The Big Question – The 6 simplest steps to becoming a writer

How can I become a writer? Lots of people worry that they aren’t qualified or experienced enough to be labelled as a writer.

This question is very simple to answer. You need to write. There are no exams to definitively label you as a writer. Many people before me have said what I’m about to say… but here it is for you in six simple steps if you need a guide to get you started on your way to being a writer:

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Step One 

Write. Something, anything, just put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, whatever method you want.

Step Two

Write some more. Write until you can’t write anymore, then store it somewhere safe for later.

Step Three

Give yourself a break, coffee, walk, KitKat, whatever. Maybe you leave your writing for a few hours, a few days or a week. Give yourself time to let life in and refresh your creativity, read a little too. Reading and writing go hand in hand.

Step Four

So now you’ve distanced yourself from all that writing from before? Get it back out, and look at it again with fresh eyes and write some more! This is the perfect time to edit and add more writing to your work.

Step Five

Repeat all previous steps.

Step Six

From now on, if you write regularly, you are a writer.

Now I know these steps seem too basic and a little underwhelming but the truth is that’s how you become a writer. Writing is a muscle, use it! The only things you might want in addition to the six basic steps will be things personal to you.
Do you need confidence and reassurance that you’re a writer?
Do you want feedback, support and to get a network of other writers?
Maybe join a writing group, maybe go on a course or two. These things can benefit you if you want them to, ultimately, it’s writing and writing a lot that will validate you. The courses, qualifications and networking groups are just there to help you refine your writing and learn about the industry and maybe even meet some like-minded friends and colleagues. You’re the one who has to want to pick up the pen in the first place.

So what are you waiting for?

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So, back to University

Untitled design (8)After graduating the first time around in 2013, tomorrow I’m going back to University for my very first class… and I am nervous. Why? I’ve done this type of class before, I work at the University… What is going on?

The sensible (ish) twenty-seven year old me knows that this is temporary first-day jitters but still, this state of mind is pretty intense! It kind of feels like muscle memory, somehow studying again has pulled me back into memories of being nineteen and doubting everything I’m doing.

I always thought that as I got older I’d get more confident in my own abilities and be sure of what I was doing but if you didn’t know it already, let me tell you a grown-up secret:

nobody knows 100% what they are doing.

If they say they do they are lying or naive. We are all winging it to some degree.

This fights against what I was told growing up, you go to school, further education, get a career, get a family then retire. Simple one line journey of life.
It hasn’t worked that way for me so far, my journey was more like this: School, college, re-do college, Job, University, Job, Job, thinking about what I actually want for a career, Re-do University whilst having a Job… and not many people talk about this.
I can’t think of many 16-year-olds who truly know what they want to do and stick with it. Want to know why? Because they’re sixteen! They haven’t tried much! My point is, life isn’t straightforward and you’re the only person who can live your life. This is what I think scares me, there is no manual, guide, or coach on the sidelines that can guarantee you everything you want, it’s down to you. You have to learn as you fumble through.

As tomorrow is edging closer, I’m realising more that I’m nervous not because I’m new in class, not because I’m older than most of the other students, because I haven’t truly trusted my own judgement yet. I don’t know for sure if I’m doing ‘the right thing’, and that I know deep somewhere in my mind it’s bullsh*t and I need to learn to fully embrace my choices and learn from whatever comes my way.

So, as I’m up over-thinking my first class and life in general, I think I’m going to look back at some of the weird and wonderful lessons I’ve lived through over the years and hopefully, they will remind me that I can do this, come what may.

 

 

 

Own your weird – and why you’re not alone.

Weird-

You’re too short, too tall, too weird, too geeky, too feminine, too manly… the list goes on. At some point, someone has pointed out a difference to you from themselves.

We all have things that don’t fit the “norm”. Some wear that as a badge of honour, some bury it deep down, but we all have our own version of ‘weird’.

First things first, there is no such thing as normal. There is only a limit that we place on ourselves. Seriously, let’s look at the definition of normal:

Normal
Adjective.
1. Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

It’s a self-enforced pattern of behaviour. If you don’t believe me look up the definition of conforming too.

Why is this important? Well, we live in a world where difference is always highlighted, sometimes is a positive light, and sometimes our differences are seen negatively. Not just big differences, small things are picked up on too, your hairstyle, your clothes, your way of thinking entirely can be judged and feared.
Don’t forget you can always find places where all those things are celebrated too.
I think we need to do more celebrating, what makes your “weird” a good thing?
Perhaps you have a talent that’s considered weird, a different way of thinking that’s “weird” but it solves a problem, or your weird just makes you a happier person.
The biggest obstacle in our own dreams and wants in life is our own limitations we place on ourselves. It’s not easy to stand up and defend what you believe in, as it’s easy for others to judge and comment on what you think, even more so in the modern age of social media.

What I’d like to say to you all though is be true to yourself.

Who are you really being if you’re not being true to yourself?
Who will have to live with the choices and limits you place upon yourself?

YOU.

