Writing is a craft.
Craft implies two things: skills and effort. While many have a natural inclination for writing, it won’t be enough if you don’t know how to construct a piece. Some skills are necessary and you can get them through practice, observation, and professional training.
However, curiosity and grit can substitute for the latter so no, you do not have to shell out thousands of dollars to become a writer or join anyone’s mailing list. But the determination and courage to write a lot until you produce copy others will want to read is key.
Another essential is the ability to make a distinction between quality and quantity. Typing out whatever goes through your head is just that, typing on the internet. While you might luck out and end up with a crowd-pleaser once in a blue moon, it isn’t a reliable way of producing quality copy with any consistency.
Writing is people-focused work: You need to offer value to readers.
The world’s largest public service broadcaster — Britain’s BBC — has one remit: “to enrich people’s lives with products and services that inform, educate, entertain.” If you produce copy that does one, two, or all three, you can’t go wrong.
Being a human in the world is a tentative pursuit and the ongoing popularity of personal essays shows we still haven’t got a clue how to be. Living is something we all make up as we go along, and sharing stories about the various ways we’re winging it is how we learn from one another.
Does this mean you can get paid for navel-gazing? No. Again, writing isn’t about you but about what you can do for others.
When you frame the personal into universal terms, writing becomes service. When you frame the personal into personal terms, writing becomes branding. No one wants to read about how you inspire yourself or have become your own superhero. Self-love is attractive, megalomania less so.
It might fascinate readers for a while but they’ll eventually walk away. Supplying schadenfreude can sometimes fare better as it feeds our fascination with failure but this won’t help you either.
To write well you need self-confidence so please don’t undermine yourself in print or pawn your privacy or that of those you write about for clicks and a quick buck.