Don’t Aim Too High

Aiming too high could hinder your writing career. This essay explores why you should progress through the learning curve naturally.

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Writing is a very wide and varied artform. If you’re not interested in writing novels, you can write short stories. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then you can write non-fiction or biographical pieces. If none of that works, you could write screenplays, plays, or scripts for film or TV. Being a writer encompasses all of those things; however, being a writer doesn’t come with the skills needed for the very different disciplines.

While some of the skills between the disciplines are transferable, it’s very important that you don’t aim too high too soon. It’s quite a common thing amongst new writers. I know that when I started out I had written something I really enjoyed, and I wanted to do more with it, so I started working on the script for it to be turned into a movie or TV show. I got a little bit of the way through and realised that I was in no way equipped to write a script. It’s a completely different skill set that I didn’t have at the time. I’ve since collaborated with a few other very talented people who knew what they were doing, and we did work on turning a short story of mine into a little five-minute film. But that took a lot of work and learning from other people who had the skills and experience in the field to do it properly.

I’m not saying that you should never aim big. If you don’t do that, you’ll never get anywhere in life. But aiming too high too soon will only set you up to fail. No matter what you’re writing, you need to be honest with yourself about how far your skills can go and what you can genuinely do. Start small, have an attainable goal, and do that really well. Once you’ve conquered the small-scale work, move up to a medium scale and then onto larger goals. Each time that you progress and move forward, your skills will improve, as will the quality of your work.

There is no shame in starting out small. The vast majority of people who have achieved lasting success began exactly that way. Stephen King started out his writing career writing short stories in his spare time before he moved on to making novels. Leigh Whannell—one of my favourite screenwriters—started off his career making shorts before he moved on to making low-budget independent films, and then he’s now making big-budget Hollywood movies. Writing has a significant learning curve to it, no matter your discipline, and there’s very little benefit to skipping ahead. It’s likely only to end up hindering your career.

Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.

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