When I was new to content writing, I stumbled around quite a bit. I admit many of my early pieces read like junior high book reports, and I struggled with terms like SEO and HTML and hyperlink. What was a page ranking, anyway? And why should I care what a panda bear thought about my writing? I felt pretty bewildered, and then I happened across my first writers’ forum. It was as if the sun had burst through the dark, glowering clouds that had gathered over my little writing desk. Here were people doing what I was doing, who not only understood my struggles, but were eager to share their own hard-earned knowledge with me, a lowly newbie.
If you haven’t joined a forum yet, wade in! There are tons of writers’ forums out there that are open to the public: the Poets & Writers Speakeasy, Absolute Write’s Water Cooler, the Writer’s Digest forum, to name a few. Many of the larger web content providers also have private forums set up for the specific use of their registered stable of writers. Why should you join one? The benefits are nearly endless. Here is just the tip of the iceberg:
- Camaraderie – The writing life is a lonely one. Many of us work from home with only our trusty laptop for companionship. Even if there are other family members around, it’s not the same as having working colleagues. No one can quite appreciate the thrill of finishing six five-hundred-word articles in half a day like someone who knows just how much effort that represents. And when you feel the sting of rejection and start to wonder whether you should be writing at all, who better to talk you off the ledge than the folks who have been there?
- Technical support – Forums are a great place to ask technical questions of all sorts. Having trouble with Windows 8? Someone out there will probably know the answer. Can’t remember whether it’s “who” or “whom?” Someone on the forum will know. And, if you’re writing for a site that has its own word processor, no one will know that system better than the other writers who are using it. So, ask away. You will be pleasantly surprised at how generous total strangers can be with their time.
- Tricks-of-the-trade – Writing is a craft of the mind. Even when your software and hardware are running smoothly, you can still have problems. On forums, I have learned how to use seemingly impossible keywords seamlessly. I learned to change the font and size of my text for that last read through. It works. A typo you’ve missed a dozen times will stand out like an avocado in the onion bin. I also perfected my blogging voice. “Just channel Mike Rowe,” one beneficent member told me. You know, Mike Rowe from TV’s “Dirty Jobs.” On his show, the man is irreverent and a little quirky, but always factual and to the point. Trust me, it’s the perfect blog voice. See? This post doesn’t sound one bit like a book report.
If you’re a freelancer, you know writing is its own kind of dirty job. Don’t overlook the writers’ forums; advice, support and friendship are just a click away.
Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.