One of the enduring stereotypes about writers and writing is that it doesn’t pay. Anyone who thinks they can make a living from it is a poor deluded fool that the real world will quickly straighten out (You’re a writer? How quaint. Are you planning to get a real job?) This thought has existed for centuries – probably for millennia. Like any creative endeavour, there are a few wordsmiths who manage to find a way of making a livelihood from their writing, so they can keep a roof over their head and put food on the table. It’s not easy, but I’ve discovered that it can be done if you have the talent, the perseverance, and a bit of luck.
Let me emphasize that last point – a bit of luck!
I first showed a talent for writing when I was very young. When I was seven years old, I wrote a story about tornadoes for the school newspaper. The grownups who read it expressed their surprise at how well written it was. At nine, I was creating editions of a home newspaper that featured stories about the groundhogs in the backyard. When I was ten, I wrote protest poems about the Vietnam War that astonished my teachers, especially because I inserted a few choice swear words! In Grade 8, my English teacher thought my science fiction story about a journey through deep space was remarkable. In high school, my first ‘literary mentor’ was a welshman named Terence Davies. He recognized my writing skills and put me in his advanced literature classes. Later on, at the University of Victoria, my talents were encouraged by the late Dr. Gordon Elliot (SFU) and Dr. Colin Partridge (Uvic). I used my creative writing skills extensively during my 15 year career as a professional videogame designer. I wrote original stories, game concepts, mythology, and character dialogue. I also wrote game manuals and marketing materials. But I never took the time to publish any original content of my own. In the last five years, I wrote several opinion pieces that were published in the Vancouver Sun newspaper and University Affairs magazine. I contributed a chapter to a university textbook about games and learning published by IGI Global.
At the start of this year, I decided it was time to get serious about making a career of writing. I’d put it off for far too long . I wanted to find a paid position as a writer. Better late than never. I knew full well that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I recognized that I have this talent and I wanted to make a living from it. One month ago, late on a Sunday afternoon, I saw a position posted online for a copywriting position. I applied for it immediately. The next morning, the manager of the Product Content department called me. I was invited to an interview later that week on Thursday afternoon. One week later, they told me I was hired. I’m now working at the head office of Best Buy/Future Shop Canada as a member of their Product Content writing team. It’s incredibly satisfying work that challenges my creativity, marketing, and writing skills. It has the feel of working for a large newspaper, which I find energizing. It’s very deadline driven, which really makes you focus on writing effectively. The environment is great, the people are friendly, and I’ve been complimented on the quality of my writing.
Now, when someone asks me what I do for living, I can tell them I’m a writer. And it’s my real job, too!
The Grumpy Ferret (That’s MR. WRITER to you, pal!)