One of my biggest problems as a writer has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with speaking up for myself.
Obviously this is more of a general lack-of-confidence problem that affects most areas of my life, but it especially hurts me as a writer. I suspect that a lot of other writers have the same problem. And trust me, it’s a big problem for a writer to have, because if you want to get anywhere, you absolutely have to advocate for yourself.
I really wish this – and other non-writing parts of being a writer – was covered in more writing classes. I know it doesn’t have any direct relationship to the art or craft of writing itself, and the art/craft has to take priority, because you probably aren’t going to get anywhere if you’re a terrible writer. But guess what: if you don’t speak up for yourself, you can be the greatest writer in the world and still never get anywhere.
Now I’m not suggesting that you overcompensate and find the nearest publisher, kick down their door while holding a boombox blasting “Guile’s Theme” and scream “GUESS WHAT BITCHES THE GREATEST WRITER IN THE WORLD IS HERE!” (But if you do, film it; I want to see what happens.)
Screaming “LEEROY JENKINS” is also acceptable.
Just put yourself out there, wherever “there” is for you – a magazine, a newspaper, a website, a publisher, wherever. Apply. Get rejected. It’s going to happen at least once. Keep applying, keep getting rejected. Don’t give up. Keep going until you break through. And keep an eye out for any and every opportunity to prove yourself – you can find them in the strangest places at the most unexpected times.
For example: I’ve been applying for writing jobs for the past ten months. In the meantime, I managed to land a job in a store. The work is actually really fun for me because I like what we sell, but I still wanted to at least find a freelance job that would let me use my writing skills. I kept applying for writing jobs and not hearing back, so I was starting to lose hope.
Then, completely unexpectedly, a person came into the store during my shift who was working on a guide book related to our products. After they finished speaking to my boss about advertising our store in the book, I asked if the person needed any writers for the project. It took me a few minutes to summon the courage to do this, but I did it.
It turned out they didn’t have all the writing covered yet, so I took down their email and gave them my business card, which was probably unnecessary but I paid good money for those cards, dammit, and I’m going to use them. Somehow the whole thing has managed to work out and now I’m being paid to write little history articles for their book.
So, what, I should carry business cards?
I mean, it probably wouldn’t hurt, but my real point here is that you have to speak up for yourself. The bad news is that when it comes to getting writing jobs or getting published, a lot of it comes down to luck. The good news is, once you factor out luck, much of the rest of it comes down to trying. And it’s going to take a lot of trying. It took me ten months of trying before I finally found even one person willing to pay me for my writing.
True, I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I hadn’t happened to be working at the store at the exact time that this person came in. Also true, the person could have shut me down before they even saw my writing samples. But I also wouldn’t have gotten this far if I hadn’t basically said, “Hey, do you need words? Because I can give you words. I do good words.” Trying may be the only part of the equation I can control, but you can bet I’m going to control the hell out of it.
Always be on the lookout for writing opportunities. And when an opportunity appears, don’t let it leave without a fight. Treat it like a wild Pokemon. You’re going to want to catch it, unless it’s just another annoying Zubat.