Film, TV + Theatre

Being a writer: Is it as glamorous as the movies?


By Deanna Cheah

Being a writer: Is it as glamorous as the movies?

The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City, 13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses, Almost Famous, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Rather nuanced, above are all movies about a writer or a similar shape and form. I personally love Carrie Bradshaw’s [protaganist and narrator in Sex and the City] prolific stories of the miserable choices of men in New York City or the exciting emergence of being noticed as an avant-garde writer and ‘making it’ in the literary world [instances from William Miller the main character in Almost Famous]. Taking off those rose-coloured glasses, comes the big question: Is being a writer really all that glamorous or are movies just movies?

From a young age, I vaugely knew I wanted to write—to be a writer. But like all “what do you want to be when you grow up?” questions, the answer changes, frequently. So every year, I would have different answers but they would always be in rotation; a stewardess, a doctor, and a writer. All vastly different choices that I circled through, more than once. You could say the limited plane rides I had were convincing enough. The—then—longing of wanting to be a stewardess stems from wanderlust and thinking to myself: Their job is traveling, who wouldn’t want that. The ambition of a doctor was inspired by my grandfather, and also biology was my favourite subject. I would follow him to the clinic and sit in the empty office beside his. Occasionally straying away from my colouring book (it was usually that or it was disturbing the nurses asking them to [please] make me Milo) to peep into his office. These jobs are great and in a perfect world I would love to do it but when reality kicks in, I just couldn’t picture myself doing either.

Writing—the job I foresee myself doing for the rest of my life, or so I hope. My love for it started with reading (Enid Blyton was my favourite) and then it blossomed into diary entries. But what really propelled it was visiting my aunt—she’s a writer, a beauty writer to be more specific. For most holidays she would give us some goody bags filled with beauty products, so my love for the industry started off materialistic; not the most sincere but looking back I’m grateful for her and the PR gifts — all the lipsticks and nail polishes I got made me love beauty journalism and I probably wouldn’t be pursuing writing if not for it.

What is it really like? 

A glorious montage of life in New York City seems to be the main theme in movies about publications—from the dozens of movies, I would take the cinematic lens as a definitive example for outsiders; which also means it could be misunderstood and making it a relatively obscure industry. For starters, there aren’t parties every night, unfortunately, neither is there a closet in the office. I’m only 20 and have a long way more to go, but there are certain portrayals in movies that occur as real-life situations based on my experiences. As Carrie Bradshaw would say: “and I couldn’t help but wonder” so, let me shed some light:

Real-life: Let’s take The Devil Wears Prada as an example: Christian Thompson (Simon Baker), predominates as a self-important writer and he does it all too well. Once in a while, you do encounter an individual who believes they’re all that, and the stereotype of having a god complex as a writer might be true to some degree but for the most part, the majority of writers I know are sweethearts.

Only in movies: Most of these movies portray writers owning beautiful clothes, and they’re mainly designer. I too love labels but I definitely do not have a closet filled to the brim with Manolo Blahnik’s or an office with Chanel, Versace, and Prada at my disposal.

Real-life: Deadlines. All movies are exaggerated, but the impending doom of a deadline is too real. Like most jobs, late nights are a thing for writers too.

Only in movies: If like me, and you’re just learning to earn your stripes, you do not get invited to all the fashion weeks. Sorry.

Real-life: Romances could ignite some creative inspiration. I would love to write about all the men have who wronged me (just like in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) but that will just be petty, or maybe….

In conclusion: Yes, it is glamorous but i have yet to encounter anything near to the movies. But behind all that glamour, we put plenty of hard work, dedication and love into our work.

What keeps me going when times get tough?

The saying “to do what you love and to love what you do” applies to me. I love this job and wouldn’t trade it for anything else but the inevitable feeling of ennui strikes periodically, especially if they’re repetitive articles. So, here are some things I do to keep the spark alive:

  • Hit it pause button: I remember to take care of myself. It can be taking a long shower or the opposite: going out the whole night. Whatever I’m in the mood for, although it’s usually the shower.
  • Reading: Interconnected to writing, reading helps me come up with new ideas. I love online thought pieces and personal stories but also physical books.
  • Meeting new people: Meeting people that are in the industry (or not) helps me gain perspective. Hearing their stories and listening to how they got started grounds me. It also acts as a reminder of why I started and why I love it.
  • Being conscious of the art: I like being poetic, however, it’s only intrinsic to me when I’m writing something I’m genuinely interested in—snapping back to the sentimental value of the article or finding the fascination within it helps me somewhat enjoy the subject. It also enables the article to be more personal and less detached. Essentially, making the best of it and adding gusto.

Finding creativity — How to start writing? 

Arbitrariness is the enemy of creativity, or so they say. Creativity can be hard to come by and writer’s block is very real. Where do you start if you want to be a writer? Just start writing is an adage most writers will give and it holds true meaning — writing has no rules; arguably. Everyone starts somewhere and published work isn’t an ultimatum. The ominously echoed phrase I can hear my mother say “practice makes perfect” also holds truth—it gets better the more you do it. I find creativity from everything around me which sounds cliché but look around and try it for yourself. Incubate those ideas!—I keep the notes on my phone or my planner handy when if need to write a story idea or even words that I think might be useful in the future (I try to write them down immediately if not I risk losing the idea. Tried and tested, it isn’t fun so take it from me).  A lot of my articles are spruced-up versions of those ideas. Reading helps with creativity too, it’s a medium for imagination because you have to picture it yourself and if you think about it, all ideas are borrowed. Most books are about the same thing but the writing changes everything. So the takeaway: just start writing.

To: The future purveyors of the written word, put pen to paper—literally and figuratively—all the best!

From: A girl still figuring it out

Movies for inspiration

The Devil Wears Prada

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Almost Famous 

27 Dresses 

13 Going on 30 

Sex and the City (bonus: besides the three movies, there is also a series) 

The first movie of the three

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