Day 319. Let’s workshop it

In June 2013 on June 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm


So you want to be a writer. Is there a course for that?


Sometimes I feel like I’ve been doing ‘courses’ towards becoming a writer for the past 23 years. Everything I’ve done – professional, amateur, paid, unpaid, deliberate, accidental – has somehow contributed to my current motivations.

Adding to all that, today I attended my first workshop at an association of writers, the SA Writers Centre.

Talking to the topic “How to give up your day job”, Patrick Allington held the floor and encouraged the audience to join in.

Patrick touched on several aspects of writing that struck a chord with me.

On managing several different types of work (along with the demands of a young family), he said:

“I think of myself as a juggler; I throw balls away as I finish things, and I pick up new ones”.

Patrick also talked about the necessity to juggle different types of literary employment – balls of different sizes and weights, if you will. Tasks such as reading, writing, editing and critiquing all require different skills. As a result, most writers need to be meticulous about the way they allocate time and energy to each job.

‘The deadline’ was raised as another important issue. Whereas most jobs involve a worker sticking to mutiple deadlines for a single boss, freelance writing requires that multiple deadlines to multiple bosses are managed. This is tough. Each boss does not care about the other bosses. Each boss must be kept happy. Work must be handed in to deadline, otherwise future assignments from that source will dry up.

Making decisions about when to take on unpaid writing assignments was also a hot topic. It’s of particular relevance to science writers, as evidenced by a recent chain of discussion on the Australian Science Communicators email list about if and when it’s reasonable to ask writers to generate content ‘for the experience’.

Patrick proposed that even experienced and well-regarded writers do still take on unpaid work from time to time. He suggested the key is:

“If you’re considering taking on unpaid work, you need to work out whether and how you’re going to make it work for you”.

There is no doubt that taking on unpaid work will improve your experience and create content for your CV. The problem is – as I discussed with Liam Mannix recently – an individual’s capacity to take on unpaid work is directly related to the income they earn through others means and/or the ability of other family members to support them.

I do a reasonable amount of unpaid work, but I’m lucky to have a husband who earns well enough to allow me to do so. This is not the case for everyone.

[image thanks to PalFest on flickr]

  1. […] heard many authors comment on the pros and cons of producing content for free. As I’ve written previously, Adelaide-based author Patrick Allington […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: