Professional writing is a valuable way to make your stamp on the world. It is a way to share your thoughts, showcase your knowledge but also to build your reputations with colleagues near and far. There are many ways you can approach professional writing to build your brand.
Where can you start?
Our ideas about professional writing can sometimes be quite conservative, and based on a print publishing model in which a publisher publishes a journal, which is then distributed. But what if you self publish? Library blogs abound, and display varying levels of formality in their writing style. Some are mostly personal and anecdotal, such as Screwy Decimal. Some are more in depth, such as In the Library with the Lead Pipe. In some cases, professional journals and trade magazines have moved to online formats, blurring the lines between what we might think of as publication categories.
Writing doesn’t have to be long form to be professional. There are many librarians that have gained a professional reputation through their Twitter accounts, which they use to express their professional opinions and share their experiences. Tweeting the occasional photo of your cat probably doesn’t count as professional writing, but what if you were an active library tweeter? At the ILN we put a lot of effort into our Twitter presence, and see it as an essential part of our professional identity.
What could you write?
Writing for publication can be a rewarding but daunting experience. The first problem most people have is finding something to write about.
We mentioned above that most professional associations have publications, whether they are websites, magazines or professional journals. In many cases the editors of these publications are eager for new content. Consider contacting your country’s professional association and asking how you can write for them. If you are ready to make the leap into formal, peer reviewed writing, consider writing for the IFLA Journal. A couple of (non-exhaustive) listings of library journals can be found here, here and here.By talking to your ILN partner about your library, you may have gotten a sense of what you do that is different to other libraries. Have you considered writing about it? Starting with a trade magazine, blog, or other less formal publication can be a good way to develop your writing voice. At the ILN, we welcome contributions to our website about any aspect of libraries that may interest someone in another country. Would you consider writing for us? If you have something you’d like to write about, we welcome guest posts.
Writing does not have to be a solitary activity, and many articles and presentations are done collaboratively. If you are nervous about writing for publication, approach someone that you know that has done so before, and ask to collaborate with them. If you are an experienced writer, it may be worth asking a new professional to work with you on your next piece, to share your knowledge. You could even ask your ILN partner if they would like to write something with you – perhaps about your experience in the ILN and what you are learning from each other?
This post first appeared in a longer form on 3 May 2014.