Many people dream of earning a living as a writer. The thought of spending their working hours earnestly sipping a latté at the local coffee shop while typing out their masterpiece, or secluding themselves in a mountain retreat to create volumes of soulful poetry can sound very appealing. The reality, however, is not quite as enchanting. If you want creative writing to be your career, here are a few things you should know.
- You are special – just like everybody else. Breaking into the writing game is like making it as a signer. Not only are you up against those that have classically trained, your competition also includes the naturally gifted and at times, even those with no talent whatsoever. Creative writing is the same. You can train at the best journalism school, you can have a plot for a great novel or you can write poetry that would make Lord Byron weep, but that does not you will be (a) noticed (b) scouted out, and most importantly (c) paid. Talent scouts are not hanging out at the coffee shop looking for writers. Publishers, magazine and newspaper editors need only sit back and wait for the writers to come to them. And they do. In droves. The talented, the trained, the untrained, the untalented – your competition is anyone that can pick up a pen or type on a keyboard. Standing out and getting noticed among the many, many other writers out there is a combination of skill, talent and tenacity. Which brings me to my second point….
- Creative writing is over 80% tenacity. It takes a very strong person to face rejection after rejection and that is exactly what is going to happen when you start shopping your novel around or looking for writing assignments. There is only one way to get past this fact and that is to keep trying. If you want to be in the creative writing game, you’ve got to get used to hearing the word “no”. If you have talent, are professional in your approach, and can produce a good product, you will eventually hear a “yes”; but you have to be strong enough not to give up before you get that yes.
- You can’t afford that latté. Forget sitting in the coffee shop with your expensive drink. Dream instead, gentle reader, of the humble picnic table at the park with a thermos of coffee you brewed at home. Did I mention that while you are hearing “no” and waiting for your “yes” nobody is paying you? Take heed, creative writing enthusiasts: you will need an income stream independent of your desired goal. Building a career in creative writing takes time. Building it to the point where you can be self sufficient with it takes years. The reason why stories of the person that sends their manuscript in a shoebox to an editor and winds up with a runaway best seller that gets adapted into a movie are so newsworthy is because the chances of that happening are very rare. So rare that when it does happen, it hits the news. It makes for a good story because that writer has beat impossible odds. Could it happen to you? Maybe. But don’t quit your day job.
These words are not to discourage anyone interested in creative writing. I am a creative writer and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love what I do and I whole heartily encourage hopeful writers to follow their dreams. I do, however, want anyone interested in creative writing to approach it from a real standpoint. If you want creative writing to your career, treat it like a business. Make a plan for how you are going to market yourself. Choose a target audience. Research your chances of success in your chosen genre. Check out your options for being published and tailor your work for your audience. Don’t expect to strike it rich; make sure you have an income source to sustain you as you build your writing brand. Most of all, though, don’t stop dreaming. It is not easy to make it in the creative writing field, but it is not impossible either. If that is what you have your heart set on, pick up your pen, dust off your laptop, and get to work. Just remember that that is what it is: work. You are the boss, the employee, the manager, the supervisor and the only person you can depend on to make it work. When you succeed and get published, it will feel amazing. Make sure you celebrate. Treat yourself to that latté.
About The Author: Nerissa McNaughton is the founder of the freelance writing company I’m Write. She loves create writing and the occasional latté.