5 Tips on Establishing Yourself as a Writer
I have people ask me all the time how to get started writing. I suspect there are many who enjoy putting words together and just don't know how to get going. Maybe they are intimidated by the idea of writing a book or a long-form piece to a journal or magazine. Or even the idea of "blogging" and social media scare them. Here is the best advice I can give them. I hope this helps you if you are reading it:
1) Get started somewhere, even if it's small. My advice now is to just get started. Create a blog and start putting your best stuff online. Michael Hyatt's book, Platform is a great way to get started, though I advise you not to be intimidated and think you HAVE TO DO ALL OF THIS RIGHT NOW. Start with a free service like Tumblr, Blogger, or any of the others. Select a nice template, come up with a creative name and maybe tagline and then GET STARTED. Besides blogging, you might try to query some magazines or periodicals. The best way to do this is to purchase Sally Stuart's Christian Market Guide. Find publications that might be a good fit for your writing style. Start, maybe, with devotional publications, curriculum publishers, etc. You might also consider guest-posting on popular blogs that offer content in your niche. Blogs are consistently in need of new content, so you might contact the proprietors and see if they are interested in your ideas. But do take risks and get started.
2) Publish that first piece. I talk to a lot of would-be writers and I hear the same thing, "I have this thing I wrote, but I'm not sure . . ." My advice is to get that piece of writing as good as you can get it and then publish it on your blog. Then get started writing another piece and publish it on your blog. The only way to get better at writing is to . . . write. You need to write hundreds, then thousands of pieces before you get good. Then you'll discover that you're only marginally good and need to write another hundred, if not another thousand to get better. But, for Heaven's sake, stop perfecting that first piece like it's the Mona Lisa. It's probably not. Publish.
3) Have confidence that in time, good writing gets noticed. It's my own personal law of creativity that the best stuff gets noticed. So before you try to sell yourself ahead of time, write in the trenches, write in obscurity for a good long time and actually get good at writing. Trust the process and know that if you consistently put your best content online, if you grow, if you're open to critique and change, then you'll get discovered. You will. Case in point: I've been writing for about 15 years. But I've only been seriously blogging for about 5 or so. I still don't have one of the most highly trafficked blogs in the blogosphere, but after I committed to working hard and putting good stuff online, I got noticed. People starting reading my stuff, linking to it, passing it along. I think this goes back to a good theology of work. We work, we develop our gifts, not so we can get a fat contract or be rich and famous, but to the glory of God. The work itself matters, not who sees it and what happens. God sees it. So do your best work, even if only one human reads it. And, typically, you will get noticed and good things can happen.
4) Don't be the one who pesters everyone to tweet, link to, or give you attention. Maybe this is a pet peeve of mine, but don't be the guy who on Twitter tags someone famous and says, "You might like this . . . ." or "I write this, can you tweet it out." Look, if you're writing is good, people will notice. That's not to say there is something wrong with promotion or marketing. Not at all. If you believe in your message, you want it to get out there. Still, there is a crass way to do this that skips all the steps it takes to be good enough to be well read. Don't take that shortcut. Write well and you won't have to convince anyone to read your stuff.
5) Don't build your platform on outrage. There is a increasingly rich market for "evangelicals who are not like other evangelicals." Controversy sells and generates clicks. And for a short season, this formula works. But over the long haul, if this is your game, you'll end up running out of steam and having to generate outrage to keep your rapid fan base happy. But is this the way of Christ? Is the way to glorify God with your gifts? And do you want to be that guy know solely by what you are against? Now, an important caveat to those, right now, queuing up blog posts to say that I'm part of a secret cabal stifling dissent: there is a place for thoughtful, robust, substantive, even satirical critique. But always check your motives and make it your mission to be creative, tell your story, take risks, and use your gifts to glorify God.