I live in India and like any other country, we have our own variety of writers; rich ones, poor ones, those who write for a living and get bonus rates off editors, and still others who hope to do the same some time in future but currently write for peanuts or nothing at all…anything to wear the mantle of a writer!
So when I opted to be a writer, the question was: Are you going to be a working writer (something in the lines of a working lunch) or a hobby writer? Now, my decision was made on several considerations. Since we are new to each other, I should tell you a bit about me.
Back in 2005, I was considering leaving a steady yet stressful, invaluable job with the government financial sector, one that was coveted by the zillion, jobless, educated people in my country. And, No! My father is not a billionaire, nor is my husband an industrial tycoon and we do have expenses coming up in near future like a young-adult family looking to do some costly education. And in India the parents pay for that! Plus, there were no benefits like a monthly pension coming to me after I put up my papers. And my reason for leaving the job was my absolute itch to write anything and everything.
So my choice was on a platter; was it to be writing’ as ‘writing’ or ‘writing’ as ‘working’. Obviously, it was the latter, for straight financial reasons. And since I crashed out of the cubicle in the year 2006, I didn’t have a big problem making a living. The economy was not yet down, and my skills as a writer and fluency in two languages were in demand; so much demand, that I was working 14 hours a day and earning quite above what I did in my previous job. The big difference was that I was enjoying it all the time! I had become a professional writer, almost overnight, and here that only means a writer who gets paid for what she writes.
My writing then was not much in the field of fiction. It was mostly content for the web and the academic circuit. I created sms content, condensing whole books into a series off sms messages; I wrote descriptions for videos posted online, I created training modules for English skills, I wrote articles for new websites and then wrote comments for it under a dozen different identities. I did all these directly interacting with clients I found on job sites online or sometimes with content firms who took on bulk orders for such work. All these took me to the next stage of my ‘profession’ as a writer.
Soon I was co-ordinating and editing projects. I was no longer a writer writing for wages, but someone who was being selected for knowing her job and now I could actually choose projects. I remember the disbelief I felt when I first said No to a project offer. Did I really do that and could I afford to as a professional?
Well, I could and I did! And my self-esteem which had taken a beat in spite of the income pure content-writing brought in had to be boosted. So I took to writing articles for the media which were, to my surprise, accepted well. So I had some exposure to the real world at last. Remember I was a worker for the virtual world so far, I had had no identity at all. Journalism is a career which demands and bestows contacts and I soon had an ‘identity’ to reckon with. I found myself then asked to take training sessions for local institutions. My module-prep stunts in my initial days now came to my aid. Therein came my incarnation as a trainer.
Next came the ghost-writing phase; these projects were from the content-writing firm with whom I was empanelled. I ghost-wrote young adult fiction which went to become a three-part series, as also spiritual books, a couple of chick-lit romances ala Mills n Boon and so on; I was now writing stuff which people who know me would never associate with my writing style. Never mind that they were published under other names.
Now articles are one thing and whole books are another. And all this brought in my next phase, I was writing fiction at last and getting published though not in the glam mags. Still I actually had readers telling me ‘hey we like your work’ (I had hate-mails too… which writer would be complete without it?)
In between all this, I did a translation assignment and found another niche nook, juggling my multi-language skills. I was soon bombarded with translation assignments between my native tongue Malayalam and my adopted language, English. And things looked hunky-dory, but not for long.
The train soon derailed because I took on more projects than I should and the clients began to murmur because each one had expected to be first in the line and did not like it when they found they weren’t my priority. The recession was well and truly in, and content jobs had dwindled to a stop. And journalism freelancing was a trickle. Training was something that companies no longer did; after all they didn’t have many left on the rolls to train.
So I plunged headlong into trouble-shooting mode, wrote to clients, sub-contracted assignments to meet deadlines. I concentrated on translations which were fortunately still giving plenty of work and even acquired a few by-lines. Now THAT put me into a better league. I even had two local magazines interview me and a local TV channel putting me on a program where they profiled entrepreneurs, doing a variety of work.
I was a professional writer now and proudly describe myself as a writer, independent journalist, bi-lingual translator and trainer, all rolled into one.
So here I am, in the caterpillar stage, and looking to hibernate soon to emerge as a butterfly (I hope!). Meanwhile I hope I can share with you what I come across in my reading and writing world day-to-day.
Suneetha is a writer by passion, profession and hobby. She writes fiction in English, poetry in her native tongue Malayalam and journalistic features in both. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org