The Insult of Being Called an Amateur Writer

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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

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Why I Sometimes Don’t Want to Tell People I’m a Writer

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Imagine this scenario:

“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

The A to Z of Writing

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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

To Write Or Not To Write During The Holidays

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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

“I’m Passionate About Spreadsheets” and Other Lies We Tell to Get the Job

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You’ve made it past the CV scanning software and a recruitment junior and you’ve landed that all important interview. You research the company online in depth. You talk to former and current employees (if you know any) for the inside scoop on what to expect. You plan your most competent looking outfit.

And you practise what you’re going to say. Your three strengths, your three weaknesses (which with a quick sentence or two actually become your next three strengths), why you want to leave your current job (break out the euphemisms), what makes you the best candidate for the role (I am, just trust me, okay?) and what sort of corporate culture you prefer (if my boss can find a happy medium between hovering while yelling and making me wonder if we should start scouring local bushland for a body, I’m good).

But when you arrive for the face-to-face question and answer session, it all goes out the window. You can’t remember your strengths (but I’m good, I swear) or your weaknesses (but I’m not saying I’m perfect) and some of the questions you’re being asked have about as much relevance as a penguin at an ethics convention.

So what do you do to make sure you get the job? You do what everyone else does. You lie. Continue reading