Former massage therapist Andrew Webber shares how he overcame feelings of self-doubt and made the transition into a successful career as a professional writer.
For many writers, their initial forays into professional practice began with blogging. They wrote about their lives, their passions and interests, or – in Andrew Webber’s case – the search for the perfect cup of coffee.
Trained as a sports massage therapist, Webber moved to Abu Dhabi in 2009 and started to blog about his hunt for coffee in the United Arab Emirates capital. ‘I had a significant and ongoing addiction to caffeine,’ he joked.
But what began as a hobby soon gained international attention, along with a spot in the winner’s circle in the 2016 Montegrappa Writing Prize for his first novel, Erasure. So, Webber started to explore the professional opportunities writing offered as a potential new career path. Today, he writes full-time. How’d he get there?
Formalising his experience with education was an important first step for Webber, so he enrolled in Curtin University’s Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing and Publishing), online through Open Universities Australia (OUA).
‘Prior to doing my degree I had no formal education. I turned 15 and left school and went out and did other things, worked in factories,’ he explained.
This desire to complete formal training in the field, was fuelled in part by what Webber now identifies as imposter syndrome, a feeling of self-doubt that plagues many emerging creatives as they start their careers. Even the most capable of colleagues battle these feelings of inadequacy, still finding themselves lacking in experience or ability despite evidence that they are skilled at their job.
‘That question: “Do I deserve to be here?” It’s a ridiculous argument because if you didn’t deserve to be there you wouldn’t be,’ said Webber.
Webber said completing the degree helped validate his experience and opened doors for him professionally.
‘It’s easy enough to walk into a professional writing environment and say, “Look at me, I’ve won an award for a novel,” which only says that I’m a pretty good fiction writer. But to say I have a degree in professional writing and publishing … it kind of legitimises things I think. In a commercial world they like to see some sort of qualification.’
His advice to emerging writers who are taking the leap to pursue writing as a career is to take yourself and what you want to do seriously.
‘If someone wants to be a writer and wants to transition to writing as a full time job, as something that is going to pay the bills, they need to take themselves and what they do seriously,’ he said.
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