February 21, 2012

keep writing

Blogger's note: Katie is one of my dearest friends from college and beyond. When she asked to write a blog post about how a writer can keep his or her writing skills in shape, I had to say yes. Plus, it's a really good topic. Enjoy! 

By Katie Steiner
Guest blogger

Let me be upfront with all of you: I’ve been unemployed since the end of November. I quit my job as a corporate journalist to 1.) spend a month living with my parents (give me a break, I’m an only child), before I  2.) moved to Austin, Texas, in search of new opportunities (aka my boyfriend got a job, so I decided to tag along). 

So here I am, hunting for jobs that would hopefully have me writing on a daily basis. The problem is I went from being required to churn out 2,000 words a day to having no real reason to write. After a few weeks, I realized I needed to brainstorm ways to keep writing, because there’s nothing worse than a rusty writer.

Whether you’re like me and looking for a job, or you’re in between creative projects, it’s important to find ways to keep your writing fresh, so you don’t find yourself feeling out of practice when it is time to get back to work.

Here are some of my suggestions on how to keep writing:

Get creative with that old’ cover letter. Let’s be honest, no one LIKES writing a cover letter. They’re boring and lame and you’d rather do ANYTHING else than write one. But instead of seeing it as a chore, look at it as an opportunity to get creative. I’ve always had the tendency of using the same cover letter over and over, but recently I’ve decided to have more fun with this otherwise tedious task. Think of new stories to share about yourself, or even come up with new verbiage you hadn’t thought of previously. Any change you make to your cover letter will not allow you a chance to write, but it may also be the one thing a potential employer will be drawn to.

Keep a journal or diary.
I know many writers like to keep a journal even when they’re working, but it’s invaluable when you’re in between projects. Take time every day to sit down and write out your thoughts, even just as a way to remind your brain what it means to write. Also, don’t just use that journal to vent about how frustrated or sad or angry you are; use it as an opportunity to remind yourself of the good things that happened that day, and what you have to look forward to. That positive energy will also reflect in your everyday life, as well as your job applications.

Freelance. If you check Craigslist obsessively like I do, you will notice that there are always posts seeking freelancers for all sorts of writing assignments. Also, contact your local publications to see if they accept freelance work, and if they have any stories you could take. I’ve been fortunate to freelance periodically for my former employer, and I like having that writing opportunity (as well as making a little money).

Keep a blog. A blog is a great way to flex your writing skills as often as you want. Even if you don’t think you have anything to say or that no one will read it…who cares?! If you have a story to tell, there will be an audience there. And if you don’t want to post links to it all over Facebook, that’s OK too; keep it for yourself and your writing. 

If you’re like me and don’t think you’re tech-savvy enough to start a blog, then volunteer to write on your friend’s blog. I was so excited when Laura gave me the opportunity to write on this blog because I saw it as one more opportunity to write, something that I love to do and something that I miss doing when away for too long.

So, dear readers, I’ve shared with you what’s worked for me but I’m interested to hear: What has worked for you? Have you done other activities to keep your writing fresh?

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