So, you want to be a writer?
You should. Writing is awesome. It’s also one of those things that pretty much everyone has to do, but not that many people do well. Doing it well is what gets you paid. In theory.
Some of the doing it well part is training. A lot of it is reading. MOST of it is practice. The getting paid for it part is a little trickier. So, what’s my story? I got a job in a media company as a receptionist. Now I write scripts for marketing videos (commercials, essentially). I write and edit copy for websites. I use my writer training to turn hours of random event and interview footage into a story people can follow, using words other people have already said. I almost never answer the phone.
Writing about thermal imagers is not where I imagined myself, when I imagined myself a writer. But, I love it. I work in a creative space, with creative people, and I get to see my ideas and my scripts become a (nearly) tangible thing. To me, that actually beats sitting alone in a room typing out another novel. Writing scripts and marketing/ad copy has taught me as much about the craft as any class I’ve taken. It’s also opened doors for me to a creative world I barely knew existed.
That said, here are my 3 SIMPLE TIPS for being a professional writer:
1. WORDS ARE DISPOSABLE.
I don’t mean they’re not important, I just mean they’re a renewable resource. You won’t run out of words (even if you can’t find the one you’re looking for just when you need it). Actually, the more words you use, the more you seem find. Words are brilliant like that. So don’t get too precious about that “perfect sentence” you just wrote. There’s a chance it might not look so perfect in the morning. There’s a chance your client (who, inevitably, is not as clever as you) just won’t “get it.” By the time I finish any project, I’ve written roughly twice the number of words that actually get used. Sometimes the cutting away hurts, but it’s always worth it.
2. IDEAS ARE NOT DISPOSABLE.
You only get about 90,000 ideas in your lifetime and most of them are awful. Jumping off the roof with an umbrella? TERRIBLE IDEA. If you have a really great idea, you need to WRITE THAT THING DOWN. Immediately. Keep a book of all your brilliant ideas. Then, when you’re stuck and you’re on a deadline and your new client just gave the m’eh face about your brilliantly funny video concept, you can go back through your book of ideas and find another one that just might work. Or might inspire an even better new idea. But if you didn’t write that thing down – poof, it’s gone. So buy a moleskin. Fill it. Then buy another one. Then figure out a filing system. When you do that, call me, because I have books full of great ideas but no good way to reference them.
3. NOT ALL WRITERS WRITE BOOKS. Books are great. I’ve written several of them. Maybe, one day, people will even want to read them. But I don’t get paid to write books. Not very many people do, really. I know several published authors who don’t earn enough to quit their day jobs. I also know several who make a comfortable living cranking out series books like crazy. Very few people spark the public imagination in such a way as to earn millions of dollars (most of which, let’s be honest, show up when the book becomes a movie).
So if you really want to be a writer – be willing to write ANYTHING. Write articles for the school newspaper. Write a blog. Write letters. Write history essays like you’re trying to get them published.
Believe me; getting published is a lot harder than getting an A, so you may as well start working on it now.
About the Author:
Krista Quinby is a writer, editor, illustrator and script-doctor with a talent for simplifying the complex. Despite a superfluous MFA from the University of Notre Dame, she still manages to make a mostly honest living doing work she enjoys. When she’s not in the studio translating Engineer into Layman, or editing charm into CEOs, she can be found blogging at www.MILKandWhiskey.com.