’d love to hear it in the comments!

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  7 comments for “10 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Full-Time Writer

  1. October 16, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Hi Jim, most of these lists are kind of dumb but I think this list is very well done. And even thought I hate it, you are right that you can be a terrible writer and still be successful online if you have a good headline and interesting content. It’s a good reminder whenever I have typos or mediocre sentences that it won’t necessarily be the end of me!

    I found you through Elizabeth Hyndman and have been following along for a while now, but wanted to say hello.

    • October 16, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Thanks for stopping by to say hi! I really appreciate that. I hate lists for the most part–but this is literally what I wish I knew when starting out. I’m not saying I like these “rules” either–but it totally makes sense–that we really just want to be entertained and informed by someone who is not a jerk right 😉 Great to meet you Mary Beth. Elizabeth is awesome!

  2. October 16, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Number 3 resonated with me as I can sometimes edit a draft up to a dozen or more times before clicking publish. Number 4 is a work in progress as headlines are critical and yet sometimes even a.”good one” misses the mark.

    • October 16, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Sometimes I think a good headline can not match up with the content itself as well–so that can be an issue too.

  3. Martyn J Wood
    November 7, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Love tips 8-10 a good reminder to keep my ego in check and keep the purity of the craft and the fun element alive way to go Jim.

    • Jim
      November 7, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Thanks so much Martyn. Really appreciate that! Where do you do your writing?

  4. November 9, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    This is perfect. I’m writing a post about writing today. Thanks for the great food for thought! And I totally agree with these, especially 1 & 7. Writing is much more than writing, and a lot of that involves marketing—something most people hate. Once you get over that and embrace it, though, you’re headed in the right direction (and things get easier from there).

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