When people think of success in a career in writing, they immediately assume you’re a novelist. Your publications are available in most bookstores. They don’t think of name recognition, just that you have a book in bookstores. What a narrow view of success, and of the vocation as a writer.
In the early years writing for me was purely for enjoyment and escapism. Writing fantasy and science fiction stories, never meant of anyone’s eyes but my own to peruse. I was learning to stretch my imagination, the creative muscle, and the ins and outs of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You never stop learning or flexing those muscles.
Shortly after high school I started writing articles for magazines and newspapers. But it was by no means my chief source of income, merely done out of love with a small financial recompense for validation that my writing was interesting and engaging… and on trend.
Professional writing came through university and after. I’d take casual jobs to write letters. You know those awful form letters you get from large companies, so meticulously worded – yep, I wrote some of those. And from there I went into technical writing for text books, guides, periodicals; and into educational development guides breaking down curriculum and its applications for desired outcomes. It all sounds so very dry and snore inducing right? But that’s been the backbone of my writing income. I did think about returning to journalism, but after writing in such a fact-based medium, needing to include sensationalised headlines, marketing tag lines, dramatized text, and clickable content felt like a false economy. Like news was losing its integrity. Of course I could have been one of those writers swimming against the current and sticking to my principles, but it would mean starting over in unpaid internships and begging for a by-line. My heart wasn’t in the fight.
From there I branched out into online content for articles and websites, and coming full circle, started writing those science fiction and fantasy novels again. This time with a serious agenda to write something worth reading (and getting traditionally published.) Not to say I’m successful because I have a book for sale in a bookstore, but for the journey, the sharing of a story, for the fun of it. Plus, of course, there are so many more avenues to publishing and getting your work in front of readers these days.
Opportunities also came my way that had me accepting the challenge. Screenwriting, speech writing, ghost writing, developmental editing, line editing, mentoring, brand and marketing campaigns. All paid work. But still not the type of efforts that will result in having a book baby stacked on the shelves of your local bookshop.
It’s funny people’s assumptions on what I do as a writer. I’ve had relatives thinking I wrote children’s pop up books when I told them I was writing a young adult title. Most assume I’m sitting at my computer with a pot of tea and churning out bodice-busting romance e-books. It just goes to show how little the general public know when it comes to careers in writing. Where good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and a dash of imagination and organisation can take you.
Now, as a child I may have dreamed of finding something I wrote for sale in my corner bookstore. I’ve made a career out of writing in a different form, and there’s still time. I have had my work on the shelf, but in a different form, under a different name. But one day soon I will see exactly what I imagined my future would be like – but will that mean I’m finally a success? Haven’t I already achieved that?
What do you imagine as your success as a writer? How have your friends and families perceptions of being a writer affected you?
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