Since making my last contribution to the Renegade Word I have secured my first official regular writing gig. I now contribute weekly columns to Hot For Writing and have had to teach myself a thing or two about writing on demand. I’ve started employing a few rules to my writing regime to ensure that I can come up with and produce a decent column when I need one.
1. Stay Alert.
The site I write for focuses on news and culture so this is particularly relevant to me. But for any kind of regular spot you need to find something to write about, so keep an eye and an ear on the news. This also means being tuned in on Saturday—even if you don’t plan to write until Wednesday. Little things cropping up at any time could inspire a column.
2. Keep Reading.
Once you are consistently knocking out a particular kind of writing, you need to investigate your field a little more deeply. The world of online content is constantly under construction, and no matter what your readership is your work is a part of that process. Reading other similar sites and pieces also provides a great source of inspiration, even if that inspiration comes in a “I could have done a better job than that” format.
This goes hand-in-hand with the reading element. Part of the work of writing online is coming back for the comments: seeing what people have to say and responding to it. Likewise, it’s probably useful to get commenting on some other online writing that you’re into.
One of the main joys of writing on the internet is that you get to start conversations with likeminded people. Equally, it’s important to not get sucked in by trolls. There is a valuable difference between intelligent discussion of an issue—which may or may not include differing opinions—and the general flame wars that can crop up in any unsuspecting comment section.
Often I find that I’m turning the same idea over and over in my head. I’ve considered it as a topic but not really decided if it is worth writing or not. I can do that for days at a time without making any progress. It isn’t until I dive in, do some research, and start getting words onto the page that I can actually tell if it’s worth pursuing or not. Writing and thinking about writing are very different processes.
5. Don’t Be Deterred.
By very definition, not everything that you do can be your best work. You are going to be more pleased with some pieces than you are with others. And whilst it is important to remember that you absolutely must put the effort in with every piece, you can’t expect everything that you come up with to be another masterpiece. That’s a surefire way to dishearten yourself, and one of the hardest parts of writing is being able to self-motivate. I read somewhere once that although it’s fine to love writing, it is important to remember that writing does not and cannot love you back. You have to fight your own fight.
On balance, being a regular contributor has been good for my writing. It isn’t always easy and I don’t always produce the work that I wanted or expected to, but I do believe that it’s been a valuable and generally incredibly interesting experience.