Insights: Building a Writing Career
One graduate shares his expertise.
Dr. James Thomas Milton.
Dr. James Thomas Milton ’95, PhD in Applied Management and Decision Sciences (now PhD in Management)
HAVE A MISSION.
Many people have trouble getting beyond that first book because it represents one piece of research or an experience. They don’t have an ongoing mission. Persistent writers have a mission, whether they’re writing biography, fiction, or scientific research. My mission is to effect social change through fiction, to raise awareness of social injustices, and to prompt people to become engaged. If you have a long-term purpose for writing, you’ll never run out of things to write about.
Writing is part of my day-to-day life. Most writers work every day improving their craft. Schedule it like you would any other appointment or goal. Plan for it, make the time, and set goals. When you write each day, take notes or work on revising what you did the day before if the blank page is too intimidating. Above all else, write.
FIND AND CULTIVATE YOUR AUDIENCE.
Getting the word out about your work no longer happens only through reviews in magazines or newspapers. You need to proactively identify and reach your audiences in a variety of ways. E-books generate communities of readers. Book clubs are always seeking new material. (At the end of each novel, I include a guide to help readers discuss the issues raised.) Spread your message by speaking at events related to your work. Remember to reach out to your audience and engage them.
PREPARE TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S LIVES.
Whatever genre of writing you undertake, you’ll have readers and receive feedback. The whole purpose of writing is to communicate—and it’s a wonderful feeling when people respond to your writing. Since I approach my writing with a mission, I like to believe that my books raise awareness. A reader once told me, “You made me feel the injustice rather than simply think about it.” When I hear that, I know that I’m effectively changing the hearts and minds of people with my work. I encourage you to do the same.
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