‘Silver Street’ scripts by Ian Kennedy for BBC Asian Network drama series (2004-9)

On my 30th birthday, I was a guest speaker at Writing West Midlands’ excellent annual event “The Writer’s Toolkit”, discursing for the ‘Advanced Firefighting’ session on managing your workload as a writer. A seemingly full room of maybe 60 people heard me musing on my solutions to juggling a multifaceted writing-and-creativity career, and dealing with deadlines.

Here’s more about the event from the Writing West Midlands website:


Here’s the blurb promoting the talk I was speaking at:

Advanced Firefighting – Managing Workload Ian Kennedy, Writer, Producer & Creative; Chris Arnot, Writer & Journalist; Ros Robins, Regional Director, Arts Council England

There are ways of managing your workload as a writer that allow you to be calm and productive, so we are told. Our panelists discuss various approaches to do a lot of work in a fixed amount of time while still, we hope, being very creative.

See things differently. Photo from Digbeth Lights Festival, 2006, by Simon Crouch

I was especially surprised and grateful that WWM paid me a decent fee for the event – as I’d usually be happy to speak for free as long as nobody else was being paid to be there! So I did give them and all the attendees something for free in return: here’s an article I provided which WWM distributed to all attendees as a handout that day.


Ian Kennedy suggests ways to boost your income and your creativity at the same time.

Web Design – building and running a website can be very cheap, quick and easy now, and through www.FriendlyWebStarter.co.uk, Ian makes simple, cheap, distinctive £300 websites that clients can run themselves at no further cost, providing full training as part of the handover. Writers are great at generating textual material, so a website that can grow with you can be a very flexible tool.

Communications, Publicity & Marketing – is all about writing, and makes excellent connections for you. Ian is the part-time Communications & Member Services Coordinator for the Producers’ Forum, coordinating their website, newsletter and social media. Could you support any organisations or companies on a similar basis?

Become a Reader – a glance at literary agency websites implies that lots of their writers started out as Readers for literary organisations or producers, and no wonder: if you want to work in an industry, there’s no substitute for working in it. Ian was a Reader for SCRIPT and now conducts freelance readings – for £1 per page of script or £35 per treatment, for which clients (which can include production companies who don’t have time to read the spec scripts they’re sent!) get a detailed 5-page assessment that draws on Ian’s experience as a professional writer and producer.

Freelance writer – there are thousands of publications constantly in need of content, such as newspapers, magazines and websites – Ian used to write for several national publications by WhatsOnUK. Got a specialist subject that you’d love to write about on an ongoing basis? Well, the perfect publication for it is probably out there somewhere. People Per Hour (www.peopleperhour.com) is full of unexpected writing opportunities too.

Copywriter & Proof Reader – the content you have to handle is often quite dry, but these roles make ample use of your writing skills, and challenge you to express complex ideas in the simplest forms possible – which is a useful skill in your own writing.

Producer – all of the previous barriers to entry for aspiring producers of TV or films are evaporating thanks to the internet and cheap high-quality equipment. Popular videos online can earn you a full living directly from the website you publish them on, without needing any producer, commissioner or distributor. Even if it’s only monologues or readings to your webcam, why not start making your own material? The human brain prioritises visual information over everything else, and getting people to read your writing isn’t easy – but an attractive video may be a much more appealing product to promote it with. Learning to think like a producer also helps you conceive and execute scripts that will prove far easier to get made. Ian himself is making dozens of films and videos with the potential to ‘go viral’, both solo and at the invitation of Birmingham’s Studio B15 – turning everything he does into “adventures in film, writing, and life”.

Become a story yourself – now that ‘transmedia’ is becoming the norm and content can operate in any number of media at the same time, purely written formats (like unpublished books and unproduced scripts) are a hard sell – and the trend with web2.0 and Web3.0 is towards the total personalisation of content. To find your place in this new world, don’t just have a story to tell – be one, attracting people to follow you and share your journey with you. You can share your ideas at a much earlier stage of development, profiting from your followers’ suggestions and their emotional investment in the resultant product!

Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding – it’s possible to raise enough money or support to produce your work thanks to just your own followers, through the likes of Kickstarter, so of course a lot of people are investing their hopes in this. Realistically, doing so is a six-month process that’ll max out at about £10,000-15,000. It takes around 1,000 followers to provide a living for one creative.

Minute taking – if you can master shorthand, this is a well-paid and often flexible role which can take you into worlds full of authentic story and research material. Social workers and other professionals are legally obliged to minute their meetings, but often struggle to find staff. Ian has minuted nearly 200 meetings for social workers protecting vulnerable older adults, gaining fascinating insights and stories – just don’t forget your confidentiality obligations.

Teaching – of all his adventures, Ian made his most comfortable living and had the most time and inspiration for writing while he was teaching English in Southern Italy, which a £175 one-weekend TEFL course was enough to facilitate. Abroad you’ll often have your travel and home provided too, and other cultures and languages are excellent food for a writer’s mind (and blog). £20 per hour is realistic in the UK though you’ll need more rigourous qualifications, and preparation time can triple the time it takes to earn it. Permanent, full-time school teaching is demanding and isn’t great for your image as an ambitious writer – but teaching specialist subjects to adults allows you higher status and more control, and doesn’t need lengthy expensive qualifications.

Political advisor – OK, so Ian hasn’t actually tried this one, and people might get the wrong idea, but as the accomplished creators of ingeniously plausible fictions and speeches, writers have a lot to offer to politicians. And when you’re finally ready to burst, your whistleblowing exposé or novel/story/satire/farce should be hot property!

Final tip – Ian suggests that “If your writing career is likely to be lonely, unstable, poorly paid, sporadic and emotionally draining – then perhaps your alternate source of income should be the exact opposite! But always aim to do things that will reflect well on your ambitions – if your life looks pretty humdrum, then people may assume that you and your writing are, too. And be careful about being spread too thinly across too many areas at the same time – stability and focus may be better for your bank balance, career progression and your mental wellbeing.”

More on Ian’s work and ongoing adventures can be found at www.iqkennedy.co.uk.

If you’d like me to deliver projects like this for you, email me at ian@iqkennedy.co.uk!

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