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The writer’s unfair advantage in digital everything

October 23, 2012

works in progress

I still talk with writers who are thinking about making the leap into blogging or social media. Yes, even in 2012.

I tell them that they have an unfair advantage. Those tortured souls who grew up scribbling in journals and Word docs about their weird families and their outcast states know how to command attention. Those young Woodwards and Bernsteins (Google it, kids) who wrote for their school papers and private blogs know how to tell stories about their neighbors and their community.

But they almost never listen.

They fret about sharing “too much” online. They agonize over having the perfect blog post. They don’t want to make a single mistake.

If writers understood, as I do, how working online makes them better at connecting with their audience while honing their craft, they would cast aside their doubts and start today. If they could anticipate the rewards of connecting with other authors, with fans, with bookstore owners, with editors, with book club organizers, with reviewers, they would set a time each morning or late each evening to jot down a scrap worth saving.

But they almost never do.

The most important piece of advice I ever give them is to start now. Not tomorrow. Not in a month after their cousin designs a site with a terrible interface. Now.

Now means blogging into the unknown, without a plan or an audience. It means having faith in your ability to write on a regular deadline for yourself. It requires a commitment that keeps you going into month 2 and month 5 and month 12.

Now means stealing time away from any other activity in your life to sit at a computer or a netbook or a tablet and composing a coherent thought with a beginning, a middle and an end. It means taking an hour to learn how to type in a window and hitting Publish without hesitation.

Now means getting a head start on the millions of other writers who will put it off again, despite their own best intentions. It means crossing the all-important 6-month mark sooner. That’s the point when you see regular blogging pay off, because your audience has grown and your metrics have meaningful trends.

Now means establishing your foothold in newsletters and Twitter and Facebook. It means writing snappy tweets, descriptive Facebook photo captions and 50-word nuggets (or 500-word essays) in email.

I practically beg them to make it a weekly — if not more often — practice. To cross the 6-month mark with five posts is failure. To cross the 6-month mark having fallen off in week 3 is failure. To cross the 6-month mark without proper promotion of each post is failure. The Internet is littered with failed blogs. Twitter is overrun with deserted accounts. Facebook has an abundance of pages with 12 abandoned fans.

Writers have an unfair advantage, but only if they use it.

I have thousands of posts under my belt because 7 years ago this month, I sat down and started writing. I have an online presence that permeates your phones and your Inboxes and your consciences.

I haven’t stopped. I will never stop.

I am by no means the best writer, but I am a better writer because of my digital work. And I’m a better-known writer, which can make all the difference in a world of competing brands and services.

And I’ll keep encouraging other writers to join the community. Even if I already have an unfair advantage over them.

Photo: Justin See (CC)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2012 5:42 pm

    Important advice and spot-on.

    • October 25, 2012 6:02 pm

      Thanks, Sheree! Maybe it’ll give some hope to all the underemployed writers out there.

  2. November 2, 2012 9:20 am

    This is what I keep telling myself! I’ve been trying to be a blogger for 5 years! I’m on a roll the last 6 weeks. We will see if it makes sense one day!!


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