Somebody once told me ‘You’ve got to write about what you know’, and that really stuck with me. You can’t write about things you don’t understand, and as such I constantly work to educate myself and learn more so that I can write about exciting new things.
So, as Stormzy, the famed London rapper, announces that he is launching an offshoot of Penguin Random House, under the name #Merky, to support aspiring writers, what does this mean for the industry?
After all, what does Stormzy know about writing, and will he be able to spot the good from the guff? Sure, I know that he won’t be doing most of the work- which is about as likely as the Kardashians making their own perfumes or slaving away in the factory that makes their lipkits- but it still begs the question, what does a writer of rap music know about literature, and how will he be able to influence the up-and-coming generation of young writers?
It’s my theory that what Stormzy needs to do now is make sure he’s taking on the right writers. People who are truly passionate about their craft- young writers who have grafted, have their names out there and are working hard to succeed. Those who think writing is an easy way to make a name for themselves, and send in a load of poetic cobblers or some true-life drama will only stop writing as soon as their name is out there and try to live off the fame it has bought them. The industry doesn’t need more of those; what it needs is real triers who are working hard to get a foothold in this competitive market.
Offering paid scholarships to kids in schools is a great idea, but I disagree with the rapper’s assertion that it is hard for writers to ‘get their name out there’. With the internet, blogs, free websites and social media, getting your name out there is the easy part- it’s getting people to pay you for your work that’s tough. As a copywriter I know that pretty much every journalist, writer and novelist out there had to go through months, if not years worth of unpaid posts, internships and writing ‘for exposure’ before they managed to get a paid role. What the industry needs is fundamental change; a shift in thinking so that writing is not viewed as something everyone can do, but as a real skill, and something worth paying for.
Overall, I guess really only time will tell whether Stormzy’s foray into publishing is just another publicity stunt or a real chance for some great new voices to be heard.