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by Patricia Fry

Establish Yourself as a Writer

People often ask me, "How can I break into the writing profession?" Since this question cannot be answered in a paragraph or two, I've prepared this guide for those who are serious about establishing a writing career.

I've been writing for publication for 30 years. I've contributed hundreds of articles to about 190 different magazines and I have nineteen books to my credit. Writing is my full-time work. If you're thinking about designing a career around your love of writing either now or in the future, here's what I suggest:

  • Make a commitment. I don't mean that you should give up your day job. On the contrary, it's wise to have an income to count on while you're testing the waters of this profession. If you're serious about a career as a freelance writer, however, take appropriate steps in that direction. Write every chance you get. Take on some writing assignments. You'll soon learn whether or not you're a self-starter, if you have organizational and time management skills and if you really enjoy the work.

    My writing career was interrupted once by the necessity to work at a traditional job. I feared that full-time employment was in my future and that I would never be able to write seriously again. I became despondent. I had to prove to myself that I could write no matter what else was going on in my life. I started getting up everyday at 4 a.m. and I wrote for two hours before getting ready for work. I also wrote on weekends. I finished my book, Quest for Truth, in eight months on this schedule. Can you make this type of sacrifice and commitment?
  • Establish a routine and stick to it. If you can't find the time to write, make some lifestyle changes. Give up some of your club and organization affiliations, stop watching so much television, get up an hour earlier, stay up later at night or cut back on your hours at work, for example. Log your daily activities to discover where you may be wasting time. Determine how much time you can devote to writing and schedule it.
  • Create a place to write. Don't try to launch a writing career on the kitchen table where you share space with the family at meal times or in the living room using the family computer. Set up permanent office space where the distractions are minimal-in a spare room or a corner of your bedroom, for example. I know one writer who remodeled a corner of her garage and created office space there.
  • Practice self-discipline. Lack of self-discipline is the cause of failure for many would-be writers. Here are three reliable disciplinary tactics for writers. Set strict hours and don't accept any excuses to deviate. Find a writing buddy-another writer with whom you can connect for support and encouragement. Reward yourself. Say, for example, "Once I finish this chapter, I'll take a thirty-minute walk." Or "As soon as I complete this brochure, I'll call a friend and chat for ten minutes." It may also be necessary to train friends and family to honor your working hours.
  • Become familiar with the markets. Once you've established the area of writing you wish to pursue, spend time each week searching for potential clients. For example, study the magazines you want to write for, search out companies that contract writing work out or research possible publishers for your book.
  • Be a bold promoter. It's well known that writers are usually more contented sitting at home quietly writing. In order to make a living as a writer, however, it's generally necessary to go out after the assignments. Design a marketing plan and pursue it. You'll find numerous ideas for putting your plan into action throughout this book.
  • Write, Write, Write. Keep your mind and your fingers nimble by writing every single day.

The fact is that many people fail each year in their attempt to start a writing
business. If you recognize yourself in the following list, refer to the seven tips above to pull yourself out of the quagmire.

Who is most likely to fail?

  • Those of little faith who don't even try. I've heard people say that the writing field is saturated and that there's no room for anyone else. Writers who believe this will never experience their dream career.
    · Those who refuse to make sacrifices.
  • Those who are too attached to their own writing. While I don't advocate compromising your values, being a professional writer sometimes means making concessions. Be willing to rewrite your article at an editor's request. Agree to cut the number of words in your manuscript if it means landing a contract.
  • Those who can't step outside their comfort zone. Everyone dislikes some aspect of his or her job. Writers, who are unwilling to perform certain tasks, such as conducting interviews and making cold calls, are limiting their usefulness, thus their marketability.

Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 19 books including "The Successful Writer's Handbook." Contact Patricia for a personal consultation or project evaluation.

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