Could You Be A Writer?

Mar­ian Ashcroft talks with Susie Busby, Prin­ci­pal of The Writ­ers Bu­reau, Bri­tain’s largest in­de­pen­dent writ­ing school, about what it takes to be a writer.

Fortean Times - - Letters -

Who do you think can be a writer then, Susie? Well, a writer is some­one who com­mu­ni­cates ideas through words. And most of us do that ev­ery day via so­cial me­dia … so we’re all writ­ers to some de­gree. But can you re­ally say some­one is a writer if they text and tweet? Not re­ally. I sup­pose when we talk about a ‘writer’ we usu­ally mean some­one who’s earn­ing from their writ­ing. But telling sto­ries to friends on­line is writ­ing too. And even there, you come across peo­ple who craft their sen­tences and play with words, which is a good in­di­ca­tion that writ­ing is their thing. So, do you need to be a ‘spe­cial’ per­son to study with The Writ­ers Bu­reau? Not at all! WB has been go­ing for 28 years now, and though some peo­ple come to us with very clear ob­jec­tives, oth­ers have lit­tle more than a vague de­sire to do some­thing cre­ative. Our stu­dents come from all sorts of back­grounds, and all sorts of cul­tures – leafy home-coun­ties vil­lages, bustling African cities, and ev­ery­where else be­tween. The ma­jor­ity haven’t re­ally writ­ten much be­fore, so we give them skills, and a safe space to ex­plore their op­tions, then pre­pare them for ap­proaches to the ed­i­tors, agents and pro­duc­ers who’ll even­tu­ally push their work out into the world. But you must be look­ing for some­thing … De­ter­mi­na­tion. Apart from a rea­son­able level of writ­ten English, that’s all we’re after. Not tal­ent? Well, that helps. But tal­ent’s no good if you won’t put the hours in. It’s the same in all the cre­ative in­dus­tries. Like Mo Farah said back in 2012 – ‘Any­thing’s pos­si­ble, it’s just hard work and graft­ing.’ And in our ex­pe­ri­ence, graft­ing beats pure tal­ent ev­ery time. Okay, but if some­one al­ready has that ‘graft­ing’ spirit, where does The Writ­ers Bu­reau fit in? Well, to stick with sport­ing analo­gies, for any stu­dent ready to go for it, Writ­ers Bu­reau is the coach in the back­ground. Our cour­ses and tu­tors build a new writer’s con­fi­dence and help them find out what they’re good at. We then show them how to get pieces ready for sub­mis­sion, so they’ve got the best pos­si­ble chance of turn­ing what­ever tal­ent they may have into proper, paid work. Is that what hap­pened with this year’s Writer of the Year – Sarah Plater? Ex­actly. When Sarah first joined us she wanted to write nov­els (still does). But on her course she dis­cov­ered a tal­ent for non­fic­tion. She’s now onto her fourth non-fic­tion book, earns half her in­come from writ­ing, and runs a writ­ing busi­ness with her hus­band – Mr and Ms Cre­ative. We’re so proud of her. She’s worked hard and run with op­por­tu­ni­ties as they’ve arisen, which just goes to show what a lit­tle con­fi­dence and de­ter­mi­na­tion can ac­tu­ally do. Any fi­nal words of ad­vice for as­pir­ing writ­ers? Apart from tak­ing one of our cour­ses, you mean? No se­ri­ously, I be­lieve a writer must do three things. Firstly, read lots, and widely. Next, write as much as pos­si­ble – ide­ally ev­ery day. And fi­nally, learn to edit. Any­one who can do these three things is well on the way to pro­duc­ing great work. If you’d like to find out more about The Writ­ers Bu­reau, take a look at their web­site: www.writ­ers­bu­ or call their freep­hone num­ber 0800 856 2008. Please quote AT1117

The Writ­ers Bu­reau's Writer of the Year 2017 Sarah Plater

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