You might be thinking so what, I’m going through the motions of life, go to school, get a job, get a family, retire and done. I don’t want to be weird, to stand out. Why not? Life does go in one direction generally, beginning to end that is true, but don’t let those bits in between go by you so quickly.
Do you really want to look back over the last 5 years of your life and realise you’re not really doing what makes you happy? How about 10 years? Or 50? How much time do you have left? Nobody knows this, so why not embrace your weird today.

Don’t waste any more time not being your full self.

So, what are you supposed to do? You tell me. I’m not writing this to tell you what to do, or what your weird is, I’m writing this to say don’t be afraid of doing what you dream of. If you want to do something that makes you happy and doesn’t break any laws, then I say do it.

Yes, I know it can be scary and fear and judgement will always be your biggest obstacle, but my father has a saying ‘If you want something badly enough you will find a way to get there’. Live your life for you. Embrace your weird, take a risk and maybe it will change your life. You are the controller in your own life, don’t let someone else tell you what you should be doing.

History is filled with the people who weren’t afraid to be different.

Manners don’t cost a thing…

PleaseWe’ve all had that moment of being tutted at and we can’t figure out what we’ve done wrong… Or perhaps overheard a complaint about somebody else.

You might’ve heard it whilst shopping or on public transport, wherever it crops up, it’s almost certainly a busy place with people trying to get on with their day.

Living in a city you get to see and interact with a lot of different people, some you love and some you just can’t get away from fast enough. As harsh as it sounds, there are a lot of people living on this planet and you cannot get along with every single person… and I don’t think I would want to either, I like the diversity.
However, one thing I really want everyone to embrace is politeness, or as we sometimes say, manners.

When we talk about manners, what we’re really talking about is respect and patience for other people. It’s knowing how to interact respectfully around others.

The saying goes

Manners don’t cost a thing

and I have to say I think they do.
There is no monetary cost attached in putting your manners to good use, but the cost comes from your time, your patience, and sometimes your pride.

It’s very easy to be distracted by your own worries and wants in life, that you temporarily forget about the people around you. We’ve all let a door go without checking behind us, we’ve all seen someone and chosen for some reason not to help, perhaps we’ve been late or presumed somebody else will jump in… Whatever the situation might be, the goal is to learn from those experiences.

Very often we treat the positive encounters as the exception. I’m guilty of it too, I’ll thank a person for holding the door open for me and it goes no further, but if someone doesn’t hold the door? I go ranting about rudeness and lack of manners and I’ve instantly judged that person to my friends or colleagues.

I think we all could benefit from a brush up on our general manners, and maybe take a second when we’re out and about to think about somebody else’s day.

 

Writing is Marmite

thisbetterworkThere’s a saying about Marmite… maybe you’ve heard of it?

You either love it or hate it.

Well, writing I’m afraid is both.

Writing is Marmite.

Some days I love it, some days it’s my worst enemy. I feel both.

“But how can you say that YOU’RE a Writer!”

…because it’s the truth. I have been writing for a while now and you can go ahead and ask any other writer, writing is a blessing and a curse.
It sounds like the simplest thing in the world to just jot down whatever you like and ta-da you have it, but being a writer means that it’s not enough to just throw down anything you think of and expect gold. It takes time and effort to write well. Writing is a job and like any job you have to work hard to get results.

I would say that 99.9% of anything you read, newspaper to novel is not a first draft, that the author did not just sit down one afternoon and whack out the words first time. Good writing comes from practice and editing, it comes from a writer’s experience and willpower to get the work to shine. Writers are compelled to write but very often we fall into chasms that we can’t get out of, and it’s experience and determination that gets us out of it.

Chasms you ask?

Yes chasms, deep dark pits of despair. People fling the phrase Writer’s Block around but in my experience it’s not a block, it’s a chasm that you have fallen into where nothing you write is good enough or makes sense… sometimes you can’t even put down one word because none have come to you at all.

This is why you can also hate writing as well as love it. It’s a skill you will always improve upon, and sometimes that’s a daunting feeling.

Ultimately we start writing because we love it and we have something to say. If you have ever felt love, you know that you don’t give up on it easily, so when you fall into bad times, into a chasm, you have to take a moment to reignite that love, that passion and use it to climb out.

This is a writer’s greatest weapon. This comes with practice and time.

The only way to get over writer’s block, a chasm, a mood, a grey cloud, whatever you want to call it is to stop what you’re doing, take a breath and reignite your passion, let your worries and self doubts be pushed aside with an editing pen later.

Slowly in time, just like Marmite, you’ll realise that writing is sticky. Once you start writing you will find it everywhere you go.

TV Licence Too Much?

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So I do not have a TV Licence.

This apparently is shocking to a lot of people and to the TV Licensing company themselves.

A little bit of background here…

Last year my partner moved in with me after my flatmate moved out and we decided to take a good look at all of our bills and subscription services. We’re saving up as ever and didn’t want any excess we didn’t need. One of these under review was the TV License at £145.50 a year.

