New to writing? Use these 5 tips to get started

The tips in this post are for anyone who has ideas worth sharing and wants to write but doesn’t feel confident enough to do so.

Recently, a friend of mine sent me an article about a conversation she had with God. She wrote to God and God wrote back to her. I thought it was a very beautiful and meaningful piece and said as much to her. She appreciated the compliment and said I could share but share anonymously. She went on to say that she has a lot to write but doesn’t feel confident enough to write them. I am no writing guru but I never thought I could write until I started to write and get positive feedback. I told her about how I started writing and gave her tips to help her begin writing. My response to her inspired this article.

I have shared a few times that I was inspired to write by 2 female, anonymous, Instagram bloggers who shared just the most random thoughts about their lives, and those posts got a lot of engagement in the form of likes and comments. Seeing those posts got me thinking to myself that “ahn ahn me too I have funny incidents happening throughout my day and life that I can share now ehn” and I started to write and post the most random things on my WhatsApp status.

Side-note: This whole experience also taught me that by walking in your purpose or doing the work you are called to do, others can also get inspired to walk in their purpose and do the work they are called to do.

I put up my very first post on the 1st Saturday of 2019. I had attended my first strategic leadership meeting at daystar as a worker and was amazed that the entire church with a 5000 seating capacity was filled with workers and some had to stand because there were no available seats. On my whatsapp status, I wrote “The whole church is a worker! What a wawu!”. A few of my friends and family responded with laughter and that was the beginning of my writing journey. However, I was a private person then (hard to believe right?) and my status was private. Only the people I gave access to my status could view it. This made me comfortable enough to write personal things about my depression, about other people like my coworker who was nicknamed “mr. ese ana” by a friend due to some run-ins we had which I wrote about, and just rant about someone without the person being able to see my rants. My lengthiest post at the time was my “Loving and Helping your loved ones who are depressed” post. That post got a lot of reactions from people and built my confidence. Essentially, feedback from those who read my status really built my confidence and made me start to believe that I probably had a writing talent. One of my cousins would always tell me that he reads every single thing I post even if he has to zoom in and squint to read them and he had no idea I was hilarious and could write. He would talk about some of the things I wrote and he may have just been saying but those conversations gave me life mehn!

Lesson 2 — When you appreciate something someone is doing tell them. Don’t hold it back. You have no idea what your compliments or words of encouragement can do to their self-esteem or confidence.

Private WhatsApp status posts continued for 9 months until September 2019 when two people who were excluded from viewing my status given my privacy settings responded to a post on my status. I asked a friend to check if she could view my posts from her phone number that didn’t have access to my status and she could view it. That’s how I knew WhatsApp’s privacy settings had a glitch so I decided to stop posting stuff. A few days when I hadn’t posted anything, my parents asked me if I blocked them from viewing my status because I used to post every single day and suddenly they could no longer see my posts. I eventually decided to, start posting on Instagram and no longer post private things or things about people and I made my Instagram page public.

I kept writing until my journey to the amrica series happened and again it was the reactions the series got that validated me and made me believe I could write for a living. The feedback I got from putting my writeups out there solidified my interest in pursuing a writing career.

So if you believe in your heart that you have stories or ideas worth sharing and would love to write but are afraid to put yourself out there for fear of being judged or condemned, or you’re just not confident enough about your writing, here are my tips to get you started.

Side-note: Mensah Otabil said in his Dominion Mandate sermon that everyone ought to write a book even if you are the only one who reads it because you must show that your brain works. As his most attentive mentee, I do agree with him. Maybe not a book but at least publish articles that express your thoughts. If you follow @humansofny, you would have read some of the most beautiful and inspiring stories ever written and these stories were only told courtesy of Brandon, founder of @humansofny. The people featured in those stories had the stories in them all along but they only shared them with the world because Brandon drew it out of them. Some of those stories, especially Tanqueray’s were just too wonderful to not have been shared.

Tip 1 — Start with a small audience.

I am a firm believer in testing your work with a small audience before presenting it to a larger audience. Technology companies and startups also do this. They create their product, have it tested in house by alpha testers, give it to a small pool of outsiders who are beta testers to test, incorporate the feedback received into improving the product before launching to the general public. The reason for this is simple — it’s better to fail on a small scale than to fail on a large scale. If you start sharing your writing with a small audience like your close friends and family who love you, you can receive both positive and negative feedback from them and improve. Internet people can be quite brutal and negative feedback before you are ready to receive it can deflate your confidence. Just last week, I saw a comment under my “The time I was de-badged” post on bellanaija that said I wasn’t dictatorial, I was an abuser and compared me to a husband who beats his wife. When I published the post on Instagram and my blog, with a far less audience than BN, I did not get a single negative feedback. The larger the audience the higher the likelihood of receiving negative feedback. However, if you start small, you build your confidence gradually and become (almost)immune to negative feedback that would inevitably come.

Tip 2 -Write anonymously or under a pseudonym.

