Writing is weird. 

It's simultaneously the hardest and the easiest thing most of us do. Hard, because for most people the thought of sitting down and chunking out something long and involved, like a book, is daunting. We love the idea of it, but we dread the work. We have flashbacks to middle school and high school, where writing was forced on us as formulaic oppression. Write, or suffer.

Easy, though, because we do it every single day without even thinking about it. We write emails, social media posts, text messages, and quick notes to let our spouse know where we are. Automatic, natural writing happens for us all the time, and we totally don't give ourselves credit. 

But we should. Because that's a huge output in our daily lives. That's a lot of words. A lot of opportunity to get better at this stuff.

The Write Stuff

If you have any love for writing, and any aspiration or inspiration to do it for a living, then the first rule is this: All writing is writing.

Obvious, right? But the point is that any writing you do is the "work." So do it right. Make the effort to use this stuff to shape your voice and style, to hone your skill, to improve in the areas where you might be weak. Want to be a professional writer? Treat all writing professionally.

Some of the biggest leaps I've made as a writer came from the stuff I was writing outside of my "job." The blog and social media posts I've written over the years were playgrounds for figuring out exactly how to do this. Emails were sandboxes for learning how to communicate effectively while maintaining my voice. Text messages and tweets were a training ground for making writing concise while building rich layers of contextual meaning. I got meta, man.

When I work with author clients, getting them to think in terms of a daily writing habit is the first step, and one of the most difficult for them to implement. But I've had the most success with pointing out everything you just read. Writing is hard, but it's the easiest hard thing you'll ever do.

All Writing is Professional Writing

Just keep that in mind, and you're going to be just fine, kid. Treat every email, every text, every blog post, every tweet as a chance to improve your mad skillz. Practice spelling and punctuation and grammar. But even more important than grammar and mechanics (though the Grammar Nazis may have me beaten), use all of your everyday writing to develop your voice. 

Here's the truth about making a living as a writer—whether you're trying to be an ace copywriter or write books for a living: Your voice and style will be what sets you apart from everyone else.

Think about it. Grammar and mechanics? Spelling and punctuation? Anyone who has any interest in writing professionally is going to focus on those things, because those are the rules. They're the system, the structure, the framework. But the highly skilled, highly valued, beloved writer has an edge that sets him or her apart. And that edge is always, and unfailingly, their voice and style.

Master mechanics, but spend your energy on perfecting your voice and style. Find new ways to express what you're thinking on the page or screen. Think of ways to convey your personality in your writing. Actually, go a step beyond that. Figure out how to be an actor in your writing—with the ability to take on new roles as they're needed. 

Ever watch a truly good actor in a film or on television and realize they've disappeared into their role? "I've seen this person in dozens of roles, but I never think of them as the actor. I always think of them as the character!" That's what you're trying to achieve as a writer. Your voice and style need to be so fluid that you can disappear in the work. The reader doesn't notice you. They notice what you've created. They're too busy being moved or inspired or entertained to stop and be bothered by you.

Good writers get out of the way. 

That's it. That's the secret. You can be a good writer by paying attention to your own voice, in every single thing you write. Dedicate yourself to the idea of improving with every word you write, and you'll do exactly that.

Now, go get out of the way. And happy writing. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Drop me a line and keep me up to date!


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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