HOW TO BE A WRITER
I promise you can have the life of your dreams as a writer if you understand and believe in these important rules.
1. Don't quit your day 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. Every time 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 be a successful writer.
3. Expect your teachers and friends to say you can't make a full time living as a writer. They'll say that because they haven't been able to do it and don't know anyone else who has. However, it can be done.
4. Study the magazine you want to write for, and don't just read the articles.
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 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 be out of work in six months. Remember, a person is an expert if you say he is and if he has some credentials that prove he knows what he's talking about.
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 faster 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. If you 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, you've just flunked a test, your girlfriend's dumped you, your dog's been run over by an 18-wheeler, at a noisy party, in the early morning or late at night when you're usually asleep. Let no excuse prevent you from writing.
9. Understand you don't have to write well. It's OK to write badly but not to send out bad writing. Often I 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.
For a story to be good, perform an autopsy on the article or story. 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 stare at a blank piece of paper. Put words on paper even if they're bad, because you won't start writing otherwise. 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 skill. 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.
This letter is but a brief outline of what you can expect if you choose writing as a career. I believe it is the greatest life in the world. I've been living it for more than 25 years, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ambition, is willing to work and wants to be his own boss.
Good luck.May God bless you.
John E. Phillips