This week’s guest post is from writer Steve Aedy. A lot of us have to do other forms of writing for our day jobs, so Steve has some tips for writing discipline and craft that can apply to a wide variety of writing types.
You’ll Never Survive as an Academic Writer If…
As you embark on your freelance writing career, you probably see glory and riches in your near future. While this is entirely possible, it isn’t always probable.
Academic writing is a very specific breed of freelancing. Do you have what it takes to survive the demands of this career? If you want to make a living as an academic writer, consider the following personality traits.
You’ll never survive academic writing if…
You Can’t Master the English Language
All writers need to have a basic understanding of proper grammar and sentence structure. However if you are an academic writer, this knowledge is absolutely essential. While other types of writing might be more flexible when it comes to abiding by the rules, academic writing demands strict adherence.
If your writing skills aren’t up to snuff, consider improving them. Try taking an online course. For example, Coursera offers free courses on just about every topic under the sun.
You Can’t Drum Up Enough Creativity
It is difficult to tackle a creative writing project if you can’t get into a creative mindset. If you find you don’t naturally gravitate to this style of writing, there are some ways you can encourage the creative muse to find you.
Try doing some creativity exercises. Writing bursts are the perfect example. Open a word document, set a timer for ten minutes, and just write about whatever pops into your mind. You’ll find this will help get the creative juices flowing.
You are Too Creative
Wordiness can kill an academic essay. If you insist on choosing complicated, elaborate words instead of simple, concise alternatives, your clients won’t be happy. Likewise, using unnecessary words for a clear expression is also troublesome. You may think you’re doing your client a favor by covering a point thoroughly, but your redundancy is annoying.
For example, avoid phrases like: advanced warning, circulated around, close proximity, constant nagging, downward descent, exact same, new discovery, and top priority.
You Are a Perfectionist
Edits happen. They are a fact of life. Very rarely will an essay pour out of you and be flawless the first time around. If you expect perfection, you’re freelance career is doomed. You’ll spend way too much time on each piece and never be satisfied with the results.
Don’t agonize over every word, every sentence. Just get your thoughts out there. After the first draft, you can come back and revise your efforts.
You Don’t Embrace Your Creativity When it Strikes
Creativity is probably one of the most difficult things to schedule. It’s not always available when you want it to be. However, deadlines are a fact of life. You’ll be hard press to find a job that doesn’t demand you adhere to them at some point in your career. As a writer, you are probably familiar with the importance of deadlines. But like everything else, academic writing is very different from other forms of freelancing.
A blog owner might say a post is due on a certain day. If you don’t deliver, you could seriously damage the relationship with the blog owner – but the world won’t come to an end. If you are late delivering an academic writing assignment, it could be the end – of the student’s academic career. We all know educators aren’t going to fall for the “dog ate my homework” bit. Therefore, it is absolutely essential you meet deadlines.
However, creativity knows no boundaries. If you try to beat it into submission in the form of a 9-5 job, you’ll be an epic failure. Don’t try to force your writing mindset into a schedule. Instead, schedule your writing time around your creative peak.
Experiment a little. Find out when is the best time to write. Are you at your best first thing in the morning before all of life’s demands kick in? Or are you more focused late at night when all the stress has worked itself out?
As you are trying to find the best time to work, carry a notebook with you. If creativity strikes and you aren’t ready for it (ie: sitting in front of your computer), you can whip out your notebook and jot down your thoughts.
You Aren’t a Good Listener
Obviously, your writing abilities will play a major role in your freelance writing career. However, your listening skills are just as important. You must be attentive to the client’s needs. Otherwise you will find yourself in a never ending cycle of rewrites.
If you struggle in this area, start making attention to detail a top priority. Read communications twice before taking action. Learn to read between the lines. Understand that clients may be using English as a second language. Patience is needed while trying to get to the root of the message.
You Commit Plagiarism
Plagiarism is bad for business, will ruin your clients’ trust, and is unethical. More importantly, you could destroy a student’s academic career.
Avoiding plagiarism is more than simply rearranging words. You need to take a concept and put your own creative spin on it. Try this: read a block of text, open a fresh document, and without looking at the original source, jot down your thoughts and ideas on the subject. Let the published work be your guide, not your crutch.
Not all plagiarism is intentional. You could simply make a citation mistake. While these types of errors are unintentional, they can still wreak havoc on the lives of everyone involved. Get yourself a good style manual. Become familiar with various forms of citation.
You Aren’t Willing to do Research
In a perfect world, you would write about topics you studied during your own academic career. However, if you want to be successful, you must be willing to write about topics you are unfamiliar with.
Acknowledge the fact that you will need to spend time doing research. You own brainpower and creativity will only take you so far. In order to produce the best possible results, you should be willing to devote as much time as necessary to the task.
Academic writing can be a rewarding, lucrative career path. Hopefully, you have what it takes to be a success.