Sometimes, while standing in line at the grocery store and pretending I’m not reading tabloid headlines, I daydream of seeing an article of mine in The New Yorker or another reputable magazine.
Be honest. You dream of that, too. Don’t you? Or maybe it's seeing your book on display in the front window of a Barnes & Noble? Or getting your short story published in an anthology or journal? Right?
We all dream of getting our words noticed by a larger audience. Those of us who feel like we have a message to share want to reach more people. The question is, how?
In this episode of the podcast, we tackle four burning questions about writing and selling articles submitted by a reader, Tina Green Drake, through my Facebook page. And while Tina’s questions were specific to articles, the answers apply to all types of content creation.
So listen up.
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Cultivate great ideas
How do you find usable writing ideas? This is where we begin.
Ideas usually come to me at the most inconvenient times. I’m sure they do for you, too. They hit me when I’m walking the dog or changing my son’s diaper or mowing the yard. Because that’s when my mind is free to wander.
The first key to success is catching those ideas and keeping them. A good writer has to be a good curator. And to curate ideas well, you need three things:
- A system to capture ideas.
- Tools to organize and store ideas.
- Feedback to test which ideas work (and which don’t).
Find topics that sell
How do you know what you're writing about is something that's going to interest someone else? Good question.
Publishers want articles that move people and connect deeply to an emotion. And you won’t know what connects until you try. This is where blogging regularly, practicing in public, really pays off. You can iteratively put your work out there and see what connects.
When it’s done right, this becomes a beautiful dance between a writer and her audience, and all part of the creative process.
Learn to deliver consistently
How do you become a more disciplined and consistent writer, the kind that publishers can rely on?
The answer is simple but not easy: Commitment breeds consistency. Build a habit slowly, over time. [Tweet that]
Some days, it’s easy to write. Some days, it’s incredibly hard. The truth is, inspiration is merely a byproduct of your hard work.
When you discipline yourself to do the work, when you show up consistently, day in and day out, you are there and ready on the day when something magical happens.
You can’t wait for inspiration. The Muse is really an out-of-work bum who won’t move until you do. Show her who's boss and that you mean business.
Build confidence and fight fear
I wish I could say that courage comes easy to me, or that I don't have to face fear every single day I put my fingers to the keys. But that's just not true.
I’ll be honest; this is still hard for me. It’s kind of weird, though. I’ve learned that you can feel courageous in the midst of fear. They’re not opposite. Confidence comes as you act. The feeling follows the action. So sometimes I have to fake it. I have to act the way I want to feel, until I learn to trust the feelings will come.
(Be sure to listen to the podcast to hear about how this helped me face down a drunken bully who spilled beer on my wife’s coat — really.)
Are you struggling, too?
Tina’s questions simmer in the minds of writers everywhere. They reveal the deep fears we all have: of not being good enough, running out of ideas, or falling short.
I seriously wish I could say these fears fall away with time, but they don’t. We just learn to work through them instead of against them. We step up to the bullies in our minds and face them down.
When they come back, we’re still afraid, but we have that experience to lean on. We have the encouragement of other writer friends, the blog post that touched someone, or the accepted article.
For me, this podcast is still scary. It’s part of my dance with you, my listeners. I’d love to hear what you think in an honest review.
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Also, if you have any questions for future episodes like this one, let me know (just shoot an email to jeff at goinswriter dot com).
What scares you the most about writing? Share in the comments.