Just like you wouldn’t open the hood of a car with a vegetable peeler in your hand and expect to change the spark plugs, there are certain tools that are essential to your writing career. Sure, you might be able to get the spark plugs out and changed, but it would take a lot longer and you won’t do a good job. Here are some must-haves for embarking on a writing career:
1. Computer , website and internet access. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, the truth is the writing profession has undergone many changes as technology has erupted. It’s much easier to send articles and manuscripts via email; many places offer online submission; some won’t take them any other way. Often, employers will want samples of your work, and the easiest way to showcase these are on your very own personal website.
Investing in a state-of-the-art computer is a must. Get as much as you can afford — this is an investment that will pay off big-time. To start with, the only software you need is a good word processing package. Websites, or blogs, are easy to set up and can be done at low or NO cost. You’ll need a reliable internet service provider with an email address you can access several times a day.
2. Buy a printer. Most of your submissions will be done via email, however, it’s helpful to have a printer for those publications that still do it the old-fashioned way. In addition, sometimes it’s easier to edit your work if you print it out and read it over in paper form. Again, purchase the best you can afford. Office equipment can be tax deductible; save your receipts for the year-end tallying at tax time.
3. Paper, notebooks and pens, oh my! Some things never change. Keeping a pad of paper handy next to your computer gives you the option of scribbling ideas, to-do lists and other flashes of inspiration when working on different projects. As a writer, you should go NOWHERE without a pocket notebook and a pen. You never know when the muse will strike, when you may overhear an interesting conversation or witness an event you’ll wish you recorded.
4. Thesaurus, dictionary and Strunk and White. This is the Holy Trinity for writers. You can use the online versions, such as the one included in your nifty writing software, but it’s a good idea to have the hardcopy by your side. You can easily access information about correct use of grammar, look up that pesky word you thought you knew how to spell, or find the other word tickling the tip of your tongue.
5. Imagination and curiosity. These two traits are mandatory for a writer, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. You must be able to imagine how other people feel or how they view a subject in order to present your information in a helpful way. Research is an integral part of writing; insatiable curiosity is one of your most valuable tools.
6. A thick skin. Rejection is never pretty, but developing a thick skin is a necessity in this business. Not every editor will love your stellar prose, and not every article will find the perfect home the first time. Don’t take this as a personal affront — it just means your piece is not in the right place at the right time. If you are lucky enough to receive feedback, pay attention and utilize it. Most likely you’ll get nothing more than a “no thanks”, but that’s okay, too. Review, revise, and keep it out there until it sells.
In the next article, I’ll detail the Top Websites You Can’t Do Without. In the meantime, these basic tools are all you need to get started. Open the hood and get to work!