5 mistakes (& fixes) to avoid derailing in the early stage of a writing career
I feel ashamed to share my mistakes, but this will save you years
I was a shabby blogger back in 2011. I remember, my first blog post was a copy-paste of news that read “Instagram was banned in Iran.”
I can say I’m not that shabby anymore, I write decently well. People get the point I wanna make and happily engage with what I have to say.
But I’m full of mistakes. Even after learning from my mistakes, I’m still getting things wrong. I have made it my life’s mission to document my mistakes and share them on relevant platforms.
Here are 5 mistakes I think aspiring writers (I proudly call myself a writer, every blogger should address themselves as a writer) should avoid in their early careers. These mistakes will derail you in the future when you’re about to launch something of your own.
Think like a beginner
The curse of knowledge is real.
When I started out, I had no idea what clicks. I was so absent-minded that I would appreciate great writers & their writing but fail to notice what I liked & why I liked it.
Had I noticed those things, I would have been a way better writer than I am today. Years of appreciation & reading gone in vain.
I’ve come very far in my career that thinking again like a beginner is becoming the toughest nut to crack right now. I am overwhelmed & I must admit, I am complicating things way too much, something professionals do.
When I started out my career, I had very simple goals — write one blog post every two days. This includes finding interesting topics & writing the blog post. I didn’t know that I should promote the post to get eyeballs on my post. I was that naive. But it was great, I did manage to get the eyeballs from organic search (it was easier back then).
I didn’t know about SEO, I didn’t know about keyword research & optimization. I didn’t know about content distribution & repurposing.
But one thing was certain, I was carelessly, but surely publishing content regularly.
I had nothing to lose, I was enjoying the process without worrying about vanity KPIs like traffic, conversions, sales, and whatnot?
Thinking like a beginner not only helps you keep things simple, but also gives you a chance to create content that your target audience will actually care about.
My mistake: I stopped thinking like a beginner & made my way complex for myself.
Fix: I’m documenting my own problems (with solutions) & sharing them with people online.
Develop a writing style
For a major part of my writing career, I have been inconsistent, majorly due to a lack of ideas.
I would simply stare at the cursor, waiting for something to hit me so that I can start writing. But nothing would show up. I’m active on several platforms, but only Quora has worked for me so far and Twitter & Linkedin are coming up lately.
All these three platforms have one thing in common, I have a style that’s exclusive to the platform. When I saw my content on these platforms, I found I created content matching the mindset of people on those respective platforms.
Someone is on Quora to get advice related to blogging, he/she isn’t looking for a lengthy blog post that redirects to my blog (the stupidest thing one can do on any social platform). They need crisp & snackable guidance regarding the question asked.
It can be a story, it can be a case study, it can be a guide in bullet points. Anything but crisp & snackable. Long enough to deliver the context, short enough to be read while on an elevator.
This style was a major missing in my writing career. To those who’re reading this, don’t take one step without thinking about this. No matter how blunt, but have a writing style of your own. You can always make changes & let your writing evolve with time.
Pro Tip: Have a skeleton ready for your blog in your mind. Whenever you’re up to writing a post, you should have the skeleton right in front of your eyes immediately. Within 5 minutes, fill the skeleton with ideas you have regarding the topic & then refine them later. Make this skeleton you Jarvis.
My mistake: I wasn’t mindful enough to have a writing style all across my portfolio.
Fix: I have my Jarvis.
Build an audience & a brand for them to follow
A job you have to be most careful with. Target wrong people (or worst, everyone) & you’re done. You’ll be stuck with them for years without realizing that both are useless for each other.
What decides if they’re the wrong audience?
- The problem you’re trying to solve
- Your approach to making yourself relevant to them
- The content you create to get their attention
- How well you understand them & their needs?
- How desperate are you to solve something for them?
I will regret this forever. When I was hyperactive on Quora, I failed to build a list. Now that I’m not, I am desperate to build a list. If content writing is my forte, Quora is my fort. Now, I don’t have a list of people who’re benefiting from my content that’s still relevant to beginners who want to try their luck in blogging & online business.
My mistake: I failed to build an email list when I was in the prime of my career on Quora. Also, I tried building a brand but for the wrong people.
Fix: I’m using Quora to find the right people and adding them to my list. You just need 1000 odd loyal people to make everything you’re longing for. I have 5 categories of people defined & I’m building a brand accordingly for each of those categories.
Read a lot, like a lot
I never was a reader. I was the last kid a teacher would want to ask to read. I was a terrible reader. I didn’t take proper pauses, I didn’t respect punctuations. I read like a fighter jet leaving the base. No emotions in reading, whatsoever.
But it changed recently when I felt the emptiness in me whenever I try to write anything. Surprisingly, I never used to think twice when I used to write on Quora back in 2015–16. Almost every answer was appreciated. I was full of ideas & thoughts.
I’d drop everything on Quora & people would love it. I used to read a lot about blogging, Google Adsense, make money online & stuff. Now when I think I know enough, I stopped reading and started spending more time creating. A big mistake. NEVER! STOP! READING!
My mistake: I was stupid to stop reading, feeling I know enough.
Fix: I’m wearing my beginner’s hat again & reading with the mind of a seasoned writer. Read like a beginner & process like a pro.
Type at the speed of your thoughts
Typing to writers is what a sword is to a warrior. You have to keep it sharp.
I’m sure all are guilty of this would relate:
You‘re thinking about something and a powerful thought strikes, and just when you start typing, bam! It’s gone in thin air. You try hard to remember, but it's gone in the void.
I have been writing since 2011 & I never really care to check my typing speed. Until recently when I got obsessed with my speed. It’s hovering between 55–70 WPM. On really bad days, it’s below 50. That’s because I make too many spelling mistakes while typing because I try to type fast.
That’s where I’m wrong. I tried to type fast without being careful of pressing the right keys. The key to type fast is to press the right keys and gradually practice pressing them faster without looking at the keyboard.
Pro Tip: Learn the keyboard shortcuts, avoid using the mouse unless necessary.
My mistake: I ignored my typing speed for a very long. I didn’t pay attention to my poor habits of making spelling mistakes and looking at the keyboard too many times.
Fix: Slowly, but press the right keys. Slowly increase the speed. I’m not aiming to type 200 WPM, that’s not useful for me. But maybe as I learn to type faster, I might even think faster. So I have this goal of typing as fast as I can.
Conclusion & TL;DR
I have shared these mistakes shamelessly because I am proud to commit them. I have realized things I would’ve never realized otherwise. I will keep sharing my mistakes time and again to help you save time.
If you have skipped reading, here’s a summary to save you some time.
- Think like a beginner: Never take off that beginner’s thinking hat. It can do wonders for you when you’re a pro.
- Develop a writing style: People should recognize you by your writing.
- Build an audience: It’s not about the content you create, it’s more about the people you target that matters.
- Read a lot: Subscribe to newsletters, read blogs, news to fill your mind with ideas to get inspiration from.
- Work on your typing speed: Typing speed will save your a**. You won’t have time to note down when you’re thoughts are faster than you type.