There are many paths to becoming a creative writer. In this article we discuss some things to consider that will hopefully be helpful on your journey! 

Just Write Amazing Work

Yep, this is a painful truth. Anyone can write amazing work, at any time, and you don’t need any special preparation to do it. Cut out the gatekeepers. You don’t need anyone’s approval. All you have to do to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction is write a novel that wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The takeaway here is not to put the cart before the horse. Try just writing in the form you love most. You might find that when you sit down the write your novel that you are an artistic genius 🙂 

For most people however, attaining the level of skill required to write at a professional level takes years of practice, and a lot of formal study in one field or another. 

Read

Contributing something original is difficult, and the writers who are heralded as truly originals are often very well read / aware of what has gone before in their medium. Think Quentin Tarantino’s encyclopedic knowledge of film! 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you begin a creative project. See what has been done before, learn from the experiences of others, and build on that work!

Study Creative Writing

You might want to take creative writing classes at high school or university. Consider studying an MFA, or a PhD in creative writing. It can be really wonderful to have the guidance of the experienced teachers you are likely to encounter, as well as the advice of your like minded peers, and the space and time to experiment and write yourself! 

Study Something Else

Any field of study is useful for creative writing in many and often unexpected ways. For instance, if you study medicine you will be in a really great place to write medical dramas / comedies. I studied law and I used all that knowledge when I was staging a production of a play I wrote (writing contracts and negotiating fees). You don’t know how study in another field will help you as a writer – but it probably will! 

Network

Networking leads to commissions and other professional opportunities.

As a writer, you generally want to move to writing on commission as quickly as possible, as opposed to writing on ‘spec’. On spec means you write a work speculating that someone will buy it at the end. This is risky and often results in disappointment.

When you get a commission you are paid to write the work upfront. This comes with less artistic freedom and means you have deadlines, but it also means you are a professional and can afford a home and some food. 

Get out there and meet the other people in your field. Try to make a food impression and remember that making no impression at all is better than making a bad impression. Always be polite and just walk away as quickly as possible if things aren’t going well. 

Seek Government Funding

Another major source of funding for writers comes in the form of government grants. See what your federal government, and local government have to offer. As well as your local government supported writing societies. 

Keep your Finger on the Pulse and Read the Room

Try to stay abreast of what’s happening in the world, and the news. This is so that you can write projects that are relevant to the concerns of the day, and so that you don’t misread the room e.g. so you understand the reason for and importance of the drive towards diversity in creative works at the moment. 

Do you Enjoy Writing? 

Make sure you actually enjoy writing. Even tortured geniuses wouldn’t be doing it if they weren’t getting enjoyment from some aspect of the process. Many lawyers find out too late that they actually don’t want to be chained to the desk for 10 hours a day. Do you enjoy sitting down by yourself and writing prose / poetry etc? 

If not, some professional writers like television screenwriters actually live far more social lives and work in teams! Perhaps there is a particular form of writing that is suited most to what you enjoy! 

Have an Alternate Source of Income

Income from creative writing can be unpredictable and low. Always stay honest about the chances of making a living from writing. The average pay for novelists is very low, and it’s even lower for poets. If you can run a small business on the side, or offer you services as a teacher or editor, you will be in a better position, especially in the early years of your career, to pursue writing professionally! 

Seek Mentorships

Mentorships are an important way to get advice from experts. There are many types of mentorship. If you’re super lucky someone awesome will mentor you for free. You can also pay a mentor to give you advice. Just make sure the mentor has written work that you like! Otherwise the mentorship is likely to be worthless or even harmful. 

Read Books and Resources on How to Write

Check out the rest of articles on this site which contain many writing tips! Also read as many books on writing as you can. You may not agree with everything that’s being said, but every now and then you will stumble on a gem that will hopefully really help you! The sooner you become an expert the sooner you can teach others. 

Join Writing Societies and Writing Groups

This can be a great way to get free feedback, and an awesome way to make lifelong friendships! Creative writing can be a profession, but also a life journey. It can be deeply rewarding, take you to places you never imagined, and introduce you to amazing new friends. 

I hope you enjoy your journey! 


Oliver Adams

Letter Review was founded by Oliver Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Oliver Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. He has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.