GameSkinny's JTP - What I've Learned In 8 Weeks
For some writing is a hobby, others it's a means for food on the table. In the last eight weeks being involved with GameSkinny's Journalist Training Program (JTP), I've changed my tune on what I'd like writing to mean for me.
Thanks to numerous exercises and working out my writing muscles daily, I've learned a few things to hopefully better prepare me when looking for my first paying gig. Hopefully one day I can look back on this as a stepping stone to greater things.
Lets talk about how YOU feel
If you would've asked me last April when I started writing again, "do you really think you'll be able to make money doing this?" After the initial burst of laughter, I'd of told you "No." The JTP really made me do some soul-searching on the subject. Do I not take myself seriously enough? Is this just a fun hobby, or do I plan on feeding my kids with this career path?"
I used to be a musician and always enjoyed the attention, but more importantly I enjoyed the emotions felt creating that piece of music. Much like writing, I feel like I've accomplished something with each article posted. The feeling of knowing someone may actually enjoy your art, your opinion, your understanding of the industry - that feeling is like none other. That is what draws me to writing.
Through my head-in-the-clouds feelings 'n' all, the JTP kept me grounded. Not to say the editors knocked me down and rained on my parade, quite the opposite. They let me know what I was doing wrong, and how to fix it, daily. Not unlike a teacher, both Jay Ricciardi and Katy Hollingsworth (the only JTP editors) were very patient - and still are - with my lack of commas and understanding of proper punctuation.
Over the course of days and weeks, Jay and Katy repeated themselves over and over and my writing began to slowly improve. Along with better writing came better comments and notes from the editors. That in turn built up my confidence. Confidence, come to find out, is imperative in this industry. Despite my improvements, at times I'd measure myself to others, something that is not wise to do.
I went from having 10k views in 8 months, to an additional 10K views in 8 weeks(!). There were some other JTP-ers who were doing that on a daily basis. The feelings of inadequacy set in. My writing began to suffer briefly, making obvious mistakes, and having a pretty bad outlook on what I was doing. I eventually overcame this issue, but hate to admit it still happens.
Oh, I get it now
Part of the reason my views increased wasn't the fact I created some quality content. The JTP and its participants showed me how to use social media efficiently. With the basic knowledge and understanding of those sites, my page views increased.
Once I understood where to put content, I learned all about SEO tactics (Search Engine Optimization) from GameSkinny's very own Ashley Shankle. The series of articles encompass the basics of good titles, to tags in your articles, even how to link correctly in-article. One thing that stood out to me was knowing how to title an article, it can make or break the article in some cases.
For example I wrote about how Rock, Paper, Shotgun mistakenly thought a jazz musician named Eric Reed, was voice acting for a non-violent indie space sim, RymdResa. In reality it was a college kid with the same name.
Thanks to that week's challenge we had to write out 5 good, and 5 bad titles for a few articles and submit them for review. "Rock, Paper, Shotgun Misfired With RymdResa’s Voice Actor," was one of the alternate headings I sent in. The original was much longer, included their ages, names, and what happened. Needless to say, it was a rambling train wreck. Changing the title doubled the traffic on the article.
The importance of taking that extra step shows through so much when writing, from the research you do on the topic to taking time and playing with Google Trends. "What you put in to it, is what you'll get out of it," applies to the JTP, the games journalism industry, and life in general.
It's share time
What have I learned from the last 8 weeks? I've gained confidence in my writing. I've learned invaluable knowledge of SEO tactics. I've learned that I'm one in the hundreds of thousands vying for the same paid writing positions.
This is an industry crowded with talent, and that's scary. I've also learned this is something I want to pursue. I still have a lot to learn, but I want to learn. I want to grow as a writer, I want to experience success by doing what I'm passionate about.
However, I will not be returning for another session of the JTP. I feel I need to retreat into some books that will give me a better understanding of how to write, and how to thrive in this industry. I will however, continue to write for GameSkinny and be a part of its awesome community. Hopefully one day I can look back on this as a stepping stone to greater things.