I decided to keep a TV Licence, just in case we ever felt the need to watch something we would be covered. It became really obvious when I had to start dusting the TV set and knew nothing about the adverts people would mention that we really didn’t watch TV. Even iplayer didn’t get a look in as frankly I’d gone off that whilst I was still at Uni and it decided to take forever to load, no matter what internet I used. Very frustrating. Instead of watching TV we were sticking to Netflix and occasionally popping into HMV for a new update in DVD’s we really wanted.

So it became obvious to me, why the heck are we paying £145.50 for something we don’t need or actually want anymore? I decided to end it. Following their website instructions, which I have to say I wasn’t impressed with, the website, the language is awful and the tone of the whole thing makes you feel insecure about everything you’re doing. I filled in their online form to cancel my TV licence, which at the end said to let them know we no longer required a licence, so I clicked that link and filled that in too, I also cancelled my direct debit with my bank and thought no more of it. Done. £145.50 saved,

great!

This was all done in August 2016, over the Christmas period I got a letter saying my licence will expire on 31st Dec and that I should renew urgently… Weird, I thought it was all done.
I re-read the letter and website and confirmed that I could’ve reclaimed the money between August and December, damn… but okay it’s actually over in December at the end of the year. Okay, let’s not cry over spilt milk let it expire, job done.

Now to present day. I have received 2 letters THIS WEEK telling me that my licence has expired and that I need to contact the licensing agency immediately (they even include a filled out Paypoint and postal payment slip for me to just sign and send back). They have branded a bold red inked notice on the top of the letter saying LATE RENEWAL. I decide this is ridiculous and someone hasn’t updated my info, so I call their 0300 number (which by the way from a mobile, as I don’t have a landline can cost up to 40p per minute check out the Ofcom website for yourselves) and have to be put on hold and various press 1 press 2 options and 20 minutes later I hear a real person’s voice on the end of the phone. I tell her there’s been a mistake and I don’t require a licence anymore, when I cancelled it and that I did already fill in the online form. She never says what happened, just swiftly moves on.
The next thing I know I am asked in several different ways the same sentences ‘Do you watch or record live TV?’ ‘Do you use iplayer’ … both of these get a No. Because I don’t, she then asks me if I have a TV… well yes for DVD’s and Netflix. She asks again if I use iplayer…No. This goes on for 5 more minutes until I cut her off with an explanation of how I do not even own an aerial and I only watch DVD’s and Netflix on my Amazon Fire stick.
She then sighs and asks me how long I intend to not watch or record live TV, I tell her probably indefinitely and that if I changed my mind I’ll call back. She then lists off how I could be fined or prosecuted if I do not comply with their rules and tells me she can give me a two year period for not having a licence. I should also expect an investigator to come round my house.

The phone is put down and I search on Google for people’s experiences with these ‘Investigators’ and I have seen nothing but complaints and accusations of harassment and intimidation.

This is just my story, I am waiting for said ‘Investigator’ to appear, but I have to say I am already annoyed and frustrated. From looking at forums and comments online it seems I’m not the only one with these troubles and some have some really horrendous stories with how they’ve been treated.

What really grinds my gears is the language that has been used to communicate with me, after all, I followed TV Licensing procedure, I even contacted them to rectify a problem, yet their language has been nothing but accusatory and curt.

I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s experiences with the TV Licensing company and what other people think of the fees and communication methods currently used.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from my latest letter for your own judgement and inspection:

*my address* has now been unlicensed for 2 weeks.

Dear Miss Ford,
Your TV License expired last month.

This means:

  • If you have been watching or recording live TV programmes on any channel or device, or downloading or watching BBC programmes on iPlayer, then you have been breaking the law.
  • If you delay renewing, you are not saving money as, legally, your property still needs to be licensed from the date your last TV Licence expired.
  • If you do not renew immediately, you are putting yourself at risk of investigation, prosecution and a fine for committing a criminal offence. 

 

 

KEY POINTS: At no point does this letter say that I can state that I do not need  a license.

It has not asked me to verify my status or even a suggestion that it may be a mistake

The letter is accusatory, misleading and frankly insulting in my personal opinion.

The Best Book for Writers.

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So you might be a writer yourself or perhaps you know one… what can you get them when Christmas or a birthday rolls around?

Let me tell you.

Every year a book is released, a book that is vital to anyone in the writing industry, that book is called Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook.

If you have no idea what this book is, it’s essentially the writer’s Yellow Pages. This directory has invaluable information in it that should be at arm’s reach whenever you are pitching any writing. It has business listings and services to advice on the media and publishing industry.

Writing a children’s story?
This book will make sure you’re pitching your story to the right publishers. No one wants a pile of rejection letters because you sent your cute kids story to horror publishers.

They release one every year, making this an ideal gift to save your writer some pennies and make sure your writer is up to date.

If you’re still not sold on the idea I urge you to dig a bit more into the book and perhaps pop down to the bookstore to flick through one, you will see how useful it really is.