Growing up, I told people I wanted to be a princess or a professional writer. I worked hard at both careers.
I sent multiple letters, drawings and photographs of myself to Prince William, my big crush – and the palace secretary always replied, kindly thanking me for my “gifts,” and sealing the notes with the official palace stamp.
“Someday, I’m going to be the Princess of England,” I promised my mom, displaying the palace mail on my dresser for my family to see.
When I was old enough to grasp the harsh reality that I’d never marry Prince William, I pursued my other passion: writing. My love for authoring began when my parents bought me a “publish-your-own-book” gift during my childhood. My job was to write and illustrate my own book, and then my parents sent the pages back to the company. In return, I received a hardcover, bound book. My story was about a cat who accidentally became a famous artist by knocking paint all over a canvas, Jackson Pollock-style.
The writing bug bit me hard after that. Although I took brief hiatuses from my dream, I majored in journalism in college and now work as a professional writer and public relations consultant.
I’ve learned a few tips along the way for how to succeed as a writer:
- Take every scenario as a potential story. Stuck at the airport with flight delays? Use it as an opportunity to people watch, and write down your observations. Even a bank transaction at Wells Fargo can be interesting story material – especially if the teller has a Southern drawl and dishes all the scandalous details of her personal life. Basically, I keep my eyes and ears open – and I internalize what I see and hear. You never know when you’ll want to channel a particular character or scene for a story.
- Ask people questions. Lots and lots of questions. The best way to develop characters is to find out as much as you can about different personalities. Once you know about people, then you can write about them.
- Find your unique voice. How do you speak? Your writing shouldn’t sound too different. Listen to yourself speaking to friends and model that unique tone in your writing.
- As my Harvard-educated, erudite college professor said, “Read anything you can get your hands on – even the morning cereal box!” Reading serves you well by imprinting the written word on your brain.
- Pay attention to proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and style. If you’re writing for a newspaper, know your AP style. If you’re writing a psychology handbook, you’d better be versed in APA. Paying attention to these details will set you apart by making your writing seem effortless, which is the sign of a great writer.