Many young writers see my writing career and always ask me for tips on how I got here. How I got to the point of choosing the projects to work on, where I can turn down writing work in an industry where some writers are struggling to find work. They look at my life and want the short cut. I simply smile and ask them ‘How badly do you want it?’ There are ways to fast track your career, it is not easy, but with dedicated focus and determination, you too can fast track your career. Below I share some tips that I used and continue to use to stay on top of my writing game.
- Switch off the TV: This will be my first point because I have watched far less TV shows and films than most people I know in the industry, but watching less has meant more writing for me. I have used the hours to write and develop concepts for paid and passion projects. Most writers feel they don’t have enough hours in a day to complete all the work they’d like to get done, but friend, if your daily life revolves around at least 2 hours of TV a day, then you are really shortchanging yourself and your career. I spent a big part of my life only watching TV at the weekends. I’m currently watching more TV in the evening because the pandemic means I shift some things around. Relook your life, how much time is spent watching TV, how much time is spent on social media. Those are time stealers, we’ve all been given 24 hours in a day. How will you spend yours?
- Read Read Read: Media personality Caroline Mutoko once said ‘Read read read or your mind will rot.’ I couldn’t have said it better. Words are your tools of trade. How do you call yourself a writer when you don’t interact with words? Aim to read a script a day and analyze everything that worked and didn’t work. A script a day is too much? How badly do you want to fast track your success? If you can watch a movie a day, you can read a script a day. Prioritize. Read books of different genres, both fiction and non-fiction, Read newspaper articles, re-fill your well of knowledge and you’ll never run dry. You can find scripts to read for free at simplyscripts.com
- Follow the right people on social media: As a screenwriting lecturer my jaw always drops when I interact with students and drop names of writers doing great in Kenya, Africa and beyond and discover the students have no clue who those people are. How do you know Kim Kardashian and not know or never heard of Nnedi Okorafor? If you want to fast track your career you have to start following the right people who will inspire you and this way you’ll fast track your career. Following the right people ensures you get access to important information that might be useful to your career.
- Beat deadline: There’s nothing that pisses off an editor more than a writer who doesn’t beat deadlines, one who sends in sloppy work. It is one thing to struggle with a story, it is another to spend 99% of the deadline time watching telly (procrastinating) then 1% of the time doing rushed work. We script editors can tell from a mile away how much time you put into the process and this is how you lose jobs or never get recommended for other gigs. I get called every week or two by a producer looking for writers, I recommend from writers I know and from my former and even current students, I never recommend anyone who will give grief to a producer.
- Have a goal and a plan:
What’s your plan for your next two months? What do you hope to have achieved by end of June? Write a feature length? Write a novel? Enter a competition? How many projects do you want to have written by end of 2020? What is your plan and how do you intend to get there? How much writing are you getting done in a day? You have to flex the writing muscle every day to propel your writing. There’s no shortcut. Writing is not an option, it is what you do every day.
- 6. Network: No man is an Island. You need people around you. You don’t have to attend functions physically, and with the current pandemic and quarantine there are so many FB lives and Zoom discussions, this is the time to step out of the shadows and shine by asking relevant questions during those Live events, the beauty is that this mode favours introverts so just type away your question or comments, get your name out there, get connected to the industry.
I hope these pointers have helped you rethink how you can fast track your career. It is possible to fast track your career but it won’t be easy, it takes a lot of sacrifice, hard work and hours to speed things up for yourself. If you want it badly enough, you will get it.
Happy writing and Happy Creating!