The end of the year is fast approaching, and many people will be making New Year’s resolutions. Are you making the right ones to grow your writing career? In today’s guest post, Celia Abernethy shares 7 New Year’s resolutions that will actually make a difference for new writers.
7 New Year’s Resolutions for New Writers
At every holiday cocktail party, someone will probably try to break the ice by asking, “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions this year?”
Typical answers are to quit smoking, lose weight, or go to the gym more often. But if you want to really make a difference towards developing your writing career, it may be more difficult to come up with responses.
Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions suggestions to kick off the new year.
New Year’s Resolution #1: Write every day.
To become a world-class musician, you must practice for hours each day. To become a published author, you have to write every day. Not everything you write needs to be publishable, it just needs to be.
Last spring, I was feeling like all my ideas had turned to mud. I couldn’t write anything worth reading. I was struggling to think of clever titles and I didn’t have any ideas to pitch. My metaphoric house on the hill was sliding down a mucky slope.
Then I came across the book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, American playwright and teacher. She encourages her students to write three pages of cursive writing, “strictly stream of consciousness”—those arbitrary thoughts, words and ideas that senselessly float around in your mind. She recommends writing the pages first thing in the morning as a brain drain technique.
I tried Cameron’s “morning pages” and lo and behold, after three weeks of tenacious, sloppy handwriting, I naturally rediscovered adjectives and word combinations that had been buried and forgotten. I even wrote a poem, which is quite rare for me. Now, when I’m at my laptop, I just start typing until the words start making sense. From the millions of keystrokes you tap out, you will certainly find the article, story, or character you have been trying to develop.
New Year’s Resolution #2: Pitch every week.
Freestyle writing is creatively fulfilling, but we also have to fill our bellies. For freelancers, this means doing extra work as your own agent and marketing director. Who is going to hire you if they don’t know you? There are innumerable resources that give tips on how to write the right pitch and how to sell your idea to a potential client or publisher, but what really counts is sending that pitch letter out. Anyone who has tried cold pitching knows that it takes hundreds of emails before a solid reply comes back.
To make things easier for yourself, use a template that you customize for every client. Be sure to add something personal about the client that demonstrates you are not sending out a bulk spam email.
I do not have the time to send hundreds of pitches each week, so I try to send between ten and twenty targeted emails. I keep an Excel file of publications and clients I would like to work with. After I send a pitch, I note the date of when I sent it and follow up. A polite follow up email a few days later will sometimes make the difference. If there is no answer, you just have to move on and keep sending the pitches.
New Year’s Resolutions #3: Read More.
To be accepted by a publication, get to know the publication. Understanding their voice, tone, character, audience and the publication’s values are essential. This means that you must read, read, and then read some more. Read and analyze the language used in the publication.
Many of the magazines on my shelf are riddled with highlighted quotes, underlined phrases and notes in the margins. When I read these magazines, I’m looking for the language that expresses the atmosphere and color the editor is looking to give to their publication.
Ask yourself, “Are they conveying whimsical and entertaining or serious and informative?” Vanity Fair has a very different voice and audience than National Geographic. As a MultiTalented Writer, you undoubtedly have the skills to write for both types of publications, but it is important to understand what they are looking for before reaching out to them.
New Year’s Resolution #4: Get Organized.
There is nothing worse in your day-to-day life as an entrepreneur than not being able to find a file or tool or phone number at that very moment when you need it. There’s a simple solution to this all too familiar problem: Keep your desk tidy. Keeping your work space tidy and in order takes discipline. Taking that extra 15 seconds to find a place for things makes life easier down the road.
The same goes for your computer. Keep your computer files orderly, label your photos, and update your planning schedule. I don’t have an assistant, but I organize both my office and computer files as if I did. And if I ever needed to ask my assistant to find something, they could easily find it. Friday is a good day to catch up and get things tidied up for the upcoming week.
New Year’s Resolution #5: Put yourself out there
Growing your business requires putting yourself out there, not just online, but in person as well. Start with a small event. For instance, you could do a reading of your work at a public library or school. You could give a talk or free seminar on a subject you are passionate about. You could create or join an event that will help you meet people and potential clients.
Many trade show organizers understand the need and value of working with bloggers and hold events where companies can meet them. I have been to three trade fairs now, and have made amazing contacts and gotten some great assignments.
Find a trade show of an industry you’re interested in and even if they don’t have a meet and greet event, go to the booths and introduce yourself as a blogger or copywriter. I have written a Trade Fair Checklist for Travel Bloggers, but the tips can be helpful for any industry trade fair.
New Year’s Resolution #6: Keep in touch with your contacts
After meeting and networking at events or online, keep in touch. After meeting people at these events, add them to your contact list and follow them on their social media accounts. If you feel like you connected with someone, send a hello note or even send a postcard from your town. You don’t have to become friends with everyone you meet, but you may come across people that are genuinely nice. The most important aspect of the contact list is keeping the human connection open.
New Year’s Resolution #7: Reaffirm your values and define your goals
This should probably be number one on the list, but I have decided to save the best and most difficult for last. Reaffirming your values is important because your values provide direction and determine what your writing communicates. Having a goal is what fuels our everyday actions towards expressing these values.
Your values are articulated through the work you produce. One might ask: “I have to write a 150-word fluff piece for a fashion magazine. How can I express my values?” If one of your values is professionalism, then you honor that value by making it the best fluff piece you have ever written!
A goal should not be confused with a lofty dream. It should be the result of daily, persistent action. Another thing to remember is that if you don’t reach your goal, it doesn’t mean you have failed. Oprah Winfrey said it best: “I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.”
By doing these seven things, you will certainly develop your writing into a fulfilling and a prosperous career. All the best for a happy and productive new year!