Advice for emerging writers at U of W

How students can get started in the field of writing

Recent graduates can sometimes have a hard time finding a place to work that supports them financially and contributes to a career in writing. Professionals in the field and recent graduates agree that students should get started on their careers long before graduation.

Bryan Drader, a theatre and film professor at the University of Winnipeg (U of W), freelance writer, dramaturg and the executive director of the Manitoba Association of Playwrights (MAP), says that even before thinking about graduating and finding a job in the field, there are two main things students should do.

“Write. It’s insanely simple advice, but it’s amazing how often I had to tell myself that as a young writer,” Drader says. “The other side of that coin is that you have to get yourself out there in whatever way you can.”

“Ask, snoop, volunteer, send out (work),” Drader says. He advises students to get involved with some of the many organizations out there that are in students’ desired fields, even if it’s unpaid work.

“When I was younger, I remember, on more than one occasion, calling the artistic director at the Prairie Theatre Exchange and just asking if I could sit in on rehearsals, just because I wanted to be there and see how (things) were done,” Drader says.

Jen Doerksen, a graduate from the U of W and Red River College (RRC) joint Creative Communications program, offers their experiences as an example.

“I started working in the field (of writing) before I graduated from (U of W and RRC). I started working as a reporter for The Projector at Red River College as the arts and culture reporter,” they say. “It got me into the habit of writing every week – just sitting down and writing.”

Doerksen’s current employment runs through many channels. They are an editor for Stylus Magazine, they partially run local music/video and content creation company BNB Studios, and they actively take freelance work, just to name a few things.

Doerksen mentions that throughout their time in the Creative Communications program at RRC, they had to write weekly blog posts for a project.

“I chose to do concert reviews. Honestly, I didn’t want to give up my nightlife.”

Doerksen says that finding a way to gain experience while delving into their passion made for great practice.

“Start with your attitude,” Doerksen says. “No matter what kind of work you’re doing, it’s important to feel good, or at least curious. Even if you’re apprehensive and scared, it’s important to feel good about what you’re doing.”

Doerksen’s advice to students is to remain curious and open to new experiences.

“Put yourself through the creative challenge of trying something you think might not interest you right away, because you will definitely learn from it,” they say.

“The world really does want good stories. Work on your craft and get better. If you have a good story, somebody will want to (work) with it,” Drader says, offering some motivational advice. “That’s the engine. The world wants good stories, and that’s where it starts with your work as a storyteller.”

Published in Volume 73, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 27, 2018)

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