Foot in the Door



This is a photo I took yesterday in Paris. Just after taking it, the storm clouds broke. We took shelter in Shakespeare and Company.

I have preciously written about the serendipity of this Parisian bookstore. In truth I wrote about the one time that a stranger identified me as a writer, asked me to read something I had written, and I ended up reading my diary aloud to a room full of strangers. In a way, I see this as my start – the moment that confirmed that writing was my vocation.



Yesterday, the view over Notre Dame was obscured by rain but otherwise, the room was unchanged. There were the backpackers sleeping under bookshelves as well as an older lady writing a letter – to no one in particular, or she said. A man coaxed his girlfriend into playing the piano. She was brilliant.

My boyfriend, Kennedy, was drawing beside me. A man approached him – young and unsure – and commissioned an illustration from Kennedy. This was his first sale, his start.



I fell in love a little more, with Paris, and the bookstore and Kennedy. There was such beauty in this symmetry. As the storm cleared I left the store with a copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. In its pages I discovered this thought, about serendipity and the novel.

Human lives are composed … like music. Without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of greatest distress. It is wrong, then, to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences. … But it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.



Notice coincidences – there is a magic in serendipity.

There is a beauty in my “getting started’ story and there was a beauty in its reality too. But the whole truth was much messier.

The truth: When it comes to doing what you love, getting your foot in the door can be just as painful as the cliche sounds on second reading.

So here is my top three tips for getting started as a professional writer. There may not be magic and beauty in them, but hey, it’s a start. Sometimes that is all you need before the serendipity takes over from there.




Typography by Jasmine Dowling For A Pair and a Spare

1.) Apply for five jobs a day.

When I first started out I did this religiously. Even after I got my first gig. In fact, I still try to apply for at least one job a day – freelancing is unpredictable, unsteady work.  When you apply for five jobs a day, you widen the pool, get used to the rejection, and get fast at job applications.

2.) Build on your portfolio

Chances are you will have to wait a while for the first gig to eventuate. See this a a blessing – you have time to build up your portfolio. I have messy thoughts about working for free, especially in the creative world. I have found it beneficial, however, to write a couple of ‘guest posts’ on other blogs and websites. For me, this was a crash course in editing, publishing and Search Engine Optimization. I think that it also gave my portfolio a degree of legitimacy. Some of the best people I worked with were Your Zen Life, Grubby Money and Dame Traveler.

3.) Work a second job.

I found this great article on the Coveteur the other day about how to go freelance. It rang true. One of the best things that they advised was DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET A SERVICE JOB (their capitals, but I support the sentiment.) In fact, cherish this as an opportunity to collect stories and characters. Since I have started working as a writer I have also worked as a tutor and a gardener. I draw from both. Constantly.

Further Reading

Getting Started from the Do What You Love series by A Pair and a Spare.

How to go Freelance by The Coveter

Should you work for Free? By Seth Godin

Credits: Black and White photographs from Shakespeare and Co. Coloured Photographs by myself and Kennedy Ross. Typography by Jasmine Dowling for A Pair and a Spare.

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