The Write Attitude: Learn from the Best

Jennifer Applin
One of the best ways to figure out the real ins and outs of this business is to learn from the “pros.” Even without personally knowing them, picking their brain is easier than you think. It may be as simple as gleaning info from their websites (such as the names of publications you didn’t know exist) or actually sending them a quick email asking for their advice. Just don your networking hat and get to work. Here are some suggestions to consider:

– Do seek out any information they already offer. This may be in the form of online classes, seminars, e-zines, blogs, books, and writing forums they belong to. Don’t stalk them, but access the knowledge they readily share.

– Don’t ask questions they’ve already answered. You may be excited to learn from someone who has been there, done that, but do your research first. Check out their blog archives. Read their entire book. Make the best use of the generosity of their time by only asking questions they haven’t already addressed.

– Do remember that while many writers like to help out newbies, not all do. We’ve all been fledgling writers at some point and many of the pros remember this difficult time and want to help. Still, others will view you as competition and won’t be interested in giving you a helping hand. Don’t take this personally. They may feel that they had to learn the hard way and expect others to do the same.

– Don’t namedrop unless you’re given permission. Networking is important in this business, but just because you’re given an editor’s name doesn’t mean you should mention said gracious writer. Keep the sentence, “[Successful writer] said I should contact you,” out of your query unless you’ve specifically asked permission to use her name.

Learning from those who have been where you are and have grown to where you want to be is a good business practice. Their accomplishments can also be a great source of inspiration and learning. Just be considerate and remember that everyone’s path to success is unique, so heed all they have to offer, but pave the way that works for you.

Jennifer Applin is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and four young children. Aside from writing for many regional publications, she is regular contributor to and She spends her days cooking, cleaning and caring for little ones, and her nights writing about pregnancy, parenting, and the quest for peace (as in peace and quiet). You can also find her at Managing the MotherLoad.


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