No one is a writer, until they hire one.

Some writing tips from someone who just might be.

I can’t remember where I heard this, admittedly snarky, line. Of course, there’s the cynical surface layer of creatives/writers/designers/art directors being hired as professionals to be professionally ignored and dictated to, but to me there’s a bit more to it than that.

Perhaps paradoxically, there has to be a grayness around who is and isn’t a ‘writer’. I have no qualifications to be a writer. I have no degree. I didn’t do incredibly well in English class. It all happened by accident, so remaining open to possibility is an important part of the process. The earliest indications of having anything to do with being a ‘writer’ I can remember is writing lyrics that people enjoyed listening to, and taking on a challenge to drink 365 beers in a year that spawned a blog that people seemed to enjoy.

And this really highlights the only ability one needs. Which is having something interesting to say. You can have all the grammatical knowledge, university degrees, and tricks and tools and templates in the known universe, but if you’ve nothing compelling to channel through them - they’re all fucking useless. Many academic writers would put a meth addict in a coma, Charles Bukowski wrote like a raving drunk (mostly because he was) and is considered a literary great. I’d take a junior writer with great ideas and shit grammar over great grammar with shit ideas every day of the week. At the end of the day, the rules don’t matter. A topic I cover off in this post.

What does matter is to have an opinion on things. Be interested in the world. Be curious about art, and culture, and the strangeness of the human existence. There are no other qualifications, in my eyes.

Plenty of people, especially on platforms like LinkedIn, get off on hawking ‘templates’ and ‘systems’ to ‘beat the algorithm’, and if you want to take something from them to add to your arsenal, go for it, but don’t tie yourself to them. Often, these guys are more interested in ‘being an influencer’ than they are in actually creating anything influential. As Billy Connolly would say, ‘being windswept and interesting’ will outlive any algorithm.

So that’s my first tip. DON’T CHAIN YOURSELF TO A WHEEL.

Writing can’t be all head, it needs some heart. It’s not meant to be easy, or clean, or a mechanical copy and paste job. It’s messy. It’s unpredictable. And sometimes taking a wrong turn leads you to exactly where you need to be. Creatives can be perfectionists and control freaks, but there always has to be some room made for madness.

As with idea generation in general, insight has to come first. The glimmer before the grind. Curiosity before the chore. All the technical crap can come later.

So, be open to a spectrum of influence. Read stuff. Study films. Play games. Look at art. People watch. Tap into your childhood wonder and see it as a chance to play, not fill a spreadsheet.

I’ll go through some more specific tips/techniques/approaches in future posts, but I suspect the benefits will be limited if you don’t resonate with this first.

(If you’re looking for a ‘this one simple writing hack 10X’d my digital marketing business’ for $7, here you won’t find it. But I’ve supported a family of four as a writer for a long time now, which has to count for something.)


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