Becoming a published writer can be tricky to navigate. Now that many of us are working from home and have a bit more free time, stretch goals like writing an article or even a book may feel a bit more realistic. In this podcast, we chat with Eliza Blanchard who is the Learning & Development content manager at the Association for Talent Development– ATD – to discuss what it takes to get published. She has several recommendations including how to get started, what writers should focus on, and how to get past imposter syndrome as a new writer.
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Transcription of the Conversation with Eliza Blanchard
Brian Washburn: Welcome, everybody, to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a weekly podcast about L&D stuff. And we try to be real quick. Today here we are sitting with Eliza Blanchard from ATD and TD Magazine, somebody who I’ve worked closely with when it comes to getting some things written.
Publishing 6-Word Introduction
Brian Washburn: And, Eliza, as we get started here as we normally do, we oftentimes start by just having our guests introduce themselves with a six-word memoir. My life can be summed up in the following six words: “I want to write a book”. What’s six words that summarize who you are?
Eliza Blanchard: “Grateful to be a professional learner.”
Brian Washburn: Nice, nice. And that is good, because you work for ATD, the Association for Talent Development. So that seems like it is a good fit when it comes to your life mission in six words and your organization.
I wanted to talk with you. I’ve had a chance to write a number of different articles for TD Magazine, I’ve had a chance to write in an issue of TD at Work. I’d love to hear from you in terms of what you think is the best thing about having the opportunity to work with so many different writers.
Working With a Wide Variety of Writers
Eliza Blanchard: Yeah, so I work in content acquisition. So I’m usually working with authors at the beginning stage of the process, helping them develop their article idea, giving them an overview of what the process of writing for ATD entails. And I love working with talent development professionals, because people in the field almost always love what they do.
And I’m always so amazed when I ask people to write for us that they’re not just willing but really eager to share lessons they’ve learned. And they really want to contribute to the talent development community. And particularly with people who are newer to the field, and people who maybe have used TD Magazine as a resource in the past, and they’re familiar with it as a resource, they’re often very excited to contribute. And the role I play is often validating that they themselves are experts, and they have really good ideas that are worth publishing. And that’s really rewarding and a lot of fun.
What Motivates Writers to Share Their Expertise?
Brian Washburn: Yeah. And so it sounds like you talk with a lot of people who, A, have a lot of passion and, B, have some things to share. What do you think are some of the other motivations for people to volunteer their time and their expertise and writing an article? And when you think about this– so this is a two-part question. When you think about this, how do people get past this whole idea of imposter syndrome, right? I have something to share, but is it really going to be good enough for people to read?
Eliza Blanchard: Yeah. So, I think, when looking at motivations, there’s two primary kinds of motivators for two different categories of authors. And so for people who have been in the field a while, writing for TD Magazine is often a way of giving back to newer professionals, sharing the lessons they’ve learned along the way. So they really see it as a way of giving back to a field that really helped them in their career.
For people who are newer to the field, an article can help credentialize them, show their expertise on the topic, maybe even help them clarify their own thinking around the topic. And, I think, that’s the audience where you sometimes see that imposter syndrome. People who have not been in the field as long, and maybe have a lot of familiarity with some of the big names, and are wondering, does my article belong in an issue of TD Magazine alongside theirs?
And, I think, what I try to tell people in that setting is it’s so valuable for us to have content not just from subject matter experts and thought leaders– of course, it’s great to hear what they’re working on– but it’s also incredibly valuable to have content from people who are in the role as practitioners and as practitioners at all different stages. So big and large companies, people who have been doing it for 20 years, and people who have been doing it for a short period of time, because we at ATD want to make sure that the resources we’re putting out are helpful for all of those different audiences and relevant to them. And the best way to make sure we have relevant resources for all different kinds of talent development professionals is to have people from all different levels of career write for us.
Does a Writer Need More Than a Great Idea?
Brian Washburn: So when people are thinking, “hey, I have an idea and, I think, this would be a great article”, what else should they be thinking about or considering? Is just having a great idea enough? Or, is there something else that people should be thinking?
Eliza Blanchard: Having a great idea is definitely the best place to start, but there are some specific questions that prospective authors can ask themselves to help focus their idea. And some of those questions might be, what’s your talent development function doing that’s interesting, and unique, and that others may want to learn about? What processes or improvements have you implemented that have been successful? Are there any tips or best practices you can share about designing training and developing employees? How did you approach a talent development challenge and successfully overcome it?
