When I finally (after ten years of trying) received my degree, I was thrilled. And, deep down I still harbored the thought I could one day use my degree for its original intent, other than just decorating the wall of my library. But, living in rural West Virginia, opportunities are few. I started this blog with the intent of providing a kind of journal about my attempt to become a published author. So, here is what has happened thus far, just for the record’s sake.
Typically, I don’t write about personal items on this blog, as it is intended to be a guidebook of sorts. But, I’ve come into a couple of things that have really helped move me forward on the journey. The first thing happened long before I even thought of doing a blog. I went back to school to get my degree.
While a degree in literature or writing is certainly not a requirement for becoming a writer, the measure to which it helps is immense. Not only do you learn the basics of good writing, you also get feedback and exposure to people and opportunities difficult to access or find on one’s own.
The best opportunity I received was an internship to a writing conference in my home state. This happened at the very beginning of my journey when I decided to immerse myself in writing scholarship. The conference was amazing, and greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding of writers and writing. I made lifelong friends, one of which got me involved in his local writing group. This also proved greatly influential. Writers should always have trusted readers who can provide critiques and responses to your work. The more honest the better.
Through that friend, I made other friends, and became swept up in their own personal journeys. That is how I found myself on a sketch comedy and improv team. I didn’t plan for that to happen, but I readily accepted it when it came my way. That led me in the direction of sketch writing, and two of those sketches were produced, and the audience really seemed to enjoy them.
Again, through that friend, I made other friends. One of those friends just happened to run an online newspaper, and when someone suggested me to be a writer for him, he called me.
As a side note, this all happened while I had lost my job and was in desperate need of some income.
The point is, I’m now being paid to write, and other opportunities will open up because of that. My original plan had been to become a professor, and to write on the side. Well, that’s not where I’m at, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still happen. In fact, should I get the job I recently applied for, it could mean free graduate courses, or at least reduced ones.
So, here’s my advice to any new writers, or maybe those more experienced writers who can’t seem to break into writing professionally.
1. Attend conferences or any other literary event in your area. Go to author signings and support your fellow writers. Go to book festivals, writing panels, free classes, and workshops. Immerse yourself in the world in which you wish to exist. The people you meet, from beginners to experts, will give you more knowledge than any book on the subject. Nothing will happen in a vacuum, unless you happen to be a writing genius, but quite frankly, that is rarely the case.
2. Be ready to accept opportunities when they come your way. We learned some things in improv that apply to this. Say, “yes” to offers, and silence your inner critic. This is valuable advice, whether you’re doing improv, or trying to change your writing horizons.
3. Write outside your chosen field. I never would have said I’d be a journalist. But, you know what? It is really satisfying being paid for words I put on the page. My words. If it comes down to me being a journalist, or a customer service rep, I’m going to be a damned journalist! Get paid for your writing. Check online for any jobs in the writing field. Online Writing Jobs is a great site for writers. You can find anything from single editing projects to full-time writing positions. Writing online content is also a great way to break in. Think of it this way: you need a body of work you can point to when it comes time for an employer to read your resume. Though mine reads like and madman put together my work experience, it means I have things I can show as an example of my abilities.
4. And, finally. Create your own opportunities. How? Is there a writing group in your area? If not, create one. Get people excited about writing. Is there a writing conference? If not, look into starting a couple of small workshops. If you’ve gone to conferences as suggested, you’ll have a pool of people you can ask to help you. Get creative. I started a Halloween writing contest to encourage children to write. I’m hoping that will eventually turn into a school sponsored writing group at local schools.
You have to be proactive if you want to write for a living. It is a difficult road to take alone. Talent will not always win out over the obstacles life throws at us. While I may not be on the path I had hoped for, at least that piece of paper is slowly providing a return on my very large investment.
Until next time, write on.