Grind – On Writing for a Living

Probably the most frequent thing I’m asked is about how to ‘go pro’ as a writer, and I frequently answer more or less the same thing. I realized it’s something that I haven’t actually written about extensively (or at least haven’t in a while) so, here we go.

First off, writing for a living is amazing. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I hope to never have to have any other job (unless it’s, I dunno, directing and writing, or producing and writing, as long as it’s something with a writing component, I’m happy). But, here’s the thing. It’s a non-stop fight. I’ve yet to met a writer including some of the most successful screen, tv, and comics writers in the world who’s not over-worked and slightly over-whelmed. It’s just par for the course.

Part of being a writer is learning to grow and change and flex muscles that nobody else is interested in helping you stretch. Becoming better is nobody’s job but yours, and, again, no matter how supportive the people around you are or how much anyone has your back, the weight remains firmly on your own shoulders.

And, part of being a writer, at least, y’know, now, is fighting to keep the work coming. I spend almost as much time looking for work as I do actually writing. It’s something that I constantly think I’m going to ‘grow out of’ but have yet to actually do. And it’s one of the most frequent topics of conversation I have with my writer friends.

The truth is that when you’re working freelance you’re at the mercy of the people with the jobs. Which, of course, is the problem with breaking in. You need to prove that you’re worth the risk of the people who hold the purse strings. You need to do this in a couple of ways.

Step one is to have produced a TON of original material that is beloved critically (or, even better, successful financially.) This, of course, is not particularly easy at all. But, you spend a few years (or decades) honing your craft, and, hopefully something great comes out the other end. Which leads us to…

Step two, having pre-existing relationships with those people of power. This, actually, is a bit easier. Unfortunately, you still need to do the other thing first. Because Editors, Publishers, Executives all want to be around success.

They want to feel like they’re gleaning some of your golden glow and in their way are helping you to glow brighter. They want to meet people who’s books they’ve enjoyed. They want to grab a beer with the person who made that book that everyone is talking about. It’s just human nature, and, it’s business sense. But even with both of those things going for you?

It’s still damn hard. Maybe I’m wrong (or I just don’t have a high enough class of friends) but, it never gets easier. There’s no short cut. There’s no secret way in. You just have to do good work and get in front of people, some of whom, hopefully, are the right people.

Nobody can do that part, unfortunately, except for you.

So, get working and get used to it, bucko.

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