So, basically, we look for articles that offer unique specific and practical insight into talent development. So thinking through some of those questions can definitely help get you there. And then the other thing I would say is that the first thing we’ll need from prospective authors is an article outline with the major ideas you plan to address in the article, and then some supporting points for each of those ideas. And, I think, drafting an outline before you approach us with your idea first of all allows us to more quickly review your idea and provide feedback. But, I also think it helps the authors figure out the direction they want to take and whether their original idea does, in fact, work well as an article.
What Opportunities are Available for Getting Published?
Brian Washburn: All of that sounds really familiar. The other thing that I’ve heard from some of the editors that I’ve worked with is also, what are the results that you have? It’s great you have this idea, but what results came of it, which is also something that I’ve always been told to think about. When it comes to just getting published, is TD Magazine the best place to start for someone? Are there other getting-published opportunities out there that people might want to be thinking about?
Eliza Blanchard: I think it always depends, and the magazine can be a good place to start for some people. But it is a print magazine, which means we have a longer production schedule. And so for people who are newer writers, they’re not going to get immediate feedback right away. And they might find it valuable to get feedback a little more quickly and test out their idea in a shorter lifecycle than is the case for a print magazine. And so if you’re interested in that, I think, writing blogs or LinkedIn posts is a really great way to test out an idea and get more immediate feedback.
If you’re an ATD member, you can post blogs on our website or other user-generated content. And I also work with contributors on posting “insights” which are shorter blog-style articles that also run on our site. And, I think, those can all be potentially easier points of entry for newer writers.
Top Tips for Someone Starting to Write an Article
Brian Washburn: How about for those who are just looking to get started? Do you have like three tips, your top three tips, for somebody who’s just looking to get started writing an article?
Eliza Blanchard: First of all, if you have a good idea, don’t be overly concerned about being the perfect writer. That’s what our editorial team is here for and will help you along the way. And building on that is the idea of sitting down and writing a formal article is intimidating. Imagine you’re writing an email to a colleague about a cool new idea you have or a successful project you’ve just wrapped up, and, I think, sometimes beginning the process framing it as an email can take some of the pressure off, and allow you to write more freely, and concentrate on the ideas. And then, finally, keep in mind that for ATD’s audience, our articles are really practical and action-oriented rather than academic in tone, and you can check out our full rating and submission guidelines at TD.org/TD.
Brian Washburn: I loved this conversation, because, I think that getting published is something that a lot of people want to do. So thank you so much, Eliza, for just sharing some thoughts and ideas in terms of how to actually make that happen.
Get to Know Eliza Blanchard
Brian Washburn: Before we go, we’d love to just do a little bit of a speed round. So we have three quick questions that could be answered very quickly. So the first question here is, what is your go-to brain food before you sit down to write something?
Eliza Blanchard: Chobani coffee-flavored Greek yogurt.
Brian Washburn: That’s very specific. I like it. Is there a book that you think that people should be reading?
Eliza Blanchard: Yeah. So I was a history major, and I now work in talent development. So I recommend the book Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It really bridges those two interests of mine.
Brian Washburn: I love that. And I love her writing. The last one I have here is, what’s one piece of writing tech that you can’t live without?
Eliza Blanchard: So for a millennial, I’m actually pretty low tech. But a lot of the writing I do is collaborative. So any kind of shared doc, I find really helpful.
Brian Washburn: That’s interesting. Do you use a lot of Google Docs or other things when you’re working on projects?
Eliza Blanchard: I often do. I think in the work that I’m doing, I know that there’s going to be at least one other set of eyes on it and, oftentimes, a lot more both within ATD and, sometimes, externally as well. So I do find Google Docs to be really helpful for that.
Brian Washburn: Thank you so much, Eliza.
Eliza Blanchard from ATD is our guest today. For those of you who are looking to subscribe to Train Like You Listen, you can subscribe on any of your podcasting platforms, whether it’s Spotify, or iTunes, or anything like that. If you have any comments, please go ahead and drop it down below in our comment section. And stay tuned for our next podcast for next week. Thank you, everyone, for listening.
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