>Everybody Wants to Teach You to Write

Let’s be honest. A lot of people say they want to be writers. Of those, about half want it badly enough to invest in books, magazines, conferences, workshops, software and other items that promise to give them the keys to the writing kingdom. Smart entrepreneurs have recognized a market exists in supplying these things to would-be writers. We all buy these things. I have at least a dozen writing books waiting to be read. I’m almost a year behind in my writing magazines and I usually have at least 25 unread online newsletters. I’m as much a patsy for the things people sell to writers as anyone else.

With my articles and books for writers (Freelancing for Newspapers: Writing for an Overlooked Market, Quill Driver Books, 2007), I have even been part of the industry marketing products to people who want to do what I have done—write, publish and make money. This column is part of it.

I could say that I’m sharing what I have learned. That’s true. I love to teach about writing and the business of being a writer. I enjoy giving workshops and inspiring people to write. But I also recognize a market, a place where I can sell my knowledge and make some money to support the other writing that so far isn’t paying as well. So do lots of other people with less noble motives. They know, as I do, that fewer than a quarter of the people who say they want to be writers will persist long enough to succeed. When I teach at conferences, I look around the room and know that maybe five of those students will actually use the information I have provided. Writing is hard. Many people drop out along the way. But for some folks, it’s a profitable business.

We writers need to beware of buying too many products or services promising to make us famous authors. One can easily become so overwhelmed in the onslaught of instructional materials for writers that we don’t have time to write. We must be stingy with our money and our time. The only way to really become a writer is to write, revise, study the markets and submit our work. We must do this over and over for as long we want to be writers.

There are certainly good products that will help you hone your writing skills and teach the basics of how to offer your work to editors. Others will offer inspiration when you’re feeling empty. Buy the ones that appeal to you. I list some good ones on my website at suelick.com. Although craft books help, don’t lose sight of the goal. Like playing the piano, lessons are important, but the only thing that will really make you a good at it is practice.

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>Are we blogging our writing away?

>Recently a correspondent sent me a link to her blog. It is a beautiful blog, filled with terrific articles and photos, the kind I’d like to see in a good newspaper. She is working on getting paid assignments, but meanwhile, I worry that she’s giving the good stuff away. Every freelancer ought to know that most publishers consider material that has been placed on a writer’s blog or website as published. Used goods. If they don’t take reprints, they won’t consider the work at all. Perhaps you can do a revision that makes it a new story, but beware of giving away articles that you could sell for money. Your ideas and articles are your inventory, and your time and energy is limited.

Now why, you might ask, do I publish two blogs? Why does anyone do blogs? Some people are just happy to express themselves online. But I’ll be honest. I’m hoping to draw attention to my books and classes, as well as my website. I also love to teach and this blog allows me to do that. After every live class, I come home chattering to myself about all the other things I could have said. The same applies to my book. There’s always so much more to say, so I blog to keep the conversation going and to bring things up to date.

What’s my other blog? Childless by Marriage, part plug and part research for the book I’m currently working on. Having to write something every week keeps me on task, and it does draw some attention, which in this business is vital to success. If you want to publish books, you’ve got to have a platform, and a blog is part of that.

So blog away to advance your career, share your experiences and opinions, or simply because it makes you happy. Just beware of giving away the store. Before you put it into a blog, ask yourself: Could I sell this as an article? If so, offer only a small taste, not the whole entrée, or blog about something else.