Career Pathway: Writer
Associate Playwright at Chapterhouse Theatre Company
Laura is a writer from Lincolnshire. She writes for the stage, film and television. Her credits include: BBC EastEnders: E20, BBC Casualty and Holby City shadow schemes; the Almeida Theatre; Customs House South Shields; Hull Truck Theatre. Her first feature film, Lapwing, is currently in post-production, featuring Emmett J Scanlan (Hollyoaks, The Fall). Recently, Laura became writer in residence at the Petersfield Shakespeare Festival and she lectures in screenwriting at the University of Lincoln. Laura has been Associate Playwright at Chapterhouse Theatre Company for a number of years and her current productions with the company include Little Women, Robin Hood, Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre.
PhotoCredit: John Aron
As a writer, I am definitely a creature of routine. So it has been surprising for me when sitting down to think about a typical day that I realised just how varied and different my days can actually be! Naturally, time with my laptop always takes up a lot of my day, but I’ve been really disciplined in the last few years at making sure that I make the time to do some writing by hand as well. A couple of years ago I discovered that my hand actually felt strange when I picked up a pen and paper so I resolved to do something about that! My exact routine will differ from project to project, as well as day to day. I love writing a mix of different types of stories, characters and creative worlds for different formats, from theatre to film, TV and radio. For me, I think this is key to being a working writer; you have to be really versatile and open to new ideas and challenges.
A “typical” day for me would probably be best described quite simply as a writing day. These are the days I spend at my computer (or notebook) planning new projects, writing drafts of plays, treatments for TV or film ideas, editing scripts I’ve already written and incorporating feedback and notes I might have received from a director or script editor. Although writing can seem like a solitary job, you’re actually deeply involved with other creatives, whether that’s the director who is working on your play, the actors in rehearsals or, as with many projects, an entire team of creatives from producers and cinematographers to press and marketing.
I also spend a lot of time applying for new opportunities, whether that’s pitching for commissions, entering professional competitions or applying for various writing jobs or roles I might have seen advertised, or have been shared with me by contacts and colleagues. This, along with the joys of doing your own accounts, is the more administrative side of being a writer. However immersed I am in my creative projects, I have to keep a section of brain engaged with the “business” of being a writer – just like anyone who works freelance. You have to be constantly ahead of yourself, planning for what will happen once you finish this particular commission and making sure you have the next piece of work lined up. That said, it’s a balancing act – commissions have a habit of coming all at once and often I’m busy juggling one project alongside another. I have an agent who helps me keep on top of things and takes some of the administrative load, but you do have to be really disciplined with your time as a writer. This can be tricky but the motivation to write usually keeps you focussed so you get through these tasks quickly and can immerse yourself in stories again.
On other days, I’ll be doing things that keep me from my computer. This might include going to meetings (I spend a lot of time on trains), teaching students at the university or going into rehearsals when I have plays getting ready for production. Sometimes this can feel difficult, as though it’s pulling you away from your own little bubble of writing stories, but once I’ve broken away from my computer I always feel the benefit. I think it keeps you fresh. It might sound mad but if you’ve been writing too long, it can be easy to forget how normal conversation actually works! So it’s really important to get out there and interact for a while at least (if only to make sure your dialogue is really true to life when you go back to the laptop…) It’s also lovely to have colleagues. Getting to write for a living is an absolute privilege and I’m always so grateful I can do what I love, but it can be a little isolating so it’s good to shake things up and get a change of scenery. Usually it inspires a new writing idea – and the whole cycle begins again.
My advice to budding writers would be to put yourselves out there and give it a go. If you want to write, write! It doesn’t matter how big or small, and when you’re starting out don’t feel you have to share everything you write. Some things will just be for you; don’t underestimate how important those things are. You’re learning and developing all the time so don’t feel pressured to share something you’ve written too soon – or at all! The right piece will come along at the right time that you’ll feel confident to put out there. Keep up to date with the kinds of opportunities you might like to be involved with, whether that’s in theatre, film, TV, radio, poetry, fiction. Watch and read as much as you can – it’ll help your imagination to get fired up. Inspiration is a key part of being a writer and the more ideas you’ve got buzzing around in your head, the better!
The idea of the Educational Life ‘Career Pathway’ is to give everyone a snapshot into the plethora of careers, vocations, jobs and voluntary roles available. Each pathway will give you a unique insight into a day in the life of someone in that role. If there is a particular career you’d like to see, please let us know.
Each pathway is written by the person. They kindly volunteer their time and knowledge to help you choose a role that appeals to your interests and skill set.
Chapterhouse Theatre Company have generously donated family tickets for their touring shows this summer at Walmer Castle, Deal.
To be in with a chance of winning, please read Laura’s Career Pathway and then answer the question on our Competitions page.