Susan Williams has been the managing director of Prose & Comms – a communications company – for over a decade. She has also tutored the very successful Writing Coach Course, Business Writing Toolkit and Write Better Newsletters Courses online at the Writers’ College since 2007.
We find out more about her own journey as a writer.
Q. How did you become a writer?
I’ve always loved stories. As a child, I got into trouble because I had a book with me at all times: at school, in church, visiting friends, climbing trees, and even practicing my music with a storybook behind the score.
I studied languages at university and loved literature. But I never thought I could write. I became a teacher, and then a chief sub-editor, correcting writers’ work – and still I didn’t have the self-confidence to write anything.
My big chance came when our company started publishing another magazine and our resident writer couldn’t manage all the work. I offered to do the writing in my free time. My first article took me a day to write – all 800 carefully crafted words of it – and then my editor threw it back on my desk with a comment: “Fairly well written. Reduce to 150 words.” I was devastated. But I rewrote it and ended up being both chief sub-editor and writer (still editing during the day and writing at night) for that specific magazine.
When I started my business, I became the group editor of all the internal publications of my previous employer.
Q: What has been your greatest writing achievement?
My biggest work achievement: Starting and running a writing business for 12 years. The business evolved from doing only corporate writing and publishing to training, facilitation, organisational research and organisational storytelling.
On a personal level, I developed from someone who dreaded speaking in public to someone who presents at conferences (thanks to Toastmasters!).
Q. How do you decide what to write about? Where do you find ideas/ inspiration?
My personal writing is purely self-centred. I write about what I know and have experienced.
My business writing is about business topics.
Q. How easy is it to make a living as a writer?
It takes hard work and perseverance. It is important to maintain the fine balance between realising your own worth and remaining humble.
Q. What general advice would you give aspirant writers just starting out?
Know your audience. Plan, plan, plan. Then write, edit and rewrite, several times.
Think up interesting angles if your content is mediocre.
Q: What do you consider to be the most important writing tip you ever received?
Don’t fall in love with your own writing. Don’t take yourself (or your writing) too seriously. In the end, it is the reader who counts.
Q: When you mark your students’ writing, what are key qualities you look for in their work?