I know most of you are photographers, and you don’t want to be writers. The truth is, though, that you need to write to run your business, especially if you maintain a blog as part of your marketing strategy. This post will provide some tips on how to keep up your writing strength.
“Either marry your work — take it seriously and do it every day — or date it —write only when you feel like it — but know which you are doing and the repercussions of both.”
I must come clean at this point: I do not blog every day.
I blame my life. It gets in the way so very often, and I must admit that there is little time left for writing after I have completed the ‘have to’ list each day. So my blog and I are definitely just dating.
But that’s OK. At this point in my life, I choose to spend more time with my young children than my blog, and I am comfortable with that choice. Things will change once my youngest is in school. But for now, things are as they are…(which is usually covered in finger paint).
So what right do I have to talk to you about writing? Well, before I had children, writing was a big part of my life, and I learned a lot during that time about writing, about how I do it, and how others approach the task. I’d like to pass on some tips that might save you some time, some effort, and some angst.
Read. Read a lot.
Great writers read a lot, and they read widely. Part of what we’re doing when we read picture books to very young children is exposing them to the rhythms of well-constructed language. We’re filling them up with vocabulary, sounds, ideas, rhythms, rhymes, all of which they will draw upon when it comes time for them to be writers themselves. (And that, dear reader, is why it is imperative that we read high quality texts to our youngest, newest readers, and not books of the ‘Dan can fan the man’ ilk!)
So as a writer, make it your habit to read. Lots. Read great fiction, great non-fiction. Look for fabulous examples of the type of writing you need to do. So if, for example, you’re working on your ‘about me’ page on your blog, you might find inspiration here.
Be deeply interested in life
“Writing is a lot easier if you have something to say.”
I write much better if I feel passionate about my topic. Just like we ‘fill up’ our little ones when we read to them, so too we need to fill ourselves up. Live your life well. Be interested in the world. Truly connect with your clients, and you’ll always have something to say. And that something doesn’t have to be a screed of text to be great. Here’s a fabulous photography blog that is full of emotion and passion with just a few words, all expertly crafted.
Find a medium and a place that work for you.
When I was working on my PhD dissertation, I discovered that I worked best on ‘reflective’ pieces of writing when I could be ‘alone in a crowd’, so I would pack up my things and head out to a local café to write. The background noise and the brief social exchanges with staff helped me write. I enjoyed their unobtrusive company.
For analytical writing, though, I needed my home office where I could spread academic journals and text books in a fan shape around me, covering my desk, shelves and even most of the floor. I could write, read, write some more, think, and write some more without interruption.
As for the medium, most people I know prefer to type. I much prefer paper and pencil. In fact my entire dissertation — all 100,000 words of it — was written by hand in pencil on the back of scrap paper. I then actually physically cut paragraphs from one place and moved them to another, stapling them in where they needed to go.
Of course mine were the only eyes that saw my work in that state. By the time I handed in my typed and printed ‘first draft’ to my supervisor, it was actually about the second or third draft.
Allow yourself to write a really bad first draft.
A first draft is more about getting your ideas out of your head and onto paper. When you’re writing something for the first time, don’t worry about editing yourself. Just write. Allow the ideas to come freely and quickly. You might write four pages of ho-hum prose before you get to that one brilliant paragraph, which might later become the opening paragraph of your best-selling novel.
Or you might just write four pages of drivel.
Either way, it’s OK. Just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect in the first draft.
Don’t publish your work until it’s ready.
One of my favourite children’s authors, Mem Fox, took two years to write Koala Lou, and it’s only 487 words long. That’s just over four and a half words a day! Why did it take so long? Because she worked on it until she had exactly the right words in exactly the right places. And that takes time. Now I’m not suggesting that you have two years to spend on each blog post. Of course not! But I am suggesting that a little extra time up your sleeve between writing and clicking on ‘publish’ can be beneficial.
Join writing groups
A great way to pep up your writing is to join a writing group. A writing group is a safe place to post early drafts and receive feedback from people who are also writing (which means they know how naked you can feel sometimes when you share your work). Writing groups can be great places to get helpful comments and suggestions that will serve to make your writing stronger and more effective. Some groups offer a weekly or monthly ‘gig’. Others are a one-off retreat. Here’s one that I stumbled upon as I was browsing this morning.
There may be groups in your local area where you can meet with real live people every week to share your work, or you can join on-line writing groups. I reckon without ‘googling’ too hard you could even find some that are geared specifically towards helping you with your business and blog writing.
And what about when you’re just plain stuck?
Sometimes it happens. You just don’t have any ideas that light you up. You sit to write and nothing comes out. That’s when you start to doubt yourself as a writer.
My best advice for times like this is to stop writing. Go for a walk. Take a shower. Put on some music and dance. Clean out the fridge. Mop the floor. Watch a movie. Meet a friend for coffee. Take a break and do anything but write. Hopefully you’ll return to your work refreshed and ready to go.
Jennifer Taylor is a Sydney child and family photographer who also holds a PhD in Early Childhood Education specialising in literacy development and bilingualism. When she’s not taking photos, spending time with her family or teaching yoga, she can be found standing outside real estate agents’ windows, red pen in hand.