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Dear Writers:

You can have the life of your dreams as a writer. Here's how.

1) Don't quit your job to become the writer you want to be.

2) Realize you will have stories and ideas rejected. Each rejection you get brings you closer to success. Everytime Babe Ruth struck out, he was closer to hitting a home run. Every great obstetrician who brings new life into the world also has to see some babies die. Hearing people say you can't or won't be successful, your writing's not good enough to sell, your articles aren't good enough to buy, and/or your ideas aren't right for their magazine is part of the process you must go through to become a successful writer.

3) Expect your teachers to say you can't make a fulltime living as a writer, if you're in school. They'll say that because they haven't done it and don't know anyone else who has. However, you can do it.

4) Study the magazines you want to write for, and don't just read the articles.

  • Read the first paragraph of each article to see how the writer got into the story and pulled in the reader.
  • Study each paragraph to see how the writer built the story. The way that writer writes is how the editor for that magazine wants articles written. If you write the same way, you'll sell articles to that magazine.
  • Copy the style of the writers for that magazine.

5) Study the magazines to see the types of articles they buy each year. They will buy in the future the same kinds of articles they've bought in the past besides new articles. To sell to that magazine, put a different spin on these kinds of articles.

6) Find the experts, and write about their techniques. If you only write what you know, you'll have no work after six months. Remember, a person is an expert if you say he is and if he has credentials that prove he his subject.

7) Write 250 words every day, even if you throw them in the trash later. A brick layer becomes a master brick layer by laying a lot of bricks. A writer becomes a successful writer by writing numbers of stories. The more you write, the faster you'll write, and the quicker you'll learn your craft.

8) Defeat every reason for not writing. To write, you don't need to be inspired or feel good; you don't need a quiet place to write; and you don't have to only write about the things you know. I can't think of any reason not to write at any time, at any place and under any circumstances. Consciously work on eliminating all excuses for not writing. Then you'll never fear a blank piece of paper. To learn this skill, always write when you're sick, your dog's just been run over by an 18-wheeler and/or the time is early morning or perhaps late at night when you're usually asleep. Let no excuse prevent you from writing.

9) Understand you don't have to write well. Writing badly is o.k., but you can't send out bad writing. Often I'll write a terrible first draft. But in those terrible stories, I'll find the elements of a good story and then can work on the bad elements until they become good ones. You must perform an autopsy on any article. But you must first have a corpse, a first draft, to do an autopsy. Cut out the bad until you have nothing left but good. Attack your articles with a fury. Write the first draft as fast and as soon as possible, no matter how bad it is. Then you have the makings of an article. Never just stare at a blank piece of paper. Once you begin writing, you can continue to write.

10) Realize that your success as a writer will depend more on how you deal with your own emotions than on your writing skills. You will get discouraged, you will begin to doubt your talent, and you will want to quit at times. The way you deal with these emotions will determine your success. One of the best ways to deal with the down side of writing is to have a writing mentor, a writer who has been in the business for several years and has experienced all the problems you're encountering. That writer can help you deal with those emotions and keep you on-track to success.

My mentor told me early in my career that, "if you don't want to quit at least two times each year for the first five to 10 years you write, then you're not writing enough to be successful." About every six months, I'd call him up and complain, whine and cry about how discouraged I was. Then he'd pick me up mentally, wind me up emotionally and set me back on the track that lead to success. Never underestimate the value of a mentor. His or her encouragement is critical to your success.

I believe when you choose writing as a career, you'll have the greatest life in the world. I've been living it for more than 28 years, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ambition, is willing to work long hours and wants to be his own boss. God bless you.

John E. Phillips