According to the movies, there are two types of writers. One lives in a country cottage, drinks tea with rabbits, and writes children’s books. The other holes up in a dark attic, punctuates swigs of black coffee with cigarettes, and writes horror and science fiction novels.
Dramatism aside, writing as a career can be intense. There will be brief periods of furious creativity and unbearable stretches of writer’s block. You may be plagued with self-doubt or lose your passion for the craft. Read on to see how you can survive a career in writing and come out on top.
Choose your own adventure
Writing for a career does not have to mean becoming a best-selling author. There are many types of professional roles that fall under the umbrella of writing. For instance, you could be an academic research writer, a blog writer, a investigative journalist, a newspaper editor, a social media content creator, or a political speech writer.
Choose your niche depending on your career aspirations, your interests, and the way you work best. For instance, blog writers often work on several briefs at a time with short deadlines. However, blog posts are typically easier to write and have fewer word requirements than certain manuscripts that can take days to complete.
Some writers thrive on open briefs while others prefer to have a well-defined guidelines to work within. If creating original content is your forte, you may want to be a feature writer for a magazine. If you specialize in communicating established information, then you are perfect for writing instructional texts.
There is more than one way to have a writing career and you can start with a combination of several paths to see which suits you best.
Practice makes (almost) perfect
Like any pursuit, you can only gain skills and techniques through hard work and practice. Although writing is a largely creative activity, you still need to put in the hours to hone your skills. Approach writing like any other vocation and make it a habit to write something new every day.
You can also improve your writing by reading more. Broaden the range of materials that you read and study how each piece is written. Try to apply what you have learned the next time you write. Write snappy sentences. Or ramble on and see if you can mimic Kerouac’s spontaneous and meandering style.
Focus on your role as the creator. Make use of convenient tools to perform proofreading duties such as the essential spelling and grammar check. Free yourself from the shackles of perfection. Your writing style evolves with time and there is truly no such thing as perfection, especially when it comes to a writer reading their work.
Time is on your side
Gabriel García Márquez did not write One Hundred Years of Solitude until he was forty and Richard Adams was 52 when he published his first book, Watership Down. While there is immense pressure to be successful, it helps to see writing as a lifelong skill that gets better with age and practice.
To have longevity in your writing career, you need realistic expectations. Rejection is part and parcel of being a writer, especially if you are an author or journalist. Manuscripts and articles are often knocked back by publishers and editors, and it can take several submissions before you find someone who accepts your piece.
This is why you must build a healthy relationship with writing and pursue it as a passion. Of course, there will be times when you get frustrated. You may even feel that writing has become just a job. Be sure to devote some time to writing just for fun so you can find your joy again. Meeting other writers can also help you to find support and stay positive.
Be open to opportunities
Through the course of your career, you may be offered numerous opportunities that may seem irrelevant. A friend may ask if you would like to write copy for their company website or the local theatre may need a screen-to-stage adaptation of a film script. These are amazing opportunities for you to explore your writing voice and extend your range.
Remember that a writing career can span decades. Taking part in various projects will get you more exposure and experience. If you are concerned about diluting your reputation in a particular niche by taking on extraneous assignments, consider using a pseudonym.
Stanley Lieber originally used the pseudonym ‘Stan Lee’ for his comic book writing because he wanted to be a serious author. Following the success of his Marvel comics, however, he changed his legal name to match his pseudonym. This goes to show, you never know what will happen when you take on a different challenge. So, be sure to keep an open mind.
Crafting and sustaining a career in writing takes more than talent. It takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance. A writing career is built on the foundation of time and effort. By putting in the practice, refining your skills, and taking a few calculated chances, you may one day find yourself enjoying a fulfilling and successful writing career.