Guest Post by Emily Anderson
Anyone with a gift for words and access to a pen or keyboard can be a writer, and anyone who is a writer will write. If by ‘break into writing,’ however, you mean ‘write and get paid for it,’ you’ll also need an alchemist’s brew of talent, humility, luck, and perseverance.
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If you’re serious about writing and getting paid for it, Rule #1 is ‘Don’t be so arrogant as to think you have all the good ideas.’ To break in, you have to be willing to try any number of genres you think you might be able to handle, then run with the ones that work, whether or not you’re particularly interested in them. If you have your heart set on sports commentary and someone offers you a job plotting Web murder mysteries, go for the mysteries. If you think biography is your forte and you get a chance to write television ads, write as many of those suckers as you can.
Why so callous an approach? Rule #2. The sad truth about writing is this: ‘If you’re not writing for pay you’re not likely to get paid for writing.’ You have to finagle your way into the field, then manage to stay here, all the while constantly cultivating your contacts. If you don’t know someone or know someone who knows someone who needs a writer, you won’t get the job. If you don’t know someone or know someone who knows someone with the power to get you published, you won’t get published.
There are a number of ancillary rules, of course, like ‘Don’t whine,’ ‘Never miss a deadline,’ ‘Never turn down a gig, no matter how slammed you are.’ In the end, though, it all comes down to this:
Writing, as Annie Savoy said of baseball in the Ron Shelton classic film Bull Durham, ‘may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.’ And for a working writer, it’s the best job on earth.
Emily Anderson is the author of All-American Comfort Food and The Pursuit of Happy Results: Barry Spann and the Making of Twenty-Seven Landscapes. Emily writes for television and the Web and is on the staff of Paris Notes.
Emily’s blog: The Rocky Road of Love and Other Great Recipes.