You're never going to be ready. Just write it.
Words: Rachel Cameron-Potter
If there’s one half-decent shred of advice that I’ve received in recent months, it’s to do what you love. Half-decent, because doing what you love is undeniably one of the best ways to guarantee life-satisfaction. However, unfortunately it doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll be able to pay the bills on time, especially if the work is erratic and sporadic, and the gigs are few and far between. Take freelance writing, for example – a career choice picked for passion and too often abandoned for lack of commission.
While tricky, however, getting into a writing career is not impossible – if anything, it only appears impassable because a lot of people don’t know where to begin. With this in mind, I decided to seek out advice from those who had successfully established a platform for themselves, asking the question: if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers and journalists, what would it be?
The responses I received were overwhelming. From words to encouragement to more practical advice, I was able to collate responses from seasoned writers and talented journalists, all who had once been rookie writers, desperately striving to make an impact in their chosen fields.
Here’s what they told me.
BBC journalist Nabhiha Parker: Never give up – especially if you truly believe in something, whether it's a story, an idea or otherwise. Just keep going and keep knocking on doors until one opens up!
Amy Kean, a writer, poet and sociologist: Dream first, edit later! Writing professionally requires two different versions of yourself: the mad one with big ideas and ridiculously articulations, and the disciplined editor who solves the puzzle of great sentence structure and perfect punctuation. Never be both selves at the same time, it won't work.
Jessica Lindsay, journalist at The Metro: Before writing, I always ask ‘why do my readers care, what do they need to know, and am I best placed to write this story?’
Ellen Scott, Lifestyle Editor at Metro.co.uk: 'Read features, read news, read books, read as much as you can and work out what you actually enjoy reading, what you care about, and what good writing is. Also, don't feel like you have to have a niche yet. I know a niche can be helpful but it's also okay to be a good all-rounder and to work on skills, THEN see what you like and explore that more.
Miranda Larbi, freelance journalist and Editor of Stylist's Strong Women Training Club: ‘Good writer’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘good journalist’ and vice versa, so figure out what you like first – writing or discovering. I’d say there is nothing like local news for training and gaining lots of different skills. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people on the phone or in person.
Chris Sanders at We Are Native Media: Be yourself. Take inspiration from those you admire but never imitate anyone.
Tahmina Begum, journalist and author of The Aram Newsletter: You're never going to be ready. Just write it.
Writer and Editor Benedict Cosgrove: Plenty of people gave me this advice when I first started out as a writer/editor/journalist, but I didn't listen. I guess I had to learn it myself. If you're a writer and part of your job is to interview or profile people, don't apologize for the work you do. The opportunity to have conversations on equal footing with accomplished, talented, inventive men and women is one of the perks of the gig. Embrace it!
Freelance copywriter and content creator Nikki Trailor: Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and do things your own way. Shout about the topics you specialise in or are passionate about. It can be daunting in what seems like a saturated marketplace, but there is always a space for a new voice, and you never know who your work or random musings on social media will appeal to or inspire.