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How to make a living as a poet

Do you have a sonnet under your bonnet? Good news – it’s possible to make a living as a poet. If cynical mates think your creative calling could lead you to a life of couch surfing and subsisting on tinned beans, point them in Beau Taplin’s direction. The 26-year-old spends his days spinning wistful lines of prose and sharing them with his 274,000 Instagram followers.

When he posted the words, ‘Hell exists. It’s here. 3am. Awake and without you,’ he gathered 14,500 likes and almost 800 comments. But does his commitment to brevity pay the bills? Taplin says yes, although he admits, ‘You’ve got to be prepared to tighten the belt to get where you want to be.’

Aspiring writers might be amazed by the simplicity of his approