Key Skills you Need for a Career in Creative Writing
15 Apr by Wendy Elsmore
A creative writing career is one of the most amazing careers a person can be lucky enough to have. Imagine, you’re sitting on your sofa in your favourite pair of comfy pj’s while writing about something you’re passionate about on a keyboard and getting paid for it. Plus, you literally make your own hours! So long as you meet your deadlines of course.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
Now you might read that and think “Well, that sounds easy, I’ll do that for a living!” If a creative writing career is something you want to pursue we very much encourage it! We believe everyone should follow their dreams and do what makes them happy.
However, in saying all the above there is a world of difference between being a writer and having a career in writing. As the title suggests, in this blog we want to explore some of the key creative writing skills needed for a professional creative writing career. Hopefully, some of these tips will work for you as well.
Despite the perks we mentioned, having a creative writing career is a very challenging endeavour. Like any career, it’s one that not everyone is suited to.
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Having a creative writing career takes a ton of discipline. Specifically, it means that you always have to produce. Pending deadlines can’t wait for you to feel “inspired”. That’s just the truth of it.
It’s also absolutely true that sometimes you will look at a blank page and have thoughts of “how am I going to do this?”. But isn’t that the challenge we all seek as creatives?
Having a creative writing career means being able to push past that. How? Well, everyone has their own method. Sometimes taking a walk and getting some fresh air helps. Or jumping around the writing project you’re working on can also help – if you find yourself struggling at the start of a writing project jump to the end. You’re getting an idea on the page and momentum creates momentum. Before too long words begin to flow. Then before you’ll know it you will be at the end of your assignment. Then you go back and edit. Is it always that easy? No, of course not. But it’s a start.
The toughest part of having discipline in a creative writing career is using “writer’s block” to your advantage. That is to say, creating your own writer’s block as a tool. Being able to “block” yourself off from all distractions until your work is done. Put the phone away, and close non-work-related tabs. Maybe turn on some music with no lyrics and just focus on what you’re doing.
Find your own version of what discipline means by developing your own creative writing habits. Some writers prefer to write at night, handing in their assignments at the crack of dawn just before they crash out. Others prefer to wake up early and jump into assignments just after breakfast. The main thing is being able to put on blinders and give your assignment your full attention.
Being Open To Feedback
Let’s get this out of the way: ART IS SUBJECTIVE. Not everyone will like everything you write. But here is the thing, that doesn’t make you a “bad” writer. Or even mean you did a “bad” job. The point is this: Don’t take negative feedback personally. Every single writer has their own creative writing style.
If someone gives you feedback on an assignment it’s remarkably important to not take it personally. Sure, it stings when you don’t hit the nail quite on its head. Especially when you are convinced you did a good job. The main thing to remember is that with true creative endeavours, “good” and “bad” don’t exist. It’s all perspective. It just comes down to personal taste. The feedback isn’t about you as a person, it’s about the project. Again perspective. Think of the Goldilocks & the 3 bears. For some this blog may be too hot, for others, it may be too cold. For some, it may be just right. Who’s correct? All of them. But at the end of the day, the person paying you also has the final call on if it’s right for them.
When given feedback/notes, accept them as part of the job, follow them as best you can, re-submit and go from there. You can’t just shut down after getting negative feedback. Those who do aren’t suited to a creative writing career.
Being Able To Adapt
Greatness can truly happen outside your comfort zone.
Along with each of us having our own creative writing style, each of us has our own strengths and preferences in terms of the content we produce. There are some writers who only want to write screenplays. Others who only want to write books, etc.
The thing is, you won’t always have the option of what you write. For example, in the span of a week, you might find yourself being tasked to write; a dialogue for an adult chatbot, a top ten list of things celebrities spend their money on, a press release for a small fashion brand getting ready to launch a new product, to contributing to a major magazine and so on. The point is that to sustain a creative writing career you have to be able to shift gears very quickly. Especially if you have deadlines for two different assignments on the same day.
We know that sounds can sound like a lot of pressure to deal with, but there is an upside to it. The more varied work you do, the more your creative writing skills grow. Specifically, your knowledge in that area grows. Don’t know anything about fashion or writing a press release but writing one is your next assignment? Great! Once you’ve written the press release you’ll be more ready for the next press release and/or fashion job you get. This actually ties nicely into the next point.
Being Able To Research
It probably goes without saying that doing research is a huge part of being able to sustain a creative writing career. In fact, it’s easily one of the least talked about creative writing skills. Depending on the subject of the assignment you can easily spend half of your working time just doing research.
Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find tons of resources on a particular topic and bounce between several different open tabs in your browser. Other times it means reading very dry academic material while chugging a coffee.
But beyond being able to research, you must also be able to deliver the information gained from the research in a meaningful and interesting way. In other words, trying to make dry stuff sound interesting and weaving in your own creative writing style.
Conclusion and One Final Tip
We want to conclude this blog with a final tip: be persistent.
We know that sounds simple. We’ll also be the first to admit that it is far from being simple.
If nothing else, think of those who inspired you to want to start your own creative writing career. Beyond things like skill or luck, there is one main reason you’ve heard of them. Persistence. They never gave up. So it’s important for you to not give up as well.
People will give themselves all sorts of reasons to give up on their dreams as writers. Some think they lack the creative writing skills to succeed. Others think they’re too old, the list is endless.
If you want some help along your journey to becoming a professional creative writer, be sure to take a look at our Fashion and Lifestyle Writing Diploma which teaches you everything you need to know to kickstart your career in writing. As one of our most raved-about courses, you certainly won’t regret taking your next step with us by your side.
Wishing you all the luck on your journey to building a creative writing career!