As a writer for The Overcast, people often ask me how they can get started in writing as a professional. The truest answer to the question is ultimately unhelpful (“have good timing, work really hard”), but there are real, actionable things you can do if you want to be an honest-to-god writer in the city.

First, ask any established writer (that is, any person who writes) and they’ll give credit to the community of writers in the province for helping them make it possible. “I would recommend seeking out the writers’ association or a professional group,” says local writer and communications expert Martha Muzychka. “If writers have a specialty, there are some people who form networks around that.”

Writers’ guilds like the Writers Association of NL (WANL) are always looking for new members. WANL offers services like their Emerging Writers Mentorship Program and lots of opportunities to meet other writers from the province. They’ve also got low-risk ways of dipping a toe in, like their 1000-word romance writing contest for Valentines, “50 Ways To Love Your Lover.”

Joining a large association isn’t for everybody and there is a fee ($55/year, or $25/year for seniors/unemployed/students). Plus, for some, claiming the professional mantle of “writer” can feel a bit phony.

One local writer has made it her mission to help bring writers together in an atmosphere of zero pretense. Stacy Gardener has hosted dozens of writing workshops, all with the purpose of helping writers find their voice.

“I think it’s one thing to be a member of a guild or what have you, but it’s like working out, sometimes you need a workout buddy, trainer, mentor,” says Gardener. “We need people to read our stuff. A writing group is special. Finding and creating such a place can give your writing an intimate and trusted place to live and grow.”

So, how do you go about it?  “Join stuff. Go to workshops. Take classes. Sign up for writing prompts. Go to readings. Read!” says Gardener. “Writers can be introverts, so engagement is necessary for our not feeing ‘alone’ or like an imposter,” says Gardener, whose website is subtitled, “for writers who are afraid to call themselves writers.”

Once you’ve met a few fellow humans and broadened your horizons a bit, you can clarify your goal. Freelance journalism? Writing fiction? Writing copy for a design firm? Local music reviews? Something else? You don’t have to pick just one thing on the menu, and you don’t have to do everything. That’s one of the best things about writing: there’s no set path to legitimacy.

It’s like R.L. Stine says, when asked for advice on writing: “I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”