I’ve been asking myself this question for what feels like forever, but it’s really only in the last six months that I’ve begun to unearth the answers.
The simple truth is – there is no one way to become a writer, and really it all depends on what you actually deem a writer to be. If the benchmark is simply to be a person who writes something on a fairly regular basis then many of us have been writers all along. However, if you, like myself, wish to make writing the thing that pays your bills then it gets a little bit more complicated.
*A disclaimer here to say that I absolutely do not know what I am doing, not really. I’ve only just begun to make money from my writing and every time I have an idea for a piece I’m terrified that it might be my last. Still, there are so many guides around that are purely aspirational, written by people who are already incredibly successful, but there isn’t that many from people who are just starting out. Perhaps you don’t want to hear about me until I’m raking in six figures, but I know when I was starting out I really just wanted to ask someone who could really know what it was like to be in my shoes. We may be at the bottom of the heap, but at least we’re together.*
I’ve been studying journalism, communications and creative writing at university for the last three and a half years, and while I’ve always loved putting words on paper, it’s in this time that I’ve really learned to hone my skills and produce something that people might actually be willing to pay for. Encouraged by some of my lecturers to pursue my writing professionally, I joined the Young Australian Writers Facebook group. One of the biggest helps in my creative journey has been having a network of people to talk to. I highly recommend finding a community that you can engage with, regardless of what your aspirations are.
Once I was in this group I had access to countless resources, one of which is that editors too are in the group and often post call outs for pitches. This is how I got my first piece published. An editor put in a call out for stories that contained content that would be relevant to young Australians. I pitched a piece about my body image struggles, and then… *crickets*. If there is one thing I have learned since become a freelance writer it is that patience (of which I have very little) is the ultimate weapon in your arsenal. I didn’t hear back from the publication for over a month and by that point I was back into uni and had forgotten all about it. Then, out of nowhere, an email appeared in my inbox: “We loved your story and would very much like to work with you”. I think I very nearly had a heart attack.
Having that first piece published gave me the confidence to do some proper research into how to pitch, work out what it was that I actually liked writing about and eventually reach out to some new publications.
I wondered at the beginning if that delight at getting a yes to a pitch might fade away, but it hasn’t. It might have something to do with the fact that I still get so many noes that finally getting a yes feels like finding a piece of treasure.
Telling people that I’m a writer, regardless of the fact that it makes up a very teeny tiny portion of my income, is the most amazing feeling in the world. I can feel my inner five year old hugging me, thanking me for going out and realising her dreams.
This is just the beginning of course, I have so many ideas and plans for the future, but for now I just want to leave you with this message.
If there is something that you have always wanted to do, a vision that you have for your life, please just give it a go. You won’t die if the answer is no, however much it might feel like it in the moment, but I promise that doing that thing, well – that might just bring you to life.
Chat soon x