This morning, when I sat down to write this goodbye letter, I knew exactly what I was going to say. Then I received a text from one of The Pioneer’s new writers that changed the entire direction of this article.
“Thank you for helping me with my very first article and publishing it. It meant a lot to me and gave me more confidence as a writer. Best of luck to you,” she texted me.
I read this text message about three or four times and the words “gave me more confidence as writer,” kept echoing in my head throughout the day — and my heart felt full.
As I reflect on my time as Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer, there are so many moments that I am proud of. From day one, this newspaper has shown progress. In a year’s time, our team redesigned the paper, we put out special issues, we attended conferences and won awards. Over the last year, we have done really well for ourselves.
Regardless of all our achievements, that text message is my proudest moment. As a writer, I’ve been critiqued, told no and have had my work torn apart. For a while I didn’t pick up a pen because I was too afraid of what people would say. I had to push through and it wasn’t until I started writing for The Pioneer that I started to build my confidence in writing again.
Now a year later, I get to do that for other writers. My favorite moments at The Pioneer were sitting down with new writers and mentoring them.
I think it’s appropriate that for my last article for The Pioneer, I share some advice from my favorite moments. Here’s five tips I have for anyone who wants to write.
Your voice is unique.
The biggest issue that I hear from new writers is, “What do I write about?” My answer is always, “Anything.” Write about things that are interesting to you, don’t write to fill a quota. More importantly, remember even if someone else has written about it, that’s okay, nobody has your voice or opinion.
Editing is a necessary evil.
The first article I ever wrote for The Pioneer, someone said, “Who wrote this? Who is this Shannon Stroud? She needs to get in here and fix this.” I’ve had papers turned back to me covered in red and I’ve had people tell me start over and each time I hear that it, well it sucks, but ultimately it makes my work better. We get so attached to our words and how we arrange them that we don’t see the mistakes that fresh eyes do. Be open to editing, ask questions on why things are being changed, because it will only make you a better writer.
Good stories come from listening.
Some of my best stories came from listening to people in the community. If you are struggling to find topics to write about, go to a city council meeting, attend local events and listen. Listen to what people are talking about, what are they worried about, what’s making them tick? Listen, then talk to them, I promise you — they have a story to tell.
Write like you’re having a conversation.
I’ve had new writers turn in articles to me that sound like they pulled it straight out of a textbook. Sure, that’s okay if you are working on a thesis, but for most publications, write like you are talking to a friend. It makes your writing easier to understand and more personable.
The only way to become a writer is to start writing.
My dad always told me, “If you want to write, then write.” I get emails a lot from students who say, “I want to write,” but never follow up. The best way to start writing is make yourself accountable — that’s what I did. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t do it for myself quite yet. So I went to the newspaper, was assigned a story to write and there you go, I was consistently writing. So if you can’t commit to writing every day, find a way to make yourself accountable. The only way to become a better writer, is to write — so get started.
Good luck writers, I’ll miss you all.