There is something glorious to be said about writers. Of course, I’m biased because I’m one of them, but once you’ve waded into this competitive community and made friends with the same people who could steal the job you want… you learn a lot about yourself. I call writing, particularly in the gaming community, struggle work… because it’s a very obvious struggle. If it’s a hobby for you then maybe this doesn’t apply to you, but the majority of writers I interact with all want the same thing: A job in the industry. Hell, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be about writing. We just want to make money and play games. Test games. Spend hour after hour analyzing one scene of a game. We’re willing to do the tedious work and yet we’re always the ones overlooked because we don’t have the right qualifications. I think I just bitched a little… but it’s true. The majority of us don’t have college degrees in journalism and communications, and even the ones who do seem to still be sinking in the same boat. It leaves a very horrible taste in your mouth.
And yet you continue to write and search and pray.
For the ones who are trying to balance on the fence, wondering whether you should create that WordPress blog and jump in the wild ocean with the rest of us, pay close attention. Think very very hard about devoting your time to something as strenuous as writing. Because it is actually very strenuous and frustrating and sometimes downright depressing. If you’ve thought about it and you realize that you’re a writer who will never stop writing, then please dive right in. The water is very warm. Someone probably peed.
Learn to accept the fact that the only pay you’ll ever receive in the beginning is exposure. You’ll soon hate the word exposure. It’ll taste like a bitter, slow-moving poison because even though you abhor it and you know for a fact that you deserve something more… you’re not going to get it. Not right now. And if you do then you better tell me your secret because the rest of us are swimming with cinder blocks here! You’ll write and write and write until there’s a chronic pain in your fingers and your heart, but you’ll continue to write because somewhere written in the book of fate is the statement, “This dude is meant to be a writer. And maybe a bit of a masochist.” There’s no denying it. I know I can’t. It’s the struggle of being a writer in a highly competitive and young industry.
But let’s move on to another section of struggle work: You’re not as good as you think you are.
That’s sounds horrible and insulting, but it’s probably true. You’re probably in love with that last game review you shoved out a month ago… now go back and read it. With me, there always seems to be a bit of a honeymoon stage with my articles, particularly reviews and other editorials. After writing and editing it, I feel like it’s absolute gold. And it’s not, especially when I happen to revisit it a couple of months later. Everything feels stale and boring. You’ll probably find an embarrassing typo somewhere but you won’t really feel like fixing it because no one’s reading it anymore anyway, right? Don’t let it discourage you. There’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to hating past articles: It means you’re growing. I can look back at my journal I once wrote in as a 15 year old. At 15 I was determined to be one of the youngest self-published authors. I never once thought to look up who was actually the youngest self-published author, but I was determined anyway. I wrote stories without editing and actually finished them (a feat I can’t seem to achieve now)… and they’re grotesque.
I’m not sure I even knew how to spell the word “grotesque” then. See? Growth. Enter this field knowing that someone will always be better than you. It sounds like a negative way to think, but honestly, it helps me. Stay humble. Love criticism. Enjoy learning.
One day you’re going to have a resume a mile long and still not have any luck. I’ve applied at IGN about 10 times (possibly more) and have heard absolutely nothing from them. Not even a rejection… which at this point would be well received. I used to sit on my ass for 12+ hours on Call of Duty tournament weekends just to write a quick 10 minute article that the majority of readers only skimmed over. eSportsNation was an eye-opener. It was enjoyable while it lasted, but devoting that much time for the sake of experience and exposure can kill a person. But of course now that I’m not “working” for anyone else, I miss it. That’s part of being a writer. You soon learn that this isn’t just a job opportunity or a hobby. This is a lifestyle.
There’s also another important factor that may hinder your ability to find work: Location.
I’ve started applying for work in New York recently, enthusiastically adding in my application that I’m interested in relocating. As a girl who has lived in a fairly small town in Tennessee all her life, this is terrifying. Freelance work may be okay sporadically, but as someone who doesn’t understand the concept well enough to make a living (someone teach me!), I’d appreciate an actual “physical” career. An office space with benefits and maybe a gym membership. I’m also probably asking for way too damn much.
However, my best advice will always be this: Be a self-starter. Create your foundation and learn if this is really something you want to do every day. After that, try to leave your comfort zone (the step I’m currently stuck on). Obviously not everyone can be lucky enough to earn a living from their desk at home. I desperately wish that I could. But until you can find that one career that will actually help you financially survive, learn to work for free. Accept the word exposure and continue building a resume and portfolio. Prove to everyone that you can develop the chops to write for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Become rooted in the industry as someone dependable and indispensable and maybe someone will take a chance on you. At least that’s what I’m hoping for me.
Hire me, please.