I’m currently working as a dramaturg with the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore, engaging with fascinating emerging practitioners from across the world – Malaysia, Bolivia, Italy, India, Hong Kong, and beyond. At a benefit evening earlier this week, I got into conversation about what advice I would give to the students about to graduate. This then broadened into a conversation about writing, prompting me to go back to an essay I was commissioned to write for LiteratureTraining some years ago. So – as promised to my dear friends, about to emerge from their training into what I hope will be long careers – and for all other creatives who may stumble across this:
What I wish I’d known when I was starting out:
A career doesn’t have to be in one geographic location. A writer is mobile; our work doesn’t have to be tethered.
One of our main tasks is to find the people who love our work, as they will eventually make it.
We live in a large world, full of possibilities, so it’s essential to broaden our view and keep informed. This is not just about changes in personnel, funding, opportunities etc, in the business – it’s also about keeping alive and fresh as people and artists.
Directors won’t come knocking on your door, so get your work out there – go for every initiative and competition you can. Apart from providing useful deadlines and seeding new projects, it means there’s always something ‘out’ and therefore hope.
Keep as many irons in the fire as you can, it takes dexterity and good management, but some will eventually get hot.
Know your market.
The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Imagine that you are creating a library of your work – enjoy it, be the best you can. It takes the same amount of time to make something good as something bad, so go for quality and longevity.
Evolve, grow, keep asking questions, keep learning.
Good writers work on their strengths, but great writers work on their weaknesses.
Keep alive your curiosity in styles, aesthetics and developments in the arts.
Know trends, but don’t follow them.
Take up new challenges and try not to always play it safe – fortune favours the brave.
Life, like food, can be sour or sweet, it depends on how you want to season the pot.
It is within your gift to live a good, happy, enjoyable life, despite the profession’s frustrations and unfairness.
Living well is the best revenge.
The above is from a longer essay, Fortune Favours the Brave, but Chance Favours the Prepared Mind, which I was commissioned to write for Literaturetraining as part of a wider series, HOW DID I GET HERE?
HOW DID I GET HERE? is a fantastic series of essays, with case histories and advice from a broad range of writers and literature professionals, from crime writers to publicists, poetry therapy to gameswriting.
Sadly, Literaturetraining has since bitten the dust, but the material, alongside The Writers’ Compass, a bulletin of opportunities and courses, is now available through NAWE, National Association of Writers in Education.
The essays are available as pdfs you can download at: