Often, when writers are portrayed in film, they are already successful. If not, then they are the stereotypical “starving artist”, working a day job that they hate while waiting to catch their big break. Which they usually do.
I started out freelancing, and still do some of it on the side, but it was not at all an easy career. Trying to find clients in my area was my biggest problem, and I received a plethora of suggestions, such as: “You just need to get out there and network!”, or “It’ll happen, you just need to be patient!”. While this advice was well-meant, it was, unfortunately, useless.
“Networking”: seemingly a term that encompasses everything from having ridiculous amounts of success from cold calling and free ads to paying to attend conferences and making “valuable connections” that generally end up as empty promises. It’s not as simple, as easy, or as useful as it seems. The thing is, in order to make connections, you usually have to have an in. For a connection to turn into a client, they have to actually be serious about requiring your services. Making those come together is not always easy.
Then there’s “having patience”. Well, let me tell you right now that just waiting for something to happen does absolutely nothing for you. It isn’t even about taking action and then waiting for an outcome. To succeed at writing, you should never just be waiting. To catch a break you always have to be doing.
A break isn’t going to come to you randomly, at least not in my experience. It will only come if you are out there hunting it down. If you really want to be a writer, you should be trying to:
- find clients on the side
- look for one time contracts
- submit stories
- think about writing
- frequent job websites
- cold call
- apply for internships
- and, a million other things
You will never catch a break just because you write well. You will never catch a break by waiting for someone to find you. Breaks don’t happen like they do in the movies, they happen because you work your buns off to find them. You accept rejection and then let it go, you take criticism and suggestions and own them, you take any opportunity you can to improve your skill and to get experience.
That’s the difference between writing being a hobby and writing being a career. I have no real need to look for more work, but I do anyway. Why? Because I want to make sure that I continue to write about different things, in different ways. I want to make sure that I write the things that I want to, or about the things that I enjoy. I do it because I am always trying to move forward and because writing is my best and most prominent skill.
Though I am, by now, a fairly experienced writer, I still apply for internships with publishers, magazines, and so on. I still write stories and submit them when I can. I still do my best to write a blog every week even when I have to do it over two days in ten minute intervals. I do this because any success that I have had, or may have in the future, is success that I want to own. I want to know that it’s mine because I worked for it and I kept going even when the going was tough.
To catch a break, and I mean to have something good happen to your writing career, you cannot sit idly by and assume that because you have some talent, you will eventually be found and become famous. That’s not really how it works with writing.
The best way to think of it is that you will get what you give. The more effort that you put into becoming the writer that you want to be, the closer you will get. Think of any new offers or opportunities as rewards for your efforts instead of blind luck. You didn’t catch that break because of a fluke, you caught it because you fought for it. You got it because you wanted it. And if you didn’t get it, at least you can say that you tried, and that’s one step closer to getting the next one.
What do you do to better your career as a writer? Is it more of a hobby or career for you?
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