Many amateur writers riding into the field like the Lone Ranger, ready to tackle everything alone, but is that the best approach?
It’s easy to compare being a writer to being a cowboy. No, this isn’t me taking a minuet to fantasise about being Clint Eastwood, although that would be pretty darn cool. When starting out as a writer in any field, be it journalism, script writing or novel writing most writers envision themselves riding into town on their first day and making a name for themselves. Unfortunately, that is not how the industry works. When you work alone you make more mistakes, you struggle for ideas and you find it an uphill battle to get your work to anyone you might actually be interested in seeing it. It doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve stopped reaching anyone. I know I’ve been there.
This is why, if you want to start writing, you need a team. When I say a team I don’t mean that you need a group of six or seven people to stand around your computer and help you write your pieces. Chances are, if you’re passionate enough about writing you probably have some level of talent and are capable of writing everything yourself. Maybe a better word, instead of team, would be a support structure. Every writer needs a ‘friend’ and an ‘editor’ – a ‘friend’ to look at your piece on the surface and tell you if it’s working and an ‘editor’ to look at the grammatical nuts and bolts of your pieces and help you smooth it out. Being on a creative writing course I have found a lot of people who like to fill either role, and I always try to take them up on their offer.
A ‘friend’ and an ‘editor’ are great assets but there is more to a writer’s team. You need a ‘wall’, someone who you can go out to dinner with or play video games with and just bounce your ideas off. Your ‘wall’ needs to be someone you trust and someone you feel comfortable to talk to about your ideas. I have two ‘walls’, one is my girlfriend and another is one of my childhood friends. The best ‘walls’ are creative and fun to talk to. I would not advise using your ‘wall’ to fill the ‘friend’ role or the ‘editor’ role as they can become biased. With these roles filled you need one final team member, a ‘distributor’. Your message needs to reach the people.
‘Distributors’ come in many forms, an editor for a website you’re working with can be your ‘distributor’, and so can your school newspaper or the head of a local writing society. Your ‘distributor’ should have contacts and should be able to help you get your writing seen by the right people. Social media is not a ‘distributor’ because it cannot fulfil the second role of a ‘distributor’. A ‘distributor’ needs to act as an outside party, they need to be able to say if your piece simply will not work for your audience. They need to be harsh and critical, because your other three team members probably won’t be. If you know someone personally you don’t want to hurt their baby, and when you’re a writer your piece of work is your baby. Your ‘distributor’ can act as an ‘editor’ as well as they will be the most critical about your piece. Once you have a good ‘distributer’, hang on to them as they are worth their weight in gold.
Once you have assembled your team it is important to remember they are helping you. When you start off as a writer you will probably not be earning any money so you will not be able to pay your team. Try and think of ways to reward them, whether it’s a case of buying in some pizza or just lending them a film to watch. At the same time it’s important to make your team work for you, if someone is becoming more of a hindrance then work out a different way they can help you and replace them in their current role. Shuffle things up and have fun with your team. When you’re having fun with a great creative team, writing can feel like your leading the cavalry in an old western down a hill to save the day, and yes in this image I am Clint Eastwood.