Last week, I posted a list of forty-four types of writing jobs and reading through them made me realise how many different types of writer I’ve been. I’ve been paid to write:
*Case studies and marketing materials (corporate writer)
*CVs (CV writer)
*Articles for journals (essayist)
*Someone else’s book (ghostwriter)
*Non-fiction books (non-fiction writer)
*Proposals (proposal writer)
*Website text (web content writer)
I’ve also been an unpaid:
The best paid writing job I’ve ever had was also the worst writing job I’ve ever had: being a corporate writer. There were multiple reasons including an expectation from the people I was writing for that I would be happy to lie in the copy I was writing (I wasn’t) and also a business model that relied heavily on exploiting workers in third world countries (something I didn’t find out until I was working there).
The second best paid writing job I’ve ever had was much more enjoyable: being a ghostwriter. There were multiple reasons for that including an employer who treated me well because he recognised I was going to make him look like a much better writer than he was and who gave serious, respectful consideration to areas we disagreed over. Plus there was a published book at the end of it. (What writer doesn’t love that?!)
The longest writing job I’ve ever had I enjoyed to start with but enjoyed less towards the end: being a proposal writer. I was given a lot of autonomy and for the first few years, there was plenty of variety and encouragement. But after a few years, the same proposals rolled around again and it became clear that there was no path for advancement.
The proudest moments in writing I’ve ever had were all unpaid (at least to start with): publishing each of my books and two articles posted on LinkedIn that have each had nearly 10,000 views.
And – perhaps unsurprisingly – the most enjoyable of all the writing I do is the writing I choose to do: my novels and my blog.
So how many different types of writer have you been? And how many will you be?
At Christmas last year, I was talking to my eleven-year-old niece about what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“An author,” she said. I threw my arms around her, mostly in solidarity but a little in sympathy since I knew what she was in for. A bit of success but more often than not a lot of struggle.
In January, just over a month later, at my sister’s birthday party, my niece and I were having the same conversation with my twelve-year-old nephew. “You can get paid to play Fortnite, you know,” he told me. There was a tournament being held at the Australian Open that weekend with half a million dollars in prizemoney available.
“But what will your other job be?” I asked. He looked at me blankly. “Getting paid to play Fortnite is a pretty sweet gig so there will be lots of people who want that job. But not everyone can get paid to play Fortnite so you’ll probably need another job,” I explained. He couldn’t come up with anything else and that’s okay because he’s twelve.Continue reading
Amongst writers it is a well-known fact that the majority of us can’t earn enough just from our writing to give up all other forms of employment. There are a lucky few but not nearly as many as those of us wanting to join those few would like. It doesn’t mean we give up on writing. It just means we supplement our incomes with other work like editing, teaching and more often than not jobs that have absolutely no link to what it is we’d much rather be doing.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to be able to begin three years in which I spent the majority of my time writing my own work full-time. During the times I wasn’t writing my own work, I was employed as a writer writing for others (six months here, six weeks there but for less than a year of those three years). Prior to that, I spent six-and-a-half years as a corporate writer and before that, I was a textbook editor for three years. I even have two postgraduate writing degrees.
And in the past five years, I’ve published three books, written two more, ghost-written another, written and published over 400 blog posts, and written and published about two dozen articles, one of which had over 10,000 views on LinkedIn. I was even shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for my upcoming novel, Black Spot, and it was a point of pride for me when one of Text Publishing’s employees told me my book wouldn’t need an editor because I’d done such a good job.
So imagine my surprise when, as I sat right beside him, my father told a group of his friends and acquaintances that I was an “amateur writer”.Continue reading
“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“Hi, Rachel. I’m John. What do you do?”
“I’m a receptionist.”
“So you just sit around talking on the phone all day?”
“It’s a bit more involved than that.”
“Where do you work?”
“At a small family company.”
“Oh. That’s a shame. Any chance you might be able to move on to a big corporate?”
“I’m happy where I am.”
“Are you a good receptionist?”
“I haven’t been asked to do it differently so I guess I am.”
“How many calls do you take a day?”
“Um, well, I’m not sure…”
“How much do you earn?”
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“But how will I know for sure if you’re a good receptionist?”
“Call the main switch and I’ll make sure I transfer you to the right person.”
“But that won’t tell me if others think you’re a good receptionist.”
“I like what I do. I don’t really care if others think I’m a good receptionist. And I really don’t care what you think.”
“That’s a pretty poor attitude for a receptionist to have.”
“Stop talking to me.”
Okay, so it seems like John is a special kind of asshat. But imagine now an almost identical conversation with just a couple of small changes:Continue reading
Just because everybody loves a good listicle (so I hope it qualifies), here’s the A to Z of writing.
A is for Authenticity – you don’t have to know what you’re talking about. Write what you know, write what you don’t know but just make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about. If you write about the police force and someone actually in the police force reads your book lacking in accuracy or verisimilitude (the ring of truth), then that person won’t hesitate to tell the world. And you’ll just come off as someone who couldn’t be bothered doing a little bit of research.
B is for Brainstorming – it’s one thing to have an idea but to bring it to life with all the little details that give it depth, you’ll have to do a lot of brainstorming. If you want to write about a man who kills his father, great (maybe not for your father, who might wonder why). But it becomes two very different stories depending on whether the son had a happy upbringing or an abusive one. And only brainstorming will get you to the point where the story makes meaningful sense.Continue reading
One of the greatest difficulties most writers have is finding the time in their busy lives to write. We’re often lucky if we can find a couple of hours at the end of the day after working to contribute to a household of partners/children/pets, feeding partners/children/pets, cleaning up after partners/children/pets and trying to maintain even a semblance of a social life. So when you know you’re going to have a week or two without one or all of these things, do you spend it writing or do you spend it actually having a break?Continue reading
Maybe it’s a misleading article title because I should start out by acknowledging there’s no such thing as the perfect job. At least, there’s no one-size-fits-all perfect job. The perfect job is different things to different people.Continue reading