Want to start writing for a living?

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Most people can write to some extent, just as most people can walk. However, those who walk don’t claim to be able to trek across the world, while I’ve heard many people say, “I could write a screenplay” or “I have a book in me”.

If you want to start writing, you should. It’s the only way to see if it suits you and if you have the drive and patience for it. Writing regularly is a great form of self-expression and hones the mind. Writing for a living, however, is a very different endeavour. Practise, focus and commitment are vital. Whether trekking the globe or writing well, you have to show up on a daily basis, be open to learning (and criticism) and work hard.

When it comes to writing, we often only imagine the finished product, edited and flowing on the page. For the uninitiated it can appear deceptively easy to recreate. Perhaps if they saw the moments when writers pace their rooms, mad-eyed, trying to structure a cunning plot, or spend days coming up with the names of mythical towns to find they’ve been copyrighted by someone else… they may understand. It can also take years to write and edit a manuscript in amongst the bustle of normal life. Perhaps that’s why, out of the 80% of people who say they would like to write a novel, only 1% do*.

If you’re still interested (and of course you are), it helps to move away from the romantic ideas associated with writing in order to just get on with it. Giving it all up to be an ‘artist’ is not very practical. For those who don’t know what it’s like to be poor, it’s not a happy state and certainly not conducive to creativity. Moreover, creativity doesn’t necessarily flood your mind carrying you to a dreamlike, art-producing state. Sometimes it is the most meagre trickle and you have to harness it nonetheless – particularly where deadlines are concerned.

Working through self-doubt is also important. When dreaming of writing, rather than doing it, your talent can seem far greater than it actually is. We all do this by the way. Before I’ve even lifted my pen, I imagine the glowing reviews or being on set as they shoot my script. But when faced with the reality of clunky phrases, heavy exposition or clichéd characters, self doubt marches in and shouts “I told you so!” and it can put both the fledgling (and the more seasoned) writer off altogether. What the sensitive creative must know is that writing is a process of self-discovery. It is also both art and craft and must be practised in order to become wonderful.

So, do write and write often. Be strict with your time, debunk the myths and get on with it! (It is actually really great.)

And for more ideas: this frank, amusing blog entry from Chuck Wendig is perfect for giving aspiring writers a good kick! http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/21/25-things-i-want-to-say-to-so-called-aspiring-writers/

*at least in the US where I found this figure several times.

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Taking Action

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Enough words have been exchanged; now at last let me see some deeds!                  Goethe, Faust  I

As a newbie freelancer I’m still learning the ropes of this self-employment malarkey. With most new things I tend to research a bit initially, but then I just get on with it and learn as I go. For instance, I deferred my entry to university back in ’97 to take a year out and work in France. I didn’t think much about it, in fact, my teenage thoughts went something like this:

Boredom + need money + interest in French + how can I can get an edge at uni* and not have to work as hard? = job in France!

I went to an interview, got on the Eurostar and then became terrified as I walked to work in my Cinderella costume (I was a waitress at Disneyland, Paris).

It was a totally amazing experience. A true ‘best of times, worst of times’ chapter in my life. For instance, I dropped an entire tray of wine glasses on my second day and got my French lingo so mixed up that I said rude words instead of food words. But the satisfaction I got from developing into a fluent speaker of another language was immense. There was also a wonderful social scene – people from all over the world work there – and, of course, there was Paris (je’taime). My experience transformed me from the daft teen I was to the beginnings of a proper woman (although that will always be a work in progress).

I applied a similar approach to my freelance career:

I like writing + need money + I am good at writing = let’s be a freelancer!

Obviously, my older brain thought about it a lot more than that, so I have somewhat abbreviated the process.

There’s always a reason not to do something. And if we leave it long enough our own inner debate/fear/critic will stop us from doing anything. So, yes, I believe that over-thinking can be highly counter-productive.

Action, on the other hand, inevitably brings about change. Whether for good or ill will depend on how comfortable you are with risking failure, or dropping entire trays of wine glasses in front of a room full of diners…

I don’t know where freelancing will take me, but I am willing to take the risk as I know how wonderful (or at least character building) taking such a risk can be.

Do you have any amusing or successful tales of taking action? Please feel free to share below.

*I was going to study French