… In the next few weeks, I’m hoping a new venture will take off. I’m not telling you what it is yet because I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it before it’s actually all carved in stone (p.s. did you know the definition of ‘sincerely’ is ‘without wax’ sin cire because they used to use wax to fill in the gaps in marble, so ‘without wax’ means ‘no faking’… I might start signing all my letters ‘yours without wax… etc’ just to be over-intellectual) and if it goes a bit pear-shaped as some of my plans sometimes do, then I hate it when people say ‘And what happened to that?’ – although, to be fair, it’s only when my plans rest in other people’s hands that they go pear-shaped.
Anyway, suffice to say it will involve my great loves (and hates) writing, the Internet, news, English and French. How’s that for lucky? I need a break anyway.
I’ve actually never believed in luck, or talent, just hard work and determination. I don’t believe in success just landing in people’s laps. I have also come to believe that in this life, it’s never what you know, but who you know. And who you know is never a matter of chance. People think ‘Oh, she’s lucky because she knows such-and-such-a-body’ and it’s all as if I’ve just got naturally great connections. It’s not. It’s because I work them. I network, baby. Knowing someone who knows someone is always the way to get somewhere else. People think it’s luck. It’s not. I cultivate those connections. And not by schmoozing, but by working. I’ve always thought if you do a thing for someone for free and you enjoy doing it and give your time as freely as you can, they’ll always repay you in triple, quadruple. I know I do. To those friends and family who’ve been there for me, I’d do pretty much anything for them. If I can do it, I will do it.
For instance, I know in the media, it’s not talent that gets you published or on television, it’s knowing the right people and being prepared to work hard and take low-paid jobs as stepping stones for bigger things. And it’s being honest. Even if it’s being honest about what you can’t do. I’ve got a few friends who say ‘how do you get published?’ – and it’s as if talent will out. It doesn’t usually. People look to JK Rowling (who tells a cracking great yarn, captured the zeitgeist but did little else than farm a very well-told quest) and say ‘oh, she got published’ – as if you can be published just by being a good writer.
Yet when I look at my published stuff, it’s always come through recommendation. I never sent anything to anyone and said ‘what do you think of this?’ and got it published. I was asked. And I was asked because I’d done it somewhere else for free first.
Take my education writing. First I did some work for a consultant in Lancashire. Lovely guy. I did quite a lot of stuff for him at a time when everyone was whinging about the new National Curriculum. I might moan a lot in reality, but at work, I don’t moan. Often. No point. I just do it. Whatever it is. Because I’d done a favour for this guy, he asked me to write a column for a magazine he edited. I did. Then another editor read it and liked it, and she said she’d give me £125.00 to write another one. I did. A whole £125.00 for an article. Whoo!
I wrote about ten in total.
When I got another job, I started writing things and giving them out for free. I did some work for my boss and she passed it on to her boss. They liked it. So they asked me to start writing for the Department for Education, and I did. I didn’t get paid, but it was good work.
Then I got asked to write by someone who knew the big boss. And then by someone else. And then I got a phone call to do some work on a textbook. I only wrote four chapters, but it was real writing. A real book. None of this internet malarky. A book with my name on it. Albeit with other people’s names on it too.
I’ve never solicited writing particularly – although if I am doing something already and another opportunity comes up to do something in the same line, I’ll put my name forward. I do a lot for free. That takes up a lot of time. I don’t care. If I painted (which I do) I’d do that for free. If I could write and never need money, I’d be happy as anything. Unfortunately, I need to pay the bills from time to time.
I’m not, and I never have been, a talented writer. I’ve been a dedicated, hard-working writer and I’ve been a poor writer. I think we’ve all got a niche in life, and if we’re lucky, we get to do the things we love. All work should be vocational I think, but in practice it doesn’t work like that. I wish good writers got published, but they don’t always know how to network in such a way as to draw their work to the eyes of the people in control. It’s going to get harder too. Kindle, whilst making publishing available to all, will quickly be trial by self-marketing to most. And most writers can’t market what they write. That’s why publishers were invented. Soon, we’ll need online marketing to draw attention to online writers.
Anyway, suffice to say with this new work, I’ve been thrown right in at the deep end – albeit with a very nice lifeguard watching over me – and if I didn’t know how SEO and RSS and Mailchimp and all manner of stuff worked already, I’d be drowning, not swimming. Thank heavens for my eager curiosity! Luckily, my suck-it-and-see motto has worked well so far.
Wish me the Best of British and I’ll let you all know as soon as it’s more firm what my new project will be! See you in the ether some time soon!