Karl Hughes

Karl Hughes

Writing - You Don't Need a Degree for it

Writing - You Don't Need a Degree for it

Writing has been one of my favorite hobbies since high school, but I used to feel like an imposter when I did it. I went to school with a lot of smart people who now write for a living, so I felt like a hack with my scant blog posts and shallow listicles, but I did it anyway.

I still don’t consider myself a great writer, but I have learned not to care as much what people think about it. If I could add one thing to this article from May 2012, I would say to ignore your own inner critic the most. He’s the one who will really keep you from putting pen to paper.

I’m always struck by the fact that people believe you need some kind of college degree to be a writer. Writing is a basic form of modern communication, and it doesn’t take years of training to produce a decent piece of work.  In fact, I think everyone, no matter their profession, should take some time to write on a regular basis. Here’s how you can get started, no matter how little experience you have previously:

1. Start Reading; Stop Watching TV

I love a good TV show as much as the next guy, but it’s not a great way to learn to be a better writer. In order to write, you have to read. Seems obvious, right? Usually the best answers are the obvious ones.

2. Pay Attention to Details

When you read, get beyond the obvious plot-line, and pay attention to how the story is presented. Talented writers are able to take a simple idea and convey it in a way that affects their audience’s subconscious. It’s not easy to do, but if you pay attention to how other writers are doing it, you’ll pick up tricks along the way.

3. Have a Conversation with Your Audience

I think some writers try too hard to make their work sound like it was written by someone else. Remember, the point of writing is to convey an idea or tell a story, not to force a certain style. When you feel like you’re trying too hard, you probably are. Just take a step back and write like you would speak.

4. Find Someone to Give You Honest Feedback

Good feedback is hard to find. Plenty of people will read your work, and once you get moderately good at writing, they’ll say, “Oh, great job writing.”  Honest feedback won’t be all positive. Find people who are better or more experienced than you are, and ask them to tell you only the negatives if you have to.

5. Just Start Writing

By far, the hardest thing to do is to pick up your pen (or open your laptop) and just start writing. You’ll undoubtedly write your first blog post, article, or story and think, “this can’t be any good.” The truth is, it probably isn’t very good, but you’ll have to get over it. Just start writing, and figure out what works and what doesn’t as you go. If you never start, you’ll never make any progress.

What tips do you have for new or aspiring writers?  I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on Twitter.

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