By: Danielle Fahey
If you’re a writer of any kind, you’ve probably dreamed of having immense, if not unrealistic, success. A prize-winning author, a respected screenwriter, a poet recognized by millions – these are the careers that seem to only come in dreams. You might have fantasized about making enough money by being a full-time, famous author. You may idolize Matthew Kepnes (aka “Nomadic Matt”) or Stephen King. Or maybe you have no idea what you want to do with your life. But hey, being a video game writer sounds like a great deal. But how do these people get into these fields, anyway? What made them successful, and what did they do to increase their chances of landing their dream jobs?
The truth is, the answer is really complicated. There’s no accurate step-by-step guide for success (believe me, I’ve checked). Sometimes screenwriters, authors, or freelancers just happen to find their passion without meaning to. Sometimes writers work tirelessly and eventually get lucky with an offer from a publisher, while others work just as hard and have nothing to show for it. But luckily for us, there’s a few techniques all these successful people have in common. I’ll explain them here, and hopefully they’ll help you get one step closer to the career of your dream!
They practiced…. a lot
If you want to make your pieces as brilliant as possible, talent helps, but practice is the best way to get there. No writer wrote an entire piece in one sitting. They were revising and editing down to the last punctuation mark. They worked on their writing, they polished up their language, and they continued to do it because they loved it. I know it’s hard to find time to write recreationally, especially if you’re a busy high school or college student, but just start off small. Make it a priority to practice writing, even if it’s for ten minutes each day, and after a while, you’ll start to see improvement.
They built a portfolio
In addition to practice, experience and skills are a necessity. While it’s obnoxious that even some entry-level jobs require 3 to 5 years of experience, you’ll get there. The more experience you gain, the easier it will be to find those dream job opportunities. Again, start off small. If you’re interested in becoming a screenwriter, see if you can get into the film studio itself. Find an office job, an internship, a writing assistant position, and make sure you’ve got those writing samples handy! Then you can use that experience and create a portfolio, which is basically a collection of works to show future employers that exemplify your writing skills. Once you move up the ladder, you’ll get noticed. That’s when the resume will shine and the job offers will start rolling in! Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to jump past that first hurdle of experience.
This idea goes hand in hand with gaining experience, even though it’s something a lot of high schoolers don’t know about, and something that plenty of college grads forget to do. Networking is incredibly important for pretty much any job. It helps you get your name out there and stand out as a potential employee. You get to know the people you might be working with, and see what companies or publishers are really about. Hopefully, they’ll remember you and your name will be more likely to stand out amongst the pool of applicants. Another great way to network is to utilize social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and especially LinkedIn are all popular sites for business employers. Follow companies you like, and always stay in touch with editors. A personal approach is the best approach.
They just did it
This may seem like an obvious step, but you’d be surprised how many people actually don’t take the chance to follow their creative dreams. Once you finally sit down and pursue your work— write that novel, submit that piece to The Boston Globe, send that script over— you’ll find you’re working with a lot less competition than you thought. Sure, the market is still tough, but many people choose not to do what they love because they don’t think they can do it. They’re so turned off by the competition or the possibility of rejection that they don’t even try. They think the chances of pursuing such a career are so slim that there’s no point in even taking a chance. But remember this: you won’t get anywhere if you don’t start. You might get rejected a few times, but guess what? That happens to everyone. All the time. The trick is to just go. Take that chance, learn from your mistakes. Luck may be a factor, but it always favors the prepared.
So, next time someone tells you that becoming a writer is unrealistic, take their advice with a grain of salt and do it anyway. Backups are good to have, and you’ll probably be working in day jobs for a while, but don’t let fear stop you. If you have talent and a love of writing, with enough persistence, connections, and practice, you can gain a worthwhile career!