Becoming a Writer: Small Steps to a Big Career
Humans have been writing words down for over five thousand years. Some seek a form of expression free of the anxieties and shyness of verbal communication, or are drawn to how far the written word can spread and its longevity. The question remains: How do you make it a career?
An important thing to keep in mind is that writing can entail many different careers in many different industries. Authors, screenwriters, journalists, and playwrights all exist in different work spheres doing very different things.
Ultimately, it all comes down to one principle: If you want to write, write. Make it a habit. Give yourself a goal to accomplish daily. It could be a journal entry, or perhaps 500 more words to the novel you are working on. If you have no idea whatsoever what to write, spend five minutes typing out a stream of consciousness. This is one of those rare cases where quantity is more important than quality. The vast majority of any writer’s work never sees the light of day.
In school, and everywhere else, you can divide everything you do into two groups: writing opportunities and writing inspirations. All writing projects are opportunities to find your voice. If the task is a dry one, such as a history essay, ask your instructor if you could write it as a piece of historical fiction.
Writing is fueled by experience. The challenges of math class and the situations in word problems could inspire a short story. Civics class is research for your political thriller. Everything you do either leads you towards a writing career, or inspires your writing career.
Outside of school, seek out opportunities to get your work published. You need credits to your name, no matter how small, so hunt online for sites and contests to submit your work. Author Karen Krossing offers a great resource of such sites: karenkrossing.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/Where-Young-Authors-Can-Submit.pdf. Getting your work on sites and magazines builds a portfolio for people to get to know you and your writing style.
As you get older, it will be important to network and meet people in the industry. Make friends with people who are also keen on a writing career or a career in the creative arts. They are not your competition – you can help edit each other’s works, and help each other seek out opportunities in the future. In university and beyond, meeting people in the industry is the best way to find paid writing work.
A writing career will not happen overnight. You will likely start with small freelance opportunities and grow from there. By writing daily and being open to inspiration from anywhere, you will build a portfolio and the skills for writing. By submitting your work and meeting new people, you will have a better chance of discovering opportunities to write and actually get paid for it. If you are devoted to the craft, you will be ready for when those opportunities arise.