Article by Laurise McMillian | Owl Staff
Being a writer isn’t as easy as it may seem. It requires revisions, honing, and most importantly, help. As an aspiring writer who wanted to improve, I turned to writing pro Rachel Simmons for expert advice.
Simmons is most known for her incredible contributions to “girl world.” Through her organization, The Girls Leadership Institute, Simmons empowers, educates, and inspires young women to be bold, brave, and proud of who they are. Simmons also supports the female community through her advice column on TeenVogue.com. She offers insight on everything from college transitions to body peace.
In addition to her column, Simmons has also penned numerous novels, including Odd Girl Out – a bestseller that was later transformed into a Lifetime Original Movie.
As you read on, this entrepreneur sounds off on what she thinks it takes to become an awesome writer.
Take interest in other artistic mediums. Simmons says, “I’m very passionate about music. Music is a place where I unleash some of my energy–even if that just means finding music that speaks to me.” Get into a beginner’s painting class or try hip-hop dance. An ulterior outlet will keep the creative juices flowing and may even contribute to your writing.
“The most important thing you can do if you want to improve your writing is write every day. An advice column for Teen Vogue might just be 300 or 500 words, but a book may be 80,000 words. Sometimes you’ve got to commit to doing something for a long period of time, and you’ll end up going through a journey that’s very up and down. Practicing will make you a better writer; it will make you a more disciplined writer. It will teach you to stick with it even when you don’t want to – and I think that’s a big part of becoming a writer.”
“Over the last few years I realized that people really like hearing my own story, and that really surprised me! I always thought that as a writer that I should be a vehicle for telling other people’s stories, but now I think people want to hear mine just as much. I want to be an authentic voice for women and girls because the reality is that a lot of people don’t talk about what’s really going on in their lives. My goal is to tell it like it is, and be vulnerable so that other people can connect and be vulnerable as well.”
“Pursue your dreams regardless of other people’s expectations of you (even your parents). Once you leave school you are on your own, and you are the one who has to go to work every day, not your parents. You’ll have to make a life of the major that you choose, and you will have to use that major to create your own path. If it’s not a path that you feel good about, it’s going to make that journey so much more stressful, painful and challenging. If you want to be a writer, become a writing major–not a medical major. It may be easier said than done, but it’s worth it in the end.”
Set realistic goals:
“A lot of people set themselves up for failure because they are so ambitious and they are passionate about making a change, but you have to be realistic and realize that you have to dedicate yourself to small incremental change. I think that writing is a muscle, and when you’re trying to develop a muscle, you can’t do it all at once. You can’t just start bench-pressing 300 pounds as soon as you hit the gym. My advice would be to start writing for 15 minutes a day for a week, and then the following week try for 25 minutes.”
Get a mentor:
“I never went to any kind of writing program or joined any writing group, but I did have support from an older woman in my life who was an editor. She was willing to help me – she believed in me,” Simmons shares. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your writing professors or even professionals who are working in the industry. Utilize social media and follow your favorite authors and journalists. It’s important to seek feedback and receive insight from people who have been in your shoes.