1. Schooling Does Not Equal Educated
I’ll shout this one from the rooftops until my voice gives out. A degree is an expensive piece of paper that often is not worth the amount of debt, the loss of time, and the drain on resources it will cost you. If you insist on going to college, ensure you are weighing the return on investment. Most of the universities function more like social clubs than educational institutes. If you want to get better at writing? Then read and write. You’ll learn more sitting at the feet of an accomplished professional author than hours seated in a classroom taught by an overpaid professor who has never written a piece not directly sold to students. Why? Because theory doesn’t often translate into practical use. Skip the creative writing courses and hone your craft by writing and reading. You’ll be a better writer without the debt of a liberal arts degree. Or as Elon Musk said, “I didn’t go to Harvard, but people who work for me did. Schooling doesn’t mean educated.”
2. Find Stability
This is a big one. Don’t be afraid to find a trade and build a career. Careers often translate to writing. I’ll also be real with you: it’s a lot easier to write when you don’t have to worry about your finances. Take control of your life by refining your skills, picking a trade, and excelling at a career. For me, that has become computer forensics, data science, and cyber security. They are all in the same family, and they work well with my natural investigator tendencies. Which, in turn, work well with my love for and of writing mysteries and thrillers. Do what you love, work hard, and lay a solid foundation from which writing success can spring from.
3. Don’t Be Shallow
Don’t fall for the “you’re too old to write” nonsense. Depth of character is developed over time through trials, tribulations and experiences. The older you get, the more stuff of real value you have to share. Raising a family, having lasting friendships, knowing the value of commitments, going through heartache and pain, overcoming suffering, and learning tough life lessons not only offer us the chance to become better as opposed to bitter, but they make writers with substance. And the more substance you have, the more of an impact you will make with readers.
4. Understand Provoking Thought vs Influencing Thought
There are two schools of thought when it comes to storytelling nowadays. There’s the archeological dig concept – where stories are like dig sites and the themes are uncovered naturally. The goal of the storyteller is to provoke the reader to think. To tackle issues they never considered from multiple angles. And, above all, to tell a good story that entertains. The other school is agenda focused, believing they are the moral superior and have a lesson that needs to be taught and that thought must be influenced. They often will only write from a single viewpoint, feeling the rightness of their cause outweighs all else. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad school of writing, just know which school you are writing from and work it as you deem fit. For me, my role as a storyteller will always rest in provoking thought.
5. A Platform is Overrated
Social Media is a pit offering very little return for all the investment it demands. Instead of being worried about establishing a platform, you can be working on honing your craft, building a career, raising a family, and picking up some hobbies. Personally, I’m earning a black belt in an incredible martial arts system, learning guitar, and working on becoming an expert in my field. I’d rather be outlining books, writing scripts, and brainstorming new worlds in my free time over tweeting all day. And the most powerful form of marketing, word of mouth, isn’t dependent upon your follower count, but relies solely on your ability to both connect with readers and leave a lasting impression upon them. Do you want to be a social medial influencer? Then build that platform. Want to be a writer? Then write. Either way, make sure your priorities are in order and your time is wisely invested.
Bonus: Don’t Worry About Word Counts
Just write. If it’s a million words a day or ten words a week, just write. Sometimes the creative juices will drip out like a clogged up sink. Other times it will act like a broken damn with the flood gates breaking apart. Have fun with it. Don’t be discouraged. And never give up.