Today is the 46th anniversary of Barbados’ independence. It seems a fitting time to have a post from Barbadian writer Sandra Sealy.
Driven to Write
By Sandra Sealy
Late one evening on the way from Pic-o-De-Crop Finals (the national calypsonian contest in Barbados during the summer Crop Over Festival) my niece was teasing me about how I should stop driving and take the bus. I’m notorious for my horrible night vision. In reply I jested, ‘No, you have it wrong. I need to make enough money to hire a chauffeur.”
Instead of laughter, there ensued a serious discussion about how hard it is to make a living as an artist. No argument there, but what made me pause was: “What you really need is a full time job.”
I felt my ears burning. “Wait! So what do you think I’m doing?” I screamed in my head.
What I said in an even voice was, “Not necessary. That’s okay.”
I continued with, “There are artists, writers specifically, who are doing their thing quite successfully.”
My niece countered, “But aren’t a lot of them doing other things to make money?”
“Yes, but that’s by choice; they don’t have to.”
Then after a bit more time defending my case, I realized I shouldn’t really blame her. You see, like many looking on, her vision is too narrow. Besides, I was not the best example of “success” – if you measured it in dollars and cents, that is.
But then again, what is life without balance? Do I always write with $$ as the goal? Most emphatically not. Do I want the frenetic soul wrenching burden of being yoked to someone else’s schedule and whims as an employee? Or even doing something day after day for which I have no passion? (Please understand that not only do I have great respect for people that do this, there were times I had to do it myself. It takes tremendous fortitude.) Been there, done that and posed by the life-sized cutout character.
However, I must confess many times instead of producing regularly and being much more organized, I coast. (or get lost in a game or catch up on Facebook or watch a movie or take a nap or read). Inconsistency will not yield the money that I could be making. So, I made a renewed commitment to earn more income from my writing. After my pledge, I made a list of areas – some which I’ve started on already – that are sure to expand my writing:
- Send queries to targeted markets consistently every week. It takes effort and time to develop relationships with editors and publications with. Once you find markets, pitch ideas and service them regularly. Fortunately, most accept queries/ submissions via email.
- Content Management and Social Media are hot. Being “content rich” is the key to building search engine rankings. Here again is where a writer steps in. An organization may launch their Facebook page and/Twitter page but do they have time to maintain it every week? Is it consistently updated? Are there typos and grammatical errors in the posts? I hear “opportunity”; don’t you? Go write that proposal and convince them you’re the one for the job.
- Design and maintain blogs in areas of interest. Having a web presence for yourself is key. If you’re passionate about a particular subject area, this can be fodder for regular writing. Content rich blogs that are attractive and interesting will drive traffic your way. Let people know your site exists by registering it with search engines.
- Provide a guest post on someone else’s blog to attract new audiences and build your writing credits. Get your writing clips online. (Contently.com is FREE and works well.)
- Practice what you teach. Working with children and youth in particular is very gratifying and you can get funding for creative writing tuition projects.
- Keep your eyes peeled. Watching the news, reading a newspaper or trade journal or even talking to someone can spark your interest in a subject. Journal a list of your ideas and even proposed markets for them. Is there a festival you’d like to attend? Is a new restaurant opening? Perhaps your editor would be open to accepting a restaurant review. (I really enjoy being paid to eat!)
- Expand your poetry into song writing and collaborate with performers who could sing them. You will develop a whole new appreciation for your work by fusing it with music. Of course, with airplay on radio and on the internet, you could accumulate some royalties.
- Propose some exciting narratives. When I listen to the descriptions of the costume bands as they cross the stage at our annual carnival Crop Over, I often think they need a proper writer. Some are, well, boring, so this could be a whole new niche.
- Explore other forms of sharing your writing. Perhaps that short story idea could be developed into a play or film script which could widen your audience. It’s possible that the book you longed to write could be published as an e-book. Consider releasing your collection of poems as a CD with music rather than a paper-based anthology.
- Try a new genre. Maybe you are comfortable writing poetry, but what about trying your hand at a play or an article or short story? You just may discover strengths you didn’t realize you had.
After reviewing my list, I realized that with steady work, my dream of being driven in air conditioned comfort while I tapped away furiously on a tablet in the back seat, could happen.
No, scratch that. When it does, my niece will be among the first to whom I’ll offer a ride.
Sandra Sealy is a communications consultant, blogger, award-winning Caribbean writer, creative writing tutor and spoken-word artist from Barbados. Her popular blog, Seawoman’s Caribbean Writing Opps offers markets and tools for international writers of all genres.