The Golden Rules Every Writer Should Live Right By

Compiled by Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou, and Nina Terol-Zialcita

(Published as a sidebar in The Manila Times article “How to Jumpstart That Freelance Writing Career” –  April 12, 2010)

1. Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else; don’t try to use someone else’s voice. Know yourself. Discover yourself. Know what’s comfortable and what works for you. Readers will be able to sense if you’re trying to fake something, and that is always an awful feeling.

2. Be patient with yourself. This is actually related to number 1. It might take a while for you to find your voice, or to find projects that you will love working on, or to get a paycheck that you will be happy with. As with many other things, writing—especially freelance writing—is a journey. It will take time, patience, networking, study, trial-and-error, and A LOT OF PRACTICE. So give yourself the time and space to explore your craft and you will emerge from it a better, more effective communicator.

3. Be original. It’s important to know who you are as a writer. It’s okay to find inspiration from great writers, but don’t copy them.

4. Write whatever. Practice writing so you will be good at it. It doesn’t matter whether you write in your journal or blog, you just need to write whenever possible.

5. Always learn. Grab learning opportunities whenever you can – join writing workshops, seminars, and other activities related to your craft. You can never go wrong with investing on your education.

6. Be obsessive-compulsive. Never take anything for granted. It’s the details that matter from start to finish. When interviewing, take detailed notes but also pay attention to your subject’s body language. When writing, pay careful attention to grammar, grammar, grammar. Never turn in work with a lot of grammar or typo errors, thinking that someone will “edit it anyway.” Pay careful attention to sources, references, insights, and deadlines. Writing is a very creative act, but it’s also bound by a lot of parameters. If you want to succeed as a freelancer, you’ll have to balance the art and the DISCIPLINE behind writing.

7. Go out. Meet people. If you think that being a writer means staying at your desk and nailed down to your computer, then you are so wrong. You need to go out, meet people and observe, listen to their conversations. Everyone has a story to tell to learn from and may be even write about.

8. Get to know people. Empathy is a trait of any good writer. Uncover a subject’s motivations, passions and imagine putting yourself in their shoes. It will enable you to paint personality profiles, and get the most out of your subject during an interview.

9. Never let an idea run away. Always bring a pen and paper to immediately write down an idea the absolute minute it strikes you. You’ll never know when a good idea will hit, so it’s always good to keep a pen and paper handy. If you’re caught without a pen, you type in your idea into your phone.