The key to being a successful writer

Photo by Paige Bush

“I want to be a writer,” mutter thousands of students, all around the world, every day. It’s a dream job and it’s the thing that a lot of us want the most in the world.

Whether it’s as a novelist, journalist, poet or academic, expressing ourselves in words is something that a lot of us love to do – and it’s something that a lot of us will be unable to do professionally.

It’s no secret that writing jobs are few and far between and even harder to get.

The other day, I was reading a back-issue of The Cord and I came across an article by then opinion editor, current features editor, Mitchell Consky.

He wrote about how proud he is of all his publications and how he displays them for visitors to see on the walls of his room. He also wrote about how he wanted to write a novel.

I really loved this article and it really resonated with me, but it also made me feel competitive with Mitchell — one of my friends.

With such similar goals, if we were both up for the same novel contract, who would get it? What would differentiate us to an employer?

The world isn’t kind to those who favour competition. Getting into that fight is scary, especially when you could be facing someone you consider a friend.

To this dilemma, I came up with a simple solution. There’s really only one way to ensure that you’ll be a writer: write.

Yes, it’s simple. Yes, it probably goes without saying. But it’s true.

Plenty of people say that they want to be a writer, but they do nothing to actually reach that goal.

If you have plenty of experience, you’re a lot more likely to be successful than if you use your spare time in irrelevant capacities.

I think the next step to being a successful writer, beyond actually writing, is making your writing known.

A lot of writing is intensely personal. After all, it’s an art and part of art is to convey some sort of personality into the work.

However, Mitchell has the right idea: he’s proud of what he writes and he’s unapologetic for it. He shows it off.

I don’t know who’d get that contract between Mitchell or myself, but I know that both of us would be picked over someone who has never written, regardless of their dreams and ambitions.

At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that we’ll be going after the exact same things anyway, despite our similar goals.

I’ll probably miserably fail many times before I can ever be successful in the field. Getting a job as a writer will still be tough, regardless of my portfolio.

There’s one way to get through that too: keep writing.

I’ll keep getting experience and I’ll stay determined until opportunity comes knocking.

Like any other job, I’ll need connections, experience and luck. I have to be willing to wait for these things to come along.

Plenty of our staff have gone on to work in journalism jobs due to their involvement here, in a newspaper that some “writers” may dismiss because we don’t get paid.

Those of us who get the experience now will be seeing who actually gets paid to write in the long run. The opportunities are open. Take them while you can.

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing for this newspaper and submitting to other publications.

The more of a head start in writing I get now, the more competitive I’ll be in the future.

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