Season 5 of Writers’ Rough Drafts is right around the corner (coming Tuesday, September 3rd), and we can’t wait to share more exciting conversations with writers, entrepreneurs, and creatives from so many different industries.
But before we dive into our next round of guests, we wanted to look back at Season 4 and revisit the biggest takeaways of the season.
Whether it was breaking down the mysteries of how to write a book or sharing why you need to get feedback from people you trust, all of our guests had invaluable words of advice for aspiring professional writers and entrepreneurs that can directly apply to their lives.
Here are some of the most common themes that popped up throughout Season 4.
As writers, our impulse is to write whatever we are most interested in or excited about at the time. That doesn’t always mean, however, that our audience is thrilled to hear about something that may be seemingly unrelatable to them … on the surface.
Several of our guests brought up that writers need to consider their audience regardless of the subject matter. Stephanie Lee (Episode #43) talks about the importance of breaking down technical concepts into a language readers can understand, while Simran Sethi (Episode #45) shares her own thoughts on why the message of your writing may not be reaching your readers (hint: it might be unrelatable to their lives).
Coming from the fields of user experience (UX) research and design psychology, Alex Proaps (Episode #49) emphasizes that we need to get “into the trenches” with our readers in order to truly understand their perspective. One way to do this? Talk to your readers, and ask them questions to get information you can use to improve your writing.
Heidi Gardner (Episode #51), a scientist and researcher who is also a writer, believes we need to write more humanly and less pretentiously, whether we’re writing for an academic audience or a broader audience.
It seems that, no matter the genre, our guests can agree that understanding your audience is key to good writing. Or, at the very least, it’s what made their own writing so successful.
Season 4 featured several people who work in industries other than writing as their full-time job (such as academia and research), as well as several who made the transition into a full-time writing career from other industries. Either way, the resounding advice is: It’s possible to do it if you put your mind to it and banish feelings of self-doubt, and many of our guests can attest to this.
One of the key tips we learned this season was why it’s so important to establish good relationships with editors (surprise—they’re people, too!). Digital nomad Stephanie Lee (Episode #43) shares insider experience on how she does this and the ways it’s helped her enter (and maintain) a long-term writing career.
And don’t worry if you feel like your career path is all over the place. Writer and entrepreneur Jay Acunzo (Episode #48) went from a full-time, nonwriting career to being a full-time writer. He reassures listeners that he’s found success for himself, even though careers are a messy journey of self-discovery, rather than a linear path. Screenwriter and actress Shakira Pressley (Episode #52) also believes it’s okay to pursue writing as a career even if it’s something you’ve only discovered recently—so don’t let your self-doubt stop you!
Plus, if you think you’re alone in experiencing imposter syndrome, you definitely aren’t. So many writers and entrepreneurs we’ve chatted with have admitted this, too. Carrie McKeegan (Episode #50) gets honest about her experiences with imposter syndrome, and she even explains how she overcame it and successfully pitched her dream publication.
Writers love to know the intricate daily habits of other writers in order to figure out the “recipe” for success. This season, there were plenty of takeaways when it comes to writing habits that others can try—and successful habits look very different for different writers.
Maybe some writers don’t see procrastination as essential to their writing process, but for author Mason Currey (Episode #42), procrastinating on some projects leads him to pursue what he’s actually most passionate about. For writer Victor Yang (Episode #44), a change of scenery is exactly what he needs as a major part of his typical writing habit.
Writer and educator Simran Sethi (Episode #45) finds that when she’s struggling to write, she challenges herself to see stories wherever she goes, which usually leads her to write in a more inspired way. Instead of searching for stories in the physical world around her, UX researcher Alex Proaps (Episode #49) reads different materials in different settings to help reset her mind.
Journaling and notetaking were other commonly mentioned writing habits this season, and these habits extended beyond simply producing more writing. Sherry Walling (Episode #46) shares how she uses brief journaling exercises to figure out what she should be spending her time on each day, while Carrie McKeegan (Episode #50) has found a lot of success by spending time coming up with 20 ideas in one sitting instead of just one.
We had a lot of guests this past season who bridged the divide between the more academic styles of writing and communicating with the broader public.
Cognitive scientist Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. (Episode #53) was able to combine both his academic and personal interests by taking his research to a blogging platform. When no one else was talking about something he believed was valuable and fascinating, he realized he was the one who needed to write about it. Similarly, scientist Heidi Gardner (Episode #51) also explains how it’s up to you to share what you find in your research, especially the most unique perspectives and sources out there (and make it interesting!).
It’s no easy feat to take academic speak and make it palatable for a broader audience. As someone coming from a field as complex as human interaction and UX research, Alex Proaps (Episode #49) gives us her advice on how to distill huge academic ideas into takeaways for a broader audience.
Even within the industry of writing, there are many nuances between writing a book, working on a podcast, and writing sales copy for a website. Laura Gale (Episode #47) breaks down how each is different, and that, at the end of the day, every piece of writing needs a “North Star” for guidance. (Jay Acunzo [Episode #48] calls this an aspirational anchor, which can even apply to things outside of writing.)
We enjoyed all of the conversations we had with our Season 4 guests, and many of them ended the episode with great nuggets of wisdom for writers to take and apply to their lives. But more than anything, our guests want other writers to know that it’s okay to have those moments of self-doubt; it’s how you work through them and grow as a writer that matters most.
Check out some of the episodes from Season 4, and get ready for Season 5 to premiere on Tuesday, September 3rd!
Julia Hess graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Master of Arts degree in English. She has worked as a college writing tutor and instructor, a contractor at a major tech company, and a freelance editor and writer. An avid podcast listener, Julia provides editorial feedback, consultation, and detailed show notes for CYC’s podcast, Writers Rough Drafts.