I get asked about how to become a writer a lot — how to land a writing job, how to pursue it as a career. One of the people who I work with as their editor asked me this recently, and I don’t know, maybe it might help someone else, too.
I really, really enjoy writing. And I FEEL like I’m alright at it. But I enjoy writing soft stuff, you know? Instead of like in your face, political debates or things about current events, if that makes sense. And obviously I have so much growing and learning to do to better the craft. But just wondering your thoughts, as you come across lots and lots of aspiring writers, and as a successful writer yourself, do you see potential for a beginner like me to maybe make a career out of this someday? I would love to do something along the lines of what you do - just wondering like where you started and how it progressed to where you are now.
This one is tricky because writing, to me, is the strangest career even as I do it now. I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to make a living out of being a novelist, or a freelancer for magazines, for example, and in fact, I am where I am now (my first real job-job after nannying was as a receptionist, who then bullied her way into being the web-copy editor at a media collective) because I was pretty relentless. I do know that for any job that involves writing, you have to be relentless. You really have to believe in your words. I do think you need to have a natural knack for expressing yourself, and that you should believe in your words, and any good editor will see potential in them — it’s just a matter of finding that editor and finding that common ground of the kind of edits and advice that can help you, and reconciling the advice that doesn’t feel like you.
As for what you like to write, there’s definitely a market for the soft stuff, but one of the biggest things you can do as a writer is prove your versatility. Those people who can are rare, though they do exist. Or at least you can try to learn to be able to do it all, and it’s this willingness to try that is an unqualified skill. Not everyone is brave enough to try.
No, it’s unlikely someone is going to pay you the equivalent of a month’s rent for poetry about your cat. So spend 50% of your time writing poetry about your cat and the rest of it on writing you enjoy that also brings in money. — Diana Vilibert (which I first read on my coworker Chelsea’s Tumblr, which is fitting because she is the person who gave me my professional writing start)
The bulk of what I do now is not writing, but editing and working with writers who are just beginning to step into their voices. And I genuinely love it, not least of all because it gives me time to write what I want when I want to write it. But even then, I have to still think with my editor’s mind. I have to be a one-stop shop for myself. And being my own harshest critic works here. Actively keeping myself from sticking to any one style helps, too.
Don’t limit yourself to just wanting to write about one thing. That one thing might lose its charm over you after any number of months or years, and you’ll have to learn how to write about something else. Or maybe you’ll realize you have a skill that someone else doesn’t have. You could write copy in an ad agency; you could do social media; you could do PR; you could do a lot of things just with the ability to write. And you will write on the side. Everyone always bemoans that, but it’s true. If you love writing, you’ll do it anyway. It’s not an inglorious thing to channel your writing skills into a marketable talent. Writing is a real marketable skill, and if you work well with others, and meet deadlines, and harness that natural talent and never stop trying to get better, you’re that much closer to being golden.
(And if you find out that you are totally unemployable otherwise, as some writers notoriously are, then you will be a writer. And you will find a way to make it work.)
Keep writing. Keep writing what you want to write, because that is always a great enough start, a noble enough start — any start is, because it is active. Just find your niche, and find out what makes you stand out from every other writer in the world. I’m happy to do as much as I can to help you do that, in any way I can.
You have potential, really. The fact that you want to pursue your potential is enough to expand on that. But the word “writer” doesn’t tell the whole story. You are not NOT a writer just because your email signature says something different. You will always be a writer. Writers, no matter their other titles, will always be writers at their core. Nobody can take that away from you. You play with thousands of words every day. So do I, I just do it a little differently most of the time.
Never rule out anything just because it isn’t the cookie cutter version of what you think you believe; you might find that you like it, after all. But you have to at least be relentless, and try.
@1 month ago with 12 notes