Media Shower writer Sarah Verrinder is well-known for her work in travel, education and careers.
What does success look like, and how will you know when you get there? I was always frustrated by the number of my creative writing students who wanted to write a novel. They seemed to think the only route through to being a successful writer was having your name on the dust jacket of the latest best seller.
Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that. And I’d be lying if I didn’t own up to the occasional novel-centric fantasy. But by foregrounding this one particular strand of writing, you run the risk of missing out on a whole bunch of other opportunities that you can be successful in.
So putting the great (insert the name of your country here) novel aside for one minute, what are the strategies for success when it comes to other types of writing?
Keep an Open Mind
I first felt like a proper, bonafide writer sat in a theatre, watching actors perform a comedy sketch I’d written (it won an award!). I’d never thought about writing comedy before. But a friend was entering a competition, and I thought, “What the hell.” Being open to the unexpected can bring fantastic rewards. It might go nowhere and lead to a dead end, but when it comes to writing, no experience is ever wasted. Which brings me onto my second point.
Don’t Give Up the Day Job
Unlike Virginia Woolf, with her private income and room of her own, most of us have to finance our writing lives with jobs, which tend to get in the way of our writing lives. However, I’ve always been grateful for the discipline and organisational skills that I’ve been able to develop through the day job. Thanks to the day job, I know how to brainstorm an idea and create a to-do-list to die for. I’ve used my writing skills at work to create content for websites and reports, And although these things won’t get me onto the bestsellers lists (my novel based on the steamy lives of my co-workers will do that), they look good on a CV.
Always be Prepared
At the risk of flying in the face of current goal-focussed wisdom, there’s only so much planning you can do for success. Sometimes it just happens. That’s why it’s always good to be prepared. Remember my award winning (ahem) comedy sketch? The idea came to me on the top of a bus as I travelled home from a night out with friends. If I’d waited until I’d got home (and, let’s be honest, sobered up) chances are I would have forgotten the idea. However, I always have a pen in my bag. Crisis averted, lines noted down as they came to me, on the bus.
So there you have it. My three approaches to diversifying your writing practice. And with traditional routes becoming tougher to get into, this is something we should all be trying to do.
For more inspiring tales and advice, check out our success stories.