Sometimes I don’t feel like writing, and my income reflects my feelings of not wanting to write. And there’s the rub. You can’t write only when you feel like it; you can, but then your writing is a hobby, something fun you do, or something you love to do, and that’s OK.
But if you want to be a better writer and get paid for your work, you have to write when you don’t feel like writing; those are the times when writing will benefit your skill most. When you don’t feel like writing is when you need to pick up the pen or sit down at the computer, block out distractions and pound the keys.
Sit there until you get into a rhythm.
With enough sitting in the chair, you will. Give your writing a chance. Sit down and work until you reach a flow state when words tumble out of your brain faster than your fingers can move the pen across paper or type on a keyboard.
When I take three or more days off from writing, getting back into the flow of writing is more challenging than if I had taken only one day off from writing. I kick myself each time, unless I’m having a ball living it up in the world, and then I get a pass.
If you want your writing to be a hobby, write only when you feel like it.
You give up.
You give up when you don’t make the earnings you think you deserve for all the hard work you’re giving.
You think it’s taking a longer time to see the results you expected than what you initially signed up for. You’ve been writing for a while, and you don’t see the trajectory you want. You start comparing yourself to other, more successful writers with green envy and allow your jealousy to turn you bitter and jaded. You can’t be inspired to write if you are constantly comparing yourself to others.
Comparison to other writers will not propel you forward in your writing career. Comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle is not a way to success; it will paralyze you.
As Jay Z so rightly said,
“The genius thing that we did was we didn’t give up.”
Successful people share at least one common thread — persistence. It is especially true when it comes to writing.
Writing is a skill that can be acquired and learned through practice, just like standing on the foul shot line, throwing a basketball into the net, or practicing the piano. The more you throw that ball from that spot, the free-throw line, and the more you tickle those ivory keys, the better you’ll get at making that shot, and the better you’ll get at playing that song, respectively.
Keep going. You will have a higher chance of success if you keep going. You will have zero chance of success if you stop now.
You don’t read people’s work.
If you want to be a paid writer, you have to read. Anything. Anything that piques your interest, but especially writers you admire.
Read Jane Austen or Vanity Fair or Vogue or Sports Illustrated or the political section of The Washington Post, anything that gets you reading.
Read like a writer — notice tone, voice, how the author uses punctuation, timing, sentence structure. Observe the author’s writing as you are reading.
Another great trick I learned from a writing teacher is to type out the words of a piece or part of a piece of writing that speaks to you.
I wish I could write like Allie Brosh, of Hyperbole and a Half fame. I’m not sure I will ever be as talented a writer as Allie, but when I pick up and reread parts of her book, her style seeps into my subconscious, and I become a more expressive writer, even if just for a short time.
You don’t look up from your computer for inspiration.
As writers, we are often in our little world, many of us are introverts. We like it here, in our heads. We love to write because it allows up to sort things out onto a page, organizing our inner world into something more manageable and contained — a story for a blog post or a journal entry.
When I first started writing on Medium, I didn’t look up from my computer for an entire month — head down — must keep writing. I got better at blasting out a post, and my writing got stronger with consistency, but I also had less to say at the end of the month.
Look up from your computer every once in a while, go outside, and leave your phone at home.
If you don’t fill your mental tank because you are too busy writing — if you stop noticing, stop listening to the people around you, stop having real-world experiences, stop reading about other people’s worlds and experiences through literature, you’ll won’t be inspired. You won’t have much to write about.
Don’t forget to look up and live, and then write again.