Some writers discover their calling early in life; others might be late bloomers. There is no universal right or wrong, but understanding (and adapting to) your individual circumstances can be pivotal in evolving as a writer.
I knew what I wanted to do for some time; right from the beginning of my early 20s (I’m 31 now), and that was to write!
Balancing my full-time, 9-to-5 office job with writing drafts, practicing, and pitching to local editors in the evenings (until the early hours of the morning) was admittedly a tough grind—and it took some getting used to.
But, hey, that was OK with me. I was prepared to walk that extra mile on glass barefooted to get there.
I wanted to become a writer, full time; desperately. And in the process, I wanted to leave that dreadful 9-to-5 admin job in a puff of dust behind me. Five long years. It just wasn’t me, that job. I was better than that.
“Make your own pissing cup of coffee; answer your own friggin’ telephones, and post your own God darned letters,” I’d think to myself, often.
I’d sit up until 3 a.m. plotting my way out of there; writing tirelessly. I wanted to quit. I wanted to write for a living.
My mom used to say to me, “You’re turning night into day-night, Michael. You’ve got work in the morning.”
That’s where all the plotting, grinding, and long nights/early mornings had started toward my own ambitions of becoming a writer.
Maybe this sounds like you, huh? Similar? Well, from my own personal experiences, I’m here to help you with some concrete tips on how to abandon your 9-to-5 job and guide you along the way to your very own writing career.
If this is your path, then own it. Go venture down it. I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction if you’ll let me. Allow me to give you a helping hand.
All you need is an internet connection, something to type on (even a steam-powered, run-down computer will do), and most of all, the willpower and dedication.
Although you shouldn’t be afraid of going after your ambition, at the same time, you should be patient enough to wait for your opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to do some voluntary work to get your writing “out there.”
I got my break from a voluntary mental health awareness piece I had sent to a local magazine.
There’s no reason why you can’t do the same. Ask around; a local publication based in your town/city would be ideal. Say you’ll write them a sample first to prove your ability and worth, just as a taster. Knock it out of the park when you get that chance!
Try your hand at everything: poetry, SEO content, blog posts, articles, etc. Experiment with a variety of niches like employment, health, travel, cooking, or entrepreneurship. Whatever it is that you’re into.
See what suits you best. Perhaps all of them do? Or a few? Fine, combine SEO with a number of niches. Or even just one or two? It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re extremely resolute and efficient with all of ‘em.
There are some great tips on SEO writing out there that you can learn a thing or two from.
Also, try YouTube for tutorials on blog writing, article writing, copywriting, and how to write novels.
Give them all a go. I can’t recommend them enough. Quality content!
Did I think a full-time career as a writer would come easy? Absolutely not. Did I imagine it would be this hard to get there? Well, I guess I’d prepared myself for being dragged to hell and back. I’d imagined it wouldn’t be a doddle anyway—put it that way.
There were certain things I knew I had to sacrifice … fewer hours in the pallet was just one of them. A social life on the weekends was another.
I’d send all the articles to local editors, even the odd piece of poetry, literally praying (and I’m not even religious) that this was the draft that would make all the difference.
Then came the rejection emails. Rejection, after rejection, after rejection.
“Great piece, Michael. Just not for us this time. Good luck in the future.”
Sure, it felt like a kick in the nether regions. But, hey, I hoped that if I kept battering down the door, it would jar open eventually.
So, what I’m saying is, never let rejection derail your path to becoming a writer. As actor Denzel Washington once famously said:
“I didn’t get the job. But here’s the thing, I didn’t quit, I didn’t fall back. I walked out of there to prepare for the next audition, and the next audition, and the next audition … but I continued to fail, and I failed, and failed, but it didn’t matter, because you know what? There’s an old saying: you hang around a barbershop long enough, sooner or later you will get a haircut.”
It’s a learning process. You’ve got to realize you’re competing with potentially other great writers, every single day. It’s not going to be easy. Who said it would be?
Don’t let rejection set upon your soul; instead, let it light a fire under your belly. Pluck up courage and get writing again.
“The next one will be my big break,” should be your mentality. Each and every time you’re writing your next piece.
Keep learning from others via YouTube tutorials, mentors, and other respected writers online. Observe their blogs, websites, or even read some books for your very own writing education.
Keep learning, writing, and sending. Your opportunity will come. And when it does, grab hold of it and don’t let go.
The one opportunity I’d craved for somewhere close to a year. After all those sleepless nights, here it was.
Just to hear the words “We are interested in publishing your work in edition 174 of our magazine” felt like a huge accomplishment to me at the time. And just to sweeten the deal, they’d pay me £20 for my endeavors.
It was nothing, but it was worth so much more to me than just a few bucks.
But while I had my moment of elation and joy, I didn’t let it last any longer than it should have. If you sleep on a win, you wake up with a loss.
What I’m saying is, the moment you’re published, that’s fine. Be happy. You deserve to be.
The dedication you put in for this moment was incredible. I’m happy for you.
Now guess what? Happy time is over. Back to work. Once you plateau or dwell too much on a victory, there are other writers stealing a march on you. Don’t let that happen. Don’t waste any more time than you should. On to the next!
Just as it’s important not to allow rejection to drag you down, it’s equally crucial not to become arrogant and dwell on success for too long.
Never sleep on a win. Put a win on top of another win and you’ll build a tower of success stories.
You’ve got to start somewhere. It will most likely be small-time, of course, most likely voluntary work, but it’s a small step that will lead to another dozen bigger ones, and so on.
Keep building. Take chances. Take risks.
Make sacrifices. Remember that rejection is just a part of the journey. Your opportunities will come if you continue to knock on the door.
Make the most of your opportunities, and write!
Michael Bradley is an entrepreneurial writer currently based in Ireland who lends his services to various brands, SEO agencies, and magazines through his own website: www.freelancemichael.com, or directly through his personal email: [email protected]. When he isn't attending to his clients, Michael is a passionate Liverpool FC supporter and his dream is to one day see Liverpool win the Premier League. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.