Thursday, 9 August 2012

How Long Have You Been a Writer?

When I tell people I am a writer (at least part time anyway) the statement is then followed by the question "oh how long have you been doing that then?" I always stumble at this point because my writing ambitions and activities have been very much start and stop, akin to the sort of love affair described on Facebook as "it's complicated". That is not necessarily the reason why I stumble however as I could easily respond with "oh only a couple of years" referencing my on-line work. Like I said though, it is very complicated.

Image Credit; Horia Varian via flickr

A Child's Gift of Language

Although I was born in Bristol, much of my early childhood was spent living in Iran, before the revolution of 1979. My mother will tell you that during those years I had a great affinity for language. I would read lots of poetry and even stand up in class to do readings for which I used to get top marks. I do remember being able to read, write and speak in at least two languages fluently (Farsi and English) and was well underway to learning a third (Assyrian). When we moved to the UK I wasn't quite the erstwhile student I was in Iran, most likely due to the raging hormones and an unjustifiable need to act out brought on by the terrible teens. Yet I still loved to read & write with some of my best grades coming from my English classes where I would produce essays and short stories to great acclaim from my teachers. 

Rise of the Writer's Dream

This interest in writing followed me to college where in between wanting to be an Olympic boxer and a computer programmer, I continued to develop my craft. That's when I truly fell in love with writing and decided I wanted to be a write/reporter. My college years studying English, Law, Sociology and working to gain my City & Guilds in Print and Radio Journalism gave me some much needed experience in writing for print and radio. My broadcasting ventures were nerve wrecking to say the least and whilst highly enjoyable at times convinced me that sitting behind a typewriter was more preferable than a microphone. I wrote and covered a diverse range of subjects from local events to the Poll Tax riots, and was fortunate to interview a number of celebrities and politicians. 

My formative years at University during the early 90's gave me my first taste of early social media (VAX) as well as working for an on-line publication Axe Magazine.  Post graduation the opportunities were few and far between although I was able to write a few news items for a local weekly free newspaper. I'd hoped for more exposure and experience but I was balancing this with a part time job and a full time office job, both very demanding. I decided to retire my writing ambitions after moving into our house, choosing to focus on alternative career options that will also pay the bills.

Image Credit; Mama Musings via flickr

The Writer Reborn

I guess my ambition to get back into writing was re-energised at the start of 2007. At first it was going to be a hobby focusing on fictional short story writing, and submitting the occasional tale to a few competitions. It took me a few months to get back into the flow with idea after idea discarded into the recycling bin. During a period of 18 months I submitted two stories both of which never even made it into the final stages. Nothing emerged after those two and everything from assorted tales to a couple of book projects remained in development hell. I was about to throw in the towel again when a chance reunion with an old friend inspired me to set up my first blog, View From The Gallery.

The blog proved to be a useful experiment and helped me get into the habit of writing regularly as well as writing for the web. Believe it or not there are significant differences between web content writing and producing something for print publication. However  I wanted to publish to wider audience and even try to earn some extra pennies in the process. After much reading and research into various sites I settled on Suite 101. I was dubious at first until I glanced at the application process which involved submitting two pieces of written work. This was to weed out content writers looking to make a fast buck. Each article was subject to a rigorous editing process and I had on more than one  occasion fallen victim to the dreaded editors' "red pen". In terms of pennies I didn't earn much and to this day it is literally pennies. However it gave me that most important thing lacking in my arsenal; a portfolio of work covering a diverse range topics as well as exposure to a wide audience. 

Although the money wasn't quite rolling in by the truck load  the hits certainly were more than compensating with some articles averaging around 2000 unique visits per month each. Between my blog and Suite 101 articles I had built up enough of an impressive portfolio to win a bid to work as a news writer for The Daily Crowdsource. Yes this was a paid position  but not enough to warrant handing in my notice at work. The experience and knowledge I gained however made the role worthwhile. I wrote short news items, feature articles and even took on editing duties. The time soon came however to put my writing destiny back into my own hands, so we parted ways and I set up the Crowdsourcing Gazette.

If my experience with Suite 101, the blog and Daily Crowdsource helped build the foundations for my writing journey, the Gazette certainly put their strength to the test. Since it was launched over a year ago I have made some amazing contacts and built up quite a following and covered some interesting topics. My goal with the Gazette is ultimately for it to grow into something much bigger, although I am uncertain as to what that will entail. For now I continue to post when I can (daily is ideal) along with this writer's blog, story writing, the Gallery as well as write for Suite 101. all whilst trying to survive my  less than satisfactory day job (as jobs go it could be worse) which ultimately pays the bills. Someday I will earn a decent living doing what I love if I don't go mad in the process.   

So now when I am asked "how long have you been a writer" I might simply point them to this post. Yet in summing up my writing experience and ambitions (and it is a very brief summary) I now have a better understanding of I how would truly answer that question; how long have I been a writer? Most of my life really.

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