This is something I actually wrote in 2007 (Publisher assignment for TAFE) but it struck me as relevent for my first blog post because we all have to start somewhere and every writer who has ever become an overnight success has probably just come through the longest night of their life!
The Unknown Writer: The Pitfalls with Starting from Scratch.
Desire: This is the state of mind that haunts you day and night because you just know you can write. No really, you can! You then discover that your talents lie in columnist work and focus on developing one that works for you. It also works for your friends, your partner, the delivery guy and your mother.
You set up a workspace on the end of the dining table and start writing. You relocate to a vacant corner of the lounge room, move again to a seldom-used section of the kitchen bench top, check out the walk-in robe and eventually stake out the bench in the laundry. You write, dream and casually consider giving up your day job. You end up doing the washing because it’s overflowed onto your “desk”.
Writer’s Block: This condition comes into immediate effect when you venture from the laundry and enter the reception area of the first publication on your list. As an unknown you are highly unlikely to clap eyes on the editor, something you will get used to as you work your way down your list. Frustration will set in however before you come to the end and may prompt you to demand of the coiffed one behind the reception desk to either call the editor or at least allow you to leave your work for perusal.
Save your breath. These people have never heard of you and, talented or not, you are only a sought after commodity if you can answer “yes” to one or more of the following:
1. You or your family have connections with or own the publication.
2. You are royalty, either by birth or marriage.
3. Ditto one of your siblings.
4. You are Old Money.
5. Your spouse is an actor.
6. You have achieved fame via sport, reality television, YouTube or text messaging.
If you are unable to allude, even vaguely, to any of the above then you will ineviatably encounter writer’s block at every turn. Your ability to evade it is directly related to how determined you are to make it.
Strategies: Resist the allure of a couple of pills and a good lie down. Your retreat to the laundry should not be perceived as a defeat. View it rather as an opportunity to catch your breath and regroup.
The market is awash with printed matter so use the down time for research as some publications will not be suitable vehicles for your column. Cull the non viable stuff and scrap the random sorties. Focus instead on more promising targets. Next, pull out your best work, compose a catchy cover letter and send it out post-haste to the publications of your choice. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you…as well as your own contact details include those of your parents, grandparents, the vet, your best friend and even the delivery guy again.
Now take up a hobby. You’ll need something to occupy your mind while waiting for a reply. You could also catch up on the washing.
Writer’s Block II: If you are still waiting for replies I commend your patience but feel this may be a good time to advise you that they’re unlikely to materialize in the near future. Even the distant one is a bit iffy.
Thus having staked out the telephone and the letter box in vain, you should step in and do a follow-up, a further follow-up and then another one and after a few more you should get a response. Of sorts. You may then feel free to respond in kind and two little words will usually suffice.
At this point you may want to review your desire to see yourself in print. Like, do you really, reeeeeeeally want this? If, after much deliberation, you conclude that you still do and would even swallow roadkill whole while whistling Dixie if it meant guaranteed column space then by all means go for the throat.
Tactical Response: Following your recovery from the stomach pump, declare yourself a victim and sue the mongrels, citing discrimination (refer list, Writer’s Block) and the psychological impact on your quality of life as a result of being prevented from realising your true potential. Then use that potential to do justice with any/all of the following:
1. You have developed a severe depression.
2. And an eating disorder.
3. Ditto any other psychotic condition that sounds good.
4. Believe you have been robbed of the lifestyle to which you just know you could have happily become accustomed.
5. Are completely over the lifestyle you currently have (sigh).
6. And above all else…convince someone that it has also totalled your sex life as this has the potential to add several zeros to the payout.
A good lawyer is invaluable in situations such as these as they can be very creative and are therefore worth every cent of the exhorbitant fee.
Following the lawyer’s cut, if the payout is not quite enough to purchase the publication outright, it should be sufficient to allow you to buy a substantial block of shares in the parent company thereby ensuring the much desired columnist’s slot as you now possess at least one of the prerequisites (see Writer’s Block again).
If you wish you may now go ahead anyway and hawk a sibling around the royal houses of Europe, sign up for Big Brother/Australian Idol/Biggest Loser/Next Reality Show or go public with those text messages from that Famous Person. It’s entirely up to you.
Any on of them would make a great column!