This is especially useful if you want to share intimate details of your life that you don’t want to be attributed to you or you don’t want your loved ones to know about. You may want to write about things for which you don’t want to be judged by those who know you who do not typically ascribe such things to you. In that case, you can create an Instagram account and write anonymously like the two Instagram bloggers who inspired me to write. You can also sign up on medium.com and blog anonymously. You can then share your published articles with your loved ones if you don’t think they’ll suspect the writer is you.

The downside to this though is that you may not get the feedback you need from your circle to improve and the mean internet people can come for you faster than you expect. But again, you can be lucky to have your posts read by the kind internet people who would give the positive feedback that would build your confidence.

P.S. Based on the conversation with my friend who inspired this post, I have created an “Other writers” section on this blog where I publish articles sent in by other writers. If you are interested in publishing on my blog, please send your submissions to firecrackertoyeen@gmail.com. Also kindly proof read your article for errors with the Grammarly app before sending in your submissions.

Tip 3 — You get better and build your confidence with regular practice.

This was an easy enough lesson to learn for me because my dad taught me to practice math exercises A LOT and that’s how I became good at math. The only way to get better at anything is to do it repeatedly and consistently. Like the saying goes “practice makes perfect”. One of the ways to practice is by writing about any idea that crosses your mind — from the mundane to the intense. I have written about funny incidents that happened to me, my life experiences, my faith, my loved ones, my faith, lessons I have learned, etc. You would probably only find you rhythm and niche area after covering a wide range of topics. I would never have thought my experience going to grad school was worth documenting had the holy spirit not dropped the idea in my heart and people not responded very positively to it. I wrote my first blog post months before I published it because I was very nervous as to how it would be received. I spent a few weeks revising and reviewing it, sent it to a few friends and family to review and give me feedback, reviewed it some more before I was confident enough to publish it. One of my friends whom I asked to review the article pointed out some errors in it and recommended I use the Grammarly app to proofread my articles for error. I had never heard of Grammarly until she recommended it and I now use Grammarly all the time. These days, rarely do I send out articles to friends/family to review except I have reservations about the article. For most of my articles, once I have an idea for a post, I write, edit, and publish it without sending it to someone else first. I only became this confident after writing almost daily for about a year and a half.

Tip 4 — You get better by reading and learning

I have always read a lot and I am aware that a lot of the sentences I use in my post came from books I had read but I had no idea there was a direct correlation between the quality of books you read and how well you wrote until I saw two bloggers mention that your writing improves the more you read well-written and well-edited books. You also improve by learning. And learning doesn’t have to be anything huge. It’s as simple as checking if a word or sentence is right in google or finding synonyms for words you use frequently so you don’t keep repeating the same word in your article. I only found out last year when I was writing “The one who got away” article that “who” is used to refer to humans while “that” is used to refer to animals or inanimate objects. I still struggle with the correct usage of “that” and “which” and I often have to google the phrase I want to use either word with. Google is a very useful resource for improving your writing. If you do want to become more proficient, you can sign up for writing classes on masterclass or Coursera or get a degree in writing. This articleprovides a list of 9 free courses that would help you become a better writer. I have been toying with the idea of getting a graduate degree in writing but the program I would love to attend is 3-years long. I am not sure I have it in me to commit to a 3-year onsite learning graduate program but we’ll see how it goes.

Tip 5 — Get used to lukewarm response.

This is still hard for me to deal with sha if I am being honest because even after deleting the Instagram app once I put up my post on it, I still check the engagement on my posts via an anonymous Instagram account I have on my web browser and I am constantly checking post views on my blog posts and medium posts. I am Praying to God seriously for deliverance from this issue sha. What I have found out over time though is that I can’t predict how people would respond to my posts. One of the best articles I have ever written in my opinion got only one “like” and I still don’t understand why one of my write-ups has the most engagement despite reading it numerous times. I have just realized that if I have something I believe is worth sharing or would be beneficial or helpful to someone I share. I have learned to seek approval from God even though TBH it’s still not enough and I still crave human approval. Still, the thing is you can never predict how people would react to your work. Kevin O’Leary, one of the judges on the shark tank show said he would never have invested in Tesla if Elon Musk had come on the show and pitched it to him. So you see humans are not always right. If Elon Musk hadn’t created tesla because of seasoned Venture capitalists like Kevin O’Leary, he most likely won’t be the wealthiest man alive today. So welcome negative feedback even nonconstructive ones, use it but don’t let it invalidate you. Also, don’t depend too much on human validation because even that is faulty. Seek validation from God and let him be the one to tell you well done or not for the work you have done.

So if you think you ought to write and are unsure of how to start, use the points above to start writing.

If you found this post useful, like it, share your thoughts and questions with me, and share it on your social media platforms.

Firecracker Toyeen

I am Firecracker Toyeen and I am a believer. I love to tell stories with important messages. My Blog: firecracker-toyeen.com. Instagram &FB: @firecracker_toyeen

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