Award-winning writer Hayley Leibowitz shares her recipe to success in a challenging industry.
BY MARISA BURGER
Making the big league in the media industry is not easy, but South African-born Hayley Leibowitz is proof that it is possible. Her track record not only attests to this, but serve as testament of the hard work and dedication that was necessary to forge a career in the writing industry.
When she was asked how easy it is to become a writer, she made it clear that it is not a breeze and that perseverance and commitment are key to succeed as a writer. ‘It is a marathon, not a sprint,’ she says.
With more than 20 years of experience in the media industry, writing for various prestigious magazines and television drama’s, some of which include Isidingo, High Rollers and Geraamtes in Die Kas, it is safe to say that there is much we can learn from Hayley. Here’s what she has to say about her methods and experience as a writer.
Q: How did you become a writer?
A: I studied Journalism at University but that’s because writing had always been in my blood and there was nothing else I wanted to do. When I got my first job it was with a B2B magazine and that’s where I learnt the ropes of editing and how to be conservative with my words. I worked on a number of business publications after that, ranging from transport to interior design and medicine.
Q: Tell us a bit about your development as a writer
A: I had always loved creative writing and submitted a test script to the Isidingo team. A year later I heard back from them and spent four years after that writing soap opera. Since then I have done a combination of writing and editing, freelancing on everything from road accident reports to corporate white papers, commercial magazines and telenovellas. I currently work as a content writer for a digital advertising company and write books after hours.
Q: What has been your greatest writing achievement?
A: I came second in an international obesity feature writing competition and got a trip to Finland for that one. I would have to say though, that my personal writing achievement is having completed and self-published four novellas and a full-length book and being halfway through my second.
Q: Where do you get ideas?
A: When it comes to articles, often an idea will spring from current affairs or what would be appropriate for the magazine and audience I am targeting. In terms of books, it’s hard to say. I do try to plot a decent outline and write to market, but sometimes ideas seem to strike from the heavens.
Q: What general advice would you give the newbies?
A: Keep at it, research your market and believe in yourself. And keep up with changing technology and platforms if you are writing online.
Q: What tips would you give a writer about getting published?
A: Not to get despondent if you get rejections. Most often rejections are more about marketing trends than the quality of your writing or the plot. That being said, do hone your craft and structure your story appropriately. A good editor is also an essential part of the mix. If you are writing for magazines, target the subject matter and writing style appropriately. Also, make sure your article has a strong angle and comes full circle.
Q: What do you consider to be the most important writing advice you ever received?
A: I think I have to take that one off Lauren Beukes’ website: ‘Write the damn book!’
There you are. It is clear that success in the media industry does not come on a silver platter and that it takes zeal, nerve and backbone to write your way to the top. Hayley has done just this and with hard work, determination and patience, you can too.
About the Author
Marisa Burger has a passion for writing and started her career at university where she worked for the university newspaper. Her interest in conservation led her to take on the challenging role of an environmental writer. She now spends her time creating content on environmental and societal issues. When Marisa is not absorbed in her research, you will find her in a quiet corner with a book or on an adventure exploring the outdoors.
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