What I’ve Learned About Writing: My Five Biggest Mistakes

I left my day job to write full-time one year ago and that calls for a bit of reflection.  It’s been both a fun and a hard year, filled with highs and lows.  I made some mistakes.  I’m sharing five that I’m remedying as I enter Year Two.

1.  Family and Friends Didn’t Respect My Writing Time

The same people who’d never dream of stopping by the office unexpectedly had no qualms about dropping in on me at home.

 I did not clearly layout times for writing, nor did I communicate that I was busy when my doorbell rang.  When you’re in the flow and stop even for a moment, you lose much more time than what you spend visiting because you have to psyche yourself back up and find that rhythm once again.

2.  A Neat Desk Does Not a Writer Make

My writing space is in a room that serves as a main entrance to my home.  My sleek desk is zen-like.  With its single flower and my snazzy MacBook on top, it meshed with the rest of the room.  And I worked hard to keep it that way by packing everything away in silver bins at the end of the day.

This practice didn’t lead to productivity.  Imagine how reluctant I was to mess it up on a day when I had only an hour to write, or how hard to find my place again among multiple projects.

My writing space isn’t quite as messy as this one but it’s getting there!



 3.  I Thought I Would Easily Make Money

Twenty years ago, I sold writing widely and frequently and assumed I could do so again.  After all, I had credits.

It’s a different world out there today and competition is fierce.  Because of the web, suddenly everyone’s a writer, and writers in India are willing to write for pennies.   Print media is shrinking and more writing is handled in-house.

4.  I Thought I Knew More Than I Did

After several months I figured out some things.  I had to go back to digital school to learn how to beef up query letters, to learn what editors are looking for in one of the hundreds that cross their desk.  They don’t give a rip what I wrote 20 years ago.  They’re only interested in what I can deliver today.  I now spend 50% of my time learning about marketing and finding outlets.  I’m also writing for online sites because that market is booming.

Luckily, there’s a profusion of resources available to help the freelance writer break in.  The best ones I’ve found are on the web.  I’ve participated in webinars, conference calls, and joined an online writers’ groups that critiqued my essays.  Linda Formichelli, Carol Tice, Sheila Bender and Christina Katz all offer good stuff.

5.  I Put Platform Before Writing

While the web helped in my return to writing, it also became my downfall.  I heard much about the importance of building a platform, or garnering readers and followers through Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging.  Possibly because I welcomed procrastination, I put more effort into platform building than I did writing.  I enjoyed my online writing community, the ease of chatting with someone in Europe who had the same aspirations as I.  I checked my blog stats too often.  I followed discussions groups on LinkedIn and chased too many web links to yet another resource that sounded helpful.

You can’t market a blank page.  With that in mind, I’m focusing more attention on writing to sell.  I’ve created a simple webpage (candycedeal.com)  – which I’ve learned should be the first order of business for a successful freelancer.

As I move into the second year of writing full-time, I vow to keep learning.   The nature of this business is ever-evolving and writers have to hustle to stay on top of it.  To do otherwise means giving up the dream.  And I’m not ready to do that.

What have you learned about the art of freelance writing?


6 responses to “What I’ve Learned About Writing: My Five Biggest Mistakes

  1. I’ve also learned a lot over these last seven months of writing full-time. I treat my blog like a job; as though I’ve hired myself to write. It helps keep the work momentum going. I agree with you in that there are a ton of writing resources on the web. So much so that it’s hard to pick and choose. It’s great to come across a blog like yours with new resources to check out and thoughtful commentary. Keep up the good work!

  2. Excellent reflections and lessons, year 2 will be interesting with all this behind you. Bonne courage Candyce.

  3. It seems as if you are managing to make a living at writing, even if the learning curve has been a steep one. It’s funny how procrastination (ie reading blog posts….ahem…and tweeting,) can take priority over the WIP. Having just realised what I’m doing, had better go. *sigh*
    Grace x

  4. I am not a writer but respect the effort that goes into every thought. Tried “flash fiction” once and realized that even 150 goods words on paper is work! Great top 5!

  5. This is full of some valuable insight. My favorites are about friends and family and a messy desk.

  6. Enjoyed reading the lessons you’ve learned. I’ve cut my day job to part-time, but will I ever be able to let it go? Time will tell.

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