Well, my youth is over.
I’ve become the “Big 3-Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-how-did-that-happen-so-fast?”
I’ve been writing professionally for a lot of those years. Here are a few things I’m glad I did before today rolled around.
And please share: What would you add to the following list?
1. Subscribe to Cosmo. Don’t be a magazine snob. Cosmo will teach you everything you need to know about writing headlines.
2. Learn how to play an instrument. You’ll learn how to write rhythmically.
3. Freelance. If you’re a journalist, you’re constantly pitched stories. See if you can pitch one of your own.
4. Write in a different country. When everyone around you is speaking a different language, what would you say on paper?
5. Get yourself invited to cover some fun stories. My Ragan.com editor and I spent a summer covering the best galas in the city.
6. Hey, single ladies: Go to a bar with a notepad. You’ll be surprised at how many dudes will start talking to you.
7. Take a writing class. Not everything you write has to be about corporate communications.
8. Enter an award contest. Be proud of the work you’ve done.
9. Maintain your portfolio. Dust off the stories you wrote for your college newspaper. Keep adding your most recent work.
10. Stop confusing whom and who; choose and chose; this and that. You’re not in eighth grade.
11. Develop a network of writers. You’ll need some support and people to share ideas with.
12. Help out with a nonprofit. Even though it’s great to get paid to write, it’s even better to help an organization that needs your skills the most.
13. Keep a journal. It’s the only time you won’t be edited.
14. Quit your job for a year. Sometimes, you just need to take a break from the keyboard. In between my stint at a newspaper and working for Ragan, I hopped on a double-decker bus and gave tours of Chicago.
15. Keep a pen and paper with you at all times. Inspiration isn’t waiting for you. It pops in and out, hoping you’ll pay attention to it.
16. Write the script for a video that goes viral. Looking for inspiration? Click here.
17. Join a book club. If you can’t find one you like, start your own.
18. If you work from home, buy a walking treadmill desk.
19. Write stories that will make your parents proud. This one about my dad’s diverticulitis wound up in my local newspaper.
20. Read “On Writing Well.“
21. Don’t forget how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I became a writer out of necessity—to avoid math. But it can be 100 percent embarrassing if you’re always using your calculator at restaurants to figure out a 20 percent tip.
22. Be a mentor to your interns.
23. Write a thank-you note to your favorite teacher, editor, or mentor. You didn’t just “become” a writer. Most likely, someone special gave you that extra push.
24. Protect your wrists from getting carpal tunnel.
25. Go to a writing workshop, talk, or conference. Shameless plug: Ragan has some pretty terrific ones.
26. Post a really poetic Craigslist missed connection.
27. Write the most awesome wedding toast ever for your best friend’s wedding. Everybody else will be drunk and rambling, but you’ll know exactly what to say.
28. Don’t forget how lucky you are. Sure, other careers might lead to corner offices and more money, but how many other adults get to create something new each day?
29. Write outside. Ideal scenario: Watching the sunrise.
30. On second thought, if you get up early enough to watch the sunrise, just watch it. You don’t have to write about everything.