The list of advice for writers is long, seemingly more than is humanly possible to accomplish
Advice for writers is never is a short supply. Just when we regularly carve out time to write, another requirement piles on our plate and then a third and a fourth. Before long we grow overwhelmed and want to give up.
I struggled for years to find time to write on a regular basis. Just as that skill began to solidify, someone dropped a bomb on my writing world. That missive said, “You need to read as much as you write.”
Now I have to take not enough time and cut it in two.
The next bomb, the most devastating of them all, demanded I build a platform. More requirements soon piled high on my list of impossible tasks.
Here are the main ones:
As a writer, we need to write every day. Or at least we must write on a regular basis. For some people that means only a few minutes a day or maybe a couple of times a week.
If we claim the title of the writer and aren’t writing, something’s wrong. Writing is the first requirement of being a writer.
To write well, we need to be informed. This means we must-read. We need to read in our genre and outside our genre. Through reading, we see what works and what doesn’t. We discover the techniques we like and the ones we don’t.
By reading widely, we cultivate our voice, develop our style, and feed our muse. Reading fuels our writing. But while the goal of spending as much time reading as writing makes for a compelling quip, it makes for better rhetoric than reality.
Still, as writers, we must-read.
Build a Platform
I’ll never forget the day an agent turned me down, not because of my writing or my ideas or my ability, but over the lack of a platform. Ouch. That hurt.
It seems writing and reading was not enough. I needed to build and then grow a platform, too. How much time should I invest in platform building? One piece of advice was as much time as I spend writing.
If you’re good at math, you’re seeing the rub: 50 percent of my time writing, 50 percent reading, and 50 percent on the platform. If that seems impossible, it is.
The next question is when should we start building our platform. Unfortunately, if we’re asking that question, we’re already behind.
While writing is a good practice to help us improve, we improve faster if we study about writing. That doesn’t mean going back to college or enrolling in an MFA program, but it does mean taking intentional steps to improve. For me, that includes reading books and magazines about writing, listening to podcasts, and taking relevant online classes. These things take time.
Next we must network. We need to know other writers. We need to meet agents, editors, and publishers. It’s good to have these contacts before we need them.
Last is marketing. While this mostly takes place as our book nears publication, we must also market ourselves beforehand. We need a professional writer website, an active presence on some social media platforms, and the accouterments of being a writer, such as a headshot, business cards, an author bio, and so forth.
Does all this seem overwhelming? It is? Does it seem impossible to give everything its due? It is.
Somehow as writers, we need to juggle these expectations. We need to prioritize and squeeze things in and make sacrifices.
A few weeks ago, I ended the day with the irrational assessment that I can actually balance all these things. My satisfaction lasted for all but one day. I usually reach this place a couple of times a year, which means for the other 364 days of the year, I’m pulling my hair, screaming, and crying that I just can’t do it.
And you know what. I can’t, no one can.
But as we try to negotiate this list of impossible requirements, there’s one thing we must never forget.
We must write. Everything else is secondary.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.