Recently someone who’d heard about the Write A Blog People Will Read course contacted me about a coupon special* that I was running. The woman, whom I’ll call “Mary” because it’s nowhere close to her real name), told me she’s been writing for a long time. (Hint: She has a kid in college.)
Mostly her work has been in public relations. Lately she’s maintained a blog and is doing guest posts for others.
Mary has taken some other courses, so she wasn’t sure that she needed WABPWR. Given the depth of her experience, I wasn’t sure either.
And then I read her blog.
Let’s just say you could tell she had been in public relations – and please don’t get tight-jawed, all you PR specialists. I’m not slamming your profession. But generally speaking, a PR person doesn’t get to write in-depth stuff. It’s more about quick hits, tightly focused, and then on to the next client/event.
Writing: It’s a marathon, not a sprint
I read a bunch of Mary’s posts and wrote a 1,500-word response explaining why I do think she needs my course. Here’s how I began:
Let me start by saying I’m in an impossible situation here. If I say, “Yes, you need to take my course” then I run the risk of having you think, “She’s only saying that to make money.”
Yet if I say, “No, just keep doing what you’re doing,” then I’m not answering your question honestly. … I did enjoy certain turns of phrase and other things that hinted at the writer you could become. But here’s what I felt after reading your work: It’s very surface.
This wasn’t a cheap shot. Neither were the hundreds of words that followed. I was very specific about what I saw as her writing issues, citing passage after passage to illustrate them.
Although my points were valid, I hesitated to hit “send.” It’s never fun to tell someone that her baby is ugly.
After sending the e-mail, I figured that was that. She’d be irritated at my (courteous) bluntness. Boy, was I surprised when she e-mailed back later that morning.
She said upfront that the e-mail was painful to read, yet she thanked me for being both honest and specific. In the past when she’s asked for feedback she was told she was doing “fine.” The freelance writing courses she’s taken focused mostly on marketing and how to make biiiig bucks (not that those are bad things!), but never about “the substance.”
“I knew something was missing, which is why you heard from me in the first place,” Mary said.
Keep this in mind: What she is already doing works. She is paid for her writing expertise. At times in the public relations world she’d been called a “queen of BS” – a compliment, she said, but “I guess I never grew beyond it.”
Now she’s making a conscious decision to grow. By the time I responded to her e-mail, she’d already signed up for WABPWR: “I’ll be…working to get on the right track, finding a more honest voice.”
Writing: We can always do better
The moral of this post is not that you have to sign up for the course as well. It’s that we can never stop improving.
Feeling stale or uninspired? Read books about good writing. Look for free webinars online. Subscribe to writing blogs. Join a writers’ group if you can, or start one of your own.
And give yourself a break if some days you’re about a quart low on inspiration. As I note in the course, not every day is a good day for writing:
Even if you love writing, the job can be incredibly challenging at times. Like, say, at some point in almost every day. Maybe you’ve felt frustrated or even a little ashamed of this. After all, you’re doing what you love. Shouldn’t you be happy? Especially if you were fortunate enough to be able to quit a day job to write full-time?
Let me clue you in: A whole bunch of us feel this way on a regular basis. I’ve been making a living as a writer for 30-plus years, and some days I’d rather scrub the floor than do my job.
So the next time you hear some wingnut inspirational speaker burbling something like, “If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life,” it’s okay to disagree. Because that person is flat-out wrong. Even the things you love take effort, concentration and, sometimes, energy and inspiration you simply don’t have at the moment. (Back me up, parents of newborns.)
Just don’t give up on improving what you do. It may not happen right away. But as P.D. James put it, “There is nothing so useful to the writer as the constant practice of his craft.”
Write hard, die free.
*That special was for a Facebook writing group to which I belong, and it ends Saturday, July 15. If you contact me before then, I’ll give you the discount – and it’s a good ’un. (Seeing this post after the deadline? E-mail me at YourPlaybookForToughTimes@gmail.com and suggest the kind of discount you want. Maybe we can come to terms.)
- How to be a better writer. (Hint: It takes work.)
- Practice makes perfect
- What stories will you tell?