Wednesday 19 February 2014

Some truths about being a writer

Similarities are perhaps more surprising than differences

I had the extraordinary privilege yesterday of attending one of our MA days with our Playwriting MA students. A colleague was ill and I took over some of the hosting duties. This is a delightful group of very serious, very committed students.  I joined in the discussion with them and three of the visiting playwrights. Although writing plays is in many way different from writing fiction, being a writer in both cases is very similar.

Turn up at the page

This was a big message. The fact that these students are on this course is a sign already that they have some competence.  They’re not terrible writers. They’re not yet great. But they can be and are more likely to be with continued practice. So, it’s important to set aside time for writing.  This time must be ring-fenced. Even on the days it is difficult, if you write you are a writer.

A vocation not a profession

You do this because you are passionate about it. You may not be able to earn all that you need from it – only a very few do. But you keep on. There are ways to manage this:
·         Stay with your creative project and find casual work to pay the bills
·         Compromise your creativity for the sake of commercial success
·          Join the academy (There is an interesting irony here – that is just as much a vocation though it looks like a profession.)
·         Take on some “jobbing” writing tasks
I’ve actually said all of this before. It was good to hear other “professional” writers say the same.
The value of networking
We’re handing some of this out on a plate to our students. But keeping a finger on the pulse is essential. Find out what’s happening out there. As one visitor put it, never turn down a cup of tea. There is an abundance of opportunities.
Small press is great
I’m small pressed published and I love it. The equivalent in playwriting is to find small theatre groups, consider doing something via You Tube or consider producing work yourself. Create your own opportunities. This leads to good lines on CVs.
Submission dilemma
One “publisher” looks as if they will accept if you totally change something which takes out the heart of your work. Another actually loves precisely this aspect but cannot at this stage make any promises. Is it here a matter of finding a third way and a third “publisher”? Been there. Done that.  Several times.
Ah, the writer’s life is a curious thing.      

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