“I've finally decided to take the plunge and give writing a go full-time. But the sheer enormity of the task ahead is making my head hurt and, writing aside, I just don't know what are the very first steps I should take - aside from the writing, of course. Any sage advice for a writing toddler would be very welcome.”
Three Ps. Practical. Proactive. Professional.
A writing career doesn’t happen overnight. If you’ve decided to take the plunge and live the dream, then that’s great, it’s very exciting. It’s also horrendously daunting, especially if you’ve severed normal job ties, and have nothing lined up to pay the bills.
So, look at your practical options. How am I going to make money while I build my writing portfolio to such a standard that I earn money from writing itself? Do I take a part-time job (likely) or can I get an industry related part-time job like script reading or script editing (preferable, but harder to achieve)?
Domestic issues will vary from person to person (married, kids, illness, disability etc) but you should ask yourself “what is the very basic income I need to survive? How am I going to achieve that?” Once these essential concerns are dealt with, then all effort can be focused on writing. But make sure you’re applying your energy in the right areas, like: new writing opportunities, Doctors, short films, and using all relevant contacts to nab potential writing gigs (corporate, commercial, internet).
A lot of writing opportunities will emerge not because of what you know and the quality of your writing, but who you know and the broad appeal of your personality. Get out there. Attend industry events. Make contacts. Start a blog or a MySpace page, or get a Facebook profile. Be friendly, supportive and positive. Don’t expect opportunities to come to your door. Go out and find them yourself.
Take responsibility for your writing. It’s not ‘them’, it’s ‘you’. The system doesn’t suck. The system exists for itself. In the process, professional courtesies may fall between the cracks. Sometimes, it may be understandable, occasionally it will be rude while other times it may be plain unforgivable. Get on with it. Let off steam with friends and fellow writers, but don’t burn bridges. Don’t take rejections personally. Take criticism on board but keep it in perspective. Stick to your conviction. Be assured about what you want to say. Develop your original voice. Realise the strengths of your writing and try to understand the weaker areas so that you can develop a balanced critique of your own material. Keep writing. Get your work out there. You never know what’s going to stick - where and with whom. Now, how much do you want it? Really? What are you prepared to do? Then do it.
And now, a fourth ‘P’. Patience. It’s going to take time. There’s going to be a lot of rejection and frustration that, hopefully, will be worth it for one or two moments of elation or validation, which will kickstart a writing career. But it doesn’t get easier. It gets harder. Competition is fierce. Opportunities are few and far between. Don’t get complacent or bitter. Stay focused. Keep writing. Take inspiration from your favourite films & TV shows, and the success stories of your peers. Be wary of writer envy. Everyone finds their own way to success; they don’t imitate others. There is no right way to go about it except by writing consistently good material. That’s what it’s all about. Your unique talent. Hopefully that will be enough to earn you a living, and, Disney time, give you the foothold to make all your dreams come true.