At the end of this month, it’ll be 12 years since I published my first blog post. At the time, I was simply picking up a new hobby. Writing for fun after three years of academic writing for my undergraduate degree. I was also eight months pregnant with my second child.

If someone had told me my {poorly written} blog post would eventually spawn a successful writing career – that people would one day pay me to play with words on their behalf – I wouldn’t have believed them. But that’s exactly what happened. Here’s what I’ve learned from 12 years writing online…

  • You Never Get Worse at Something You Practice

Isn’t that a comforting thought? I can look back at my earliest work and cringe or I can choose to celebrate and acknowledge how far I’ve come. I’ve worked on my craft almost every day for over a decade and it shows. I can’t wait to refine and improve my writing even more over the next 12 years.

  • You’ll Probably Never Feel Like an Expert

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours {or approximately 10 years} of ‘deliberate practice’ to become an expert. Deliberate practice isn’t just ‘showing up’ or ‘doing the work’. It involves goal setting, feedback and disciplined repetition designed to improve skills and mastery.

Gladwell might be right, but how many additional hours does it take for that person to realise they’ve transitioned from novice to expert? Because I’m pretty sure I’ve logged my 10,000 hours and I’m still waiting for the day I feel like I know what I’m doing.

  • There are Pros and Cons to Turning Your Passion into a Career

I am incredibly lucky to spend my days doing something I love. I get paid to write! But that fact has fundamentally changed my relationship with an activity I previously did purely for pleasure. In short, when you turn your passion into a career, you’ve got to keep things fun and interesting if you want your love to endure. And yes, if your hobby is now your job, you need a new hobby.

  • Writing Online Can Feel Like Shouting into a Void

The work I do for clients is a little different, but when it comes to the content I create for my own channels, it can be difficult to gauge how something has been received. Clicks, likes and shares are a useful measure, but nothing beats proper feedback.

In the early days of blogging, when the comment section was the only place people could connect with the writers and creators they loved, that feedback flowed more freely. Nowadays, people are consuming more content across more platforms than ever before. Not only do you have to compete harder for their attention, but they also have less time to engage with the things you create. If I were just getting started, I know I’d find that hard. It takes courage to keep showing up and shouting into the void, but in my experience, perseverance and consistency always pays off.

  • If What You Write Helps One Person, It’s Worth Publishing

And as Bianca Bass says, ‘it’s OK if that person is you’. At the same time, it’s important to realise the impact you have on your readers isn’t always obvious. Sometimes it takes a while to develop, and you must keep writing about a subject if you want your message to sink in.

The internet is also full of lovely people who lurk without ever letting on. Most of them will never tell you your words have made a difference. Sometimes, people wait years before sliding into your DMs to let you know how much a blog post helped them. Rather than relying on external validation, you need to believe in yourself and the things you create. Write what you need to hear, and the chances are you’ll help someone else in the process.

  • Stephen King is Right About Reading

‘Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life.’ – Stephen King, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

  • And Maya Angelou was Right About Creativity

‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’ – Maya Angelou

  • You Can Learn A Lot from Other Writers

As well as constantly analysing how my favourite writers put words together, I’m fascinated by the practicalities too. Where do they write and for how long each day? What’s their average output? Do they edit as they go? I’ve picked up plenty of tips and tricks over the years simply by studying the rituals and habits of other, more accomplished writers.

  • But You’ve Got to Find Your Own Way of Doing Things

What works for one writer might not work for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try a different approach.

  • Writer’s Block is Real and Inevitable

When asked about writer’s block, Chuck Palahniuk said something to the effect of, ‘when you don’t have to take a shit, do you sit on the toilet?’ It’s a sentiment I’m inclined to agree with. Over time, you can learn how to write when you feel like you can’t, but it’s important to realise some days just aren’t for writing and that’s OK. In many ways, non-writing activities are an essential part of the creative process. Your subconscious needs time and space to untangle your thoughts and good ideas need to marinate and rest.

  • You Will Never Remember in the Morning

Those ideas you have just before bed? Write them down. The same goes for ideas that come to you in the shower/on the school run/while you’re cooking dinner. Whether you decide to keep a notebook handy or use one of the various apps available these days, don’t let your good ideas get away.

  • Always, Always Proofread

I almost hit publish on this post with only 11 things on my list. This makes 12.

  • Whether you’re new to the blog or you’ve been with me since the beginning, thanks for reading. Here’s to another 12 years writing online and all the lessons we’ll learn along the way.

Love Audrey xxx

P.S. 7 Questions About Writing and My Career

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