When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a writer, I always get one of two responses…
The most common is a cock of the head, a sympathetic smile, and a “Good for you!” Folks who react this way think I’m scraping by on pennies, starving for the sake of my “art.”
The other reaction is more of a, “Wow… you must be smart!” Those folks assume I have some streak of natural genius. After all, how else can you make a living from home with just… words?
Neither assumption is true. It’s like the whole doctors-as-gods myth. They’re not gods. They’re just skilled professionals who spent years learning about the human body. And, they have a way to monetize that ability.
On the same note, writers aren’t born with the innate talent to weave prose into magnetic messages. It’s a learned skill. It’s got nothing to do with being worthy or particularly gifted in communication.
Besides, it’s not like any of us grew up wanting to be bloggers, email specialists, or landing page experts. The internet didn’t even exist when most of us were born!
But we did grow up with something else in common. It’s a mix of the spirit to succeed combined with an insatiable desire for freedom — both financial and personal.
So, what does it take to become a successful writer? That brings us to…
4 Things You Need to Know to Become a Successful Barefoot Writer
In his book On Writing, Stephen King delivers the clear message that hard work and creativity can transform your ability to write. He emphasizes work ethic as an essential part of success.
And that’s the simple truth. Talent isn’t as much a factor as the try-try-again approach.
Although, there are a few other skills you need to master paid writing…
1. Basic Grammar Rules
Easy stuff, like when to use “there” versus “they’re” or “their.” You never really have to worry about high-level concepts like split infinitives or conjunctive phrases. Besides, great writing usually breaks a lot of grammatical conventions.
If you want to brush up on the fundamental rules of writing, I highly recommend Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. It’s a quick read and covers the essentials.
2. How to be an Observer
A large chunk of the ability to write comes from watching, not writing. This means you watch the prospects you write to, so you’ll understand their emotions and desires.
It also calls for you to keep an eye on your preferred clients’ marketing materials. That’s one of the best ways to get an idea of how to write in their voice.
Either way, the ability to observe patterns in behavior and communication is key to effective writing.
3. When and How to Discipline Yourself
You’ve probably heard the quote, “A writer writes.” So, if you want to be a successful writer, you’ve got to put your fingers on your keyboard and start experimenting.
You won’t get anywhere if you sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. (I’ve tried. It never works.)
An everyday-writing habit is the best way to go, even if it just means staring at your screen. Eventually, you’ll get a word out. And sometimes, just getting that first word on the page makes all the difference.
4. What to Read to Improve your Skills
No question, you’ve got a ton of learning materials to choose from. Reading makes you a better writer, but where do you start? How do you keep from getting bogged down by all the e-letters and instruction manuals and forums and blogs?
Start small; you can always expand. Choose one source that jives with your preferred niche and keeps you up-to-speed on industry trends.
Then choose a second or third source as time allows.
The Ultimate Ingredient to Truly Successful Writing
Finally, to be a great writer, you need to be able to take feedback. Whether it’s from your own circle of friends or from a peer review group of writers doesn’t matter. You just need honest opinions.
I use both. My husband usually delivers my first round of critiques. He’s frank if it’s bad and frank if it’s good. After that, I turn to my network of Barefoot Writers.
You don’t need a thick skin for these kinds of critiques. You just need to remember that feedback makes your copy stronger and more effective. This means happier clients and a more successful writing career.
In This World, Access Is Everything
The bottom line is that you should never treat your copy like something that represents the “essence of your soul” as writers in other genres describe their craft. Look at it instead as words on a page or screen, thoughtfully put together based on proven conventions within our field.
The more you learn, the more your writing will improve. So, apply yourself to the active task of advancing your skills. Don’t waste a second of your time worrying whether you “have what it takes.” You have ambition and you have access; that’s really all you need to know to become a successful writer.