Blog Tips to getting writing experience I wish I learned sooner:
Writing experience hasn’t always come easy. In this guest article, he shares his journey of learning to get writing experience. And pursuing his dream of being a writer - one he still feels he’s working on. Even now.
Neil Gaiman once said that your writing experience should be like reaching a mountain. Decisions should bring you closer to the mountain. And guide your choices about writing for a career.
I fell in love with writing hard. From a very young age. I spent quiet Saturday afternoons bringing brave, new story worlds to life. I scribbled ideas for articles in a leather-bound journal that gathered dust on my shelf. I half-started blogs. I wrote poetry that I kept to myself.
Unsurprisingly, my writing experience and career went nowhere. Despite an early head start. But I realise now that I wasn’t giving myself a chance.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Anyone can jumpstart their writing career. With time. And good timing.
Nobody really knows how far away the mountain is. For anyone. Or how tall the mountain could be. But you can always take steps toward starting your journey.
For those looking to do that, I wanted to share all the lessons I learned the hard way. I hope they give you some insight. And inspire the next steps of your writing experience quest.
Make writing your side hustle:
You might have loads of full time jobs. None of them for writing. And that’s okay.
Very few writers get paid writing work at a young age. So the second best thing you can do is fitting it in where you can. As a hobby. Or a way to earn pocket money.
The beauty here is that you can focus on getting writing experience. Without the pressure of getting paid for it.
Call it stalling for time.
Because that’s what you’re doing. Buying time. Chipping away at the dream to make it real. It doesn’t happen by magic. But you can create your own luck.
Get your work out there:
The best writers get comfortable showing their work to others. Perform your poems, submit your stories, or start a blog. You’re slowing yourself down if your writing never sees the light of day.
Be brave. Two things will happen. People will love your work. Or you’ll get feedback. The first is nice. The latter is invaluable. Gold dust. Get as much as you can.
Getting feedback is tough. Especially if you spent a lot of time on the writing already. You’ll need thick skin. But critics mean well. Constructive feedback is a good thing.
And there’ll be times when you hear nothing too. It can often feel like you’re in space looking for life. Only to find none. But you have to keep writing. And searching.
Ask for writing experience:
Looking for experience can be nerve-wracking. What if people say no? What if they don’t like me?
It’s perfectly normal to feel this way. If it helps, remember that it’s not personal. People usually say no because they’re too busy. Or they’re not insured to have volunteers. It’s not you.
People will welcome help whenever they can. And offering to write (especially for free) is an act of kindness.
Look in the right places:
It’s easy to fall into the following trap: write a massive novel and send it to a publisher. Or pitch every famous newspaper in the book. There’s nothing wrong with thinking big. And it does work. But there are other ways. Smarter ways
Start small. Why not a local radio station? Or a local newspaper?
You can contact small companies too. Or charities. Even authors. There are places that would love to hire a writer, editor or proof reader. But can’t afford one. And may be really grateful to you for your skills in exchange for some experience.
A content mill is a great way to get writing experience. These are companies that get paid to write lots of different things for lots of different people.
You’ll have to apply for it like a normal job. But they’re happy to recruit a lot of writers. Which boosts your chances. They don’t pay a lot. And deadlines are fast. But you can build a portfolio in a very short time.
An added bonus is the work is really varied. So it’s another way of learning to write in lots of different styles. Valuable if you want to prove yourself.
Phone over email. Every time:
An email is a good default for writing experience. But a phone call is so much better. Companies have spam filters. And a very deep inbox. So emails get lost or forgotten.
The long-term goal of getting writing experience is speaking with an employee who can be your supervisor. You’re more likely to do that and get a real answer if you contact them by phone.
Calling shows social skills and initiative too. Writers can be stereotyped as aloof and spotlight averse. But there’s a lot of communication involved. You meet a lot of people in the role - be it for research or publishing. So try to showcase your people skills.
It doesn’t matter if you come across as nervous. You’ll have tried. And that’s what counts towards standing out.
The trick is to be memorable.
It’s okay to send another email:
If you’re sending an email, or have been asked to send one, it can feel like forever to get a reply. It’s nail biting.
You should fight the temptation to get in touch again straight away. But after a week or two, it’s okay to send another email to check in. I think I’ve contacted someone four times before I finally heard back.
Ask the right way:
Do your research. When you look at a company, think about what they need. Could their blog use a tidy up? Does it need updating more often? Do they need a social media expert? If you can see a place where you’d be useful, ask to volunteer in that job. Make it specific.
Make volunteering as easy for them as possible. If they don’t have to think about how to keep you busy, they’re more likely to say yes.
Try to connect with the people you’d be working with. Can you find out the name of the person you want to speak to? Are you fascinated by their job? Is there a piece of work they did that you really like? If so, tell them.
Just bear in mind that employees are busy. If despite all this, they still say no, it’s a tough pill to swallow. But thank them for their time. Show your appreciation for getting back to you.
Remember why you love writing:
Doubt is the arch nemesis of creativity. It’ll be normal to have unproductive days. And quiet spells.
The best advice: try to fall in love with your hobby. Everyday. Even if you have no reason to write, write for the love of it. Write everywhere. On scraps of paper, or on your phone.
Write jokes. Write couplets. Write taglines for your favourite films. Rewrite stories that you love. Giggle at puns. Create lists of your favourite words and book quotes.
It doesn’t have to be finished. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be good for your soul.
If you’d like to read about any more of Adam’s work, you can find his main blog posts on Twinkl here. He’s also happy to guest post for you. He’ll even do it for free. Gasp!Published: Wed 12th Apr 2023