With over 200 million copies of his works in print, the late L. Ron Hubbard is the author of dozens of international bestsellers. Two of the most famous are Dianetics (more than 20 million copies in print) and Battlefield Earth (over two million sold). His published works include 5,000 writings and 3,000 recorded lectures.
A newspaper reporter once asked Hubbard if he had any advice for budding writers. Mr. Hubbard replied,
“Write and write and write and write. And then when you finish, write some more. It may not be original advice, but it is still quite true. You learn to write by writing. Don’t try to learn HOW to write in order to write. Just take an idea and go with it. You may find a story that pulls you along. The story takes off on its own. The main thing is to write and learn the business of writing—that tough market you have to live with.”
Hubbard’s advice is even more apt today in the Internet era than it was back in the pulp magazine days when he was a prolific story writer.
Too many people buy every content writing, copywriting, and Internet marketing course … attend every webinar and conference … and as a result spend all their time learning how to do these things — but almost no time actually doing them.
Don’t get me wrong. You can learn from instructional materials, books, and courses. But if that’s all you do, you will never develop much as a writer.
To get to the stage of a competent professional, you have to write — a lot. Even if you are lazy, the bad news is that you can’t get around this: To learn writing, you must write a lot.
To become decent at writing or most other things, you have to practice them for about a thousand hours, according to Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Ford, and me.
Let’s say you have a 9-to-5 job and can dedicate yourself to writing two hours after work each day, Monday through Friday. At 10 hours a week and 50 weeks a year, you’ll log the requisite 1,000 hours in just two years, at which time you’ll be a competent writer.
So it really doesn’t take that long to put in the time needed for becoming a good writer. The problem is, when you get home from work, you’re exhausted from your hard day and long commute. You are tired and have many other tasks and errands to do, including helping your kids with their problems, making dinner, paying bills, fixing a broken table leg, whatever.
Solution: Put in your two hours a day early in the morning when everyone else is asleep (I start at 6 a.m.) or at night when the house is calmer (my wife works way past midnight).
If you can’t do that, you must question whether writing is a priority in your life at this time.
Perhaps it is not. Nothing wrong with that. I play clarinet, but find very little time to practice. I want to play better. But it is not a priority in my life. So I probably won’t get much past my current level.
So don’t look for a clarinet CD from me anytime soon.
Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant with more than 25 years of experience in business-to-business, high-tech, industrial, and direct marketing.