Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Not just a card game

Patience is a virtue, as recent events have shown me. I've spent much of this year nudging along projects that never seemed to be making much progress. Some got a little way and stalled, brought to a halt by apathy, institutional inertia or insufficient inspiration. This happens. Good stories go unappreciated or untold. Maybe the time wasn't right, or the opening lacked bite, or simply lacked quality.

But sometimes all the nudging and hoping and persistence pays off. Back in January I wrote some sample text for a proposed tie-in. It was a new area for me, outside the genres of science fiction, war, horror and fantasy that have been my stock in trade. It was an exciting opportunity, offering the chance to challenge myself as a writer. No money upfront, of course, but the possibility of cash.

A long, lingering silence followed.

So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Once a month I'd touch base with my contact, see if there was any movement, keep the lines of communication open. Finding and nurturing relationships with contacts was something I learned while a daily newspaper reporter. Back then I was looking for stories, nowadays I'm looking for work as a creative writer. But the principles are the same - stay in touch, be genuinely interested in people.

Don't fake it. Never fake it, people can tell. Fakes get found out. Don't be afraid to ask for advice. You're not asking for a job, you're asking for a few minutes of their time, knowledge and expertise. When somebody asks my advice, I'm always happy to oblige. Why wouldn't I be? Treat people with respect and they'll remember you well. It doesn't cost you anything to be polite and friendly, does it?

Six months on from writing that sample, it looks like there'll be a meeting. No guarantees of anything yet, but it's progress. As a freelance writer, you've got to play the long game. Building a career is like building a house. Doing it on your own takes forever, chances are you'll never finish. But if you've made some friends, maybe they'll help. Like that barn-building scene in Witness.

Writing is a solitary career. You need friends, you need a support network to help you through the dark days and the months without work and the rough spots. You need talent and craft. You need to invite criticism, listen to that criticism and learn the lessons within it. You never know when your break will come, or from where. Most of all, you need patience. Not just a card game. It's a career strategy.


al rutherford said...

As usual Dave, you don't put a word wrong. For various reasons this is a timely reminder about taking the long view so thanks for posting.

Best of luck with the new opportunity. I still can't work out why you didn't get onto the Writers' Academy.

Jim Campbell said...

Honestly, David ... when did you ever go building barns in Widnes?

Oh ... I should have read that a bit more carefully.