Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Much ado about writing

A few years ago I went for career guidance at a well-known placement agency that focuses on the media industry. I was at odds at the time because I knew I wanted to move into fiction editing or take on a position as an editor for a publication, but I wasn't quite sure how that would happen. Back then I'd come to the conclusion that my current position, as a newspaper sub-editor working on commercial features, was a dead-end job. About the only bright spark in my day was laying out a weekly travel supplement and writing stories once in a while.

Going nowhere slowly? I couldn't be more wrong. Viv, the lady at the placement agency, was absolutely fantastic. At that time, I was very despondent. I was busy writing my first novel (Khepera Rising) but I felt like I was stagnating. Sure, I was occasionally picking up freelance fiction editing jobs but generally (and I'll be brutally honest) the paying freelance jobs are generally not half as much fun as working on something that has gone through a submissions process with a publisher.

Viv said to me, "The only way you're ever going to be noticed is if you write and get your name out there."

I took her advice. Sure, I carried on working on my fiction, but I also started stepping up my travel writing. The travel writing got me noticed by an editor for a lifestyle and entertainment supplement for a national newspaper. My stories started appearing there and I received invites to write reviews for lodges and hotels in foreign countries. During all this, my novels started being published and I picked up the content editing gig at Lyrical Press. Now I'm also reviewing novels and putting in author interviews in newspapers. And I'm blogging. A lot.

Yes, I still have my somewhat sh1tty day-job but it pays the bills. I put up with the dross because I'm doing what I'm passionate about: writing and working with text, be it fiction or editorial. I've had the chutzpah to add the activities I enjoy to a job that sucks otherwise. I've come a long way from the production assistant at a health and lifestyle magazine who had to call clients for advertising material.

Going above and beyond my official job description does mean I have to work a lot harder than most, but at the end of the day, when I see my name in print, it's helluva worth it. And the biggest thanks is when people say "Hey, we read your piece in the newspaper last weekend. It was really cool!"

Or, even better, "I read that article you linked on Facebook, and I went and bought your book, and I'm really enjoying it."

And hey, I'm starting up quite a collection of stamps in my passport. Who knows, I may be able to work my way all the way to the top of Africa soon.

I guess what I'm trying to say is you have to give it 110%. Work with the resources at hand and find ways in which you can modify what you're already doing into your dream job. Never give up, and never pass up the opportunity to put your name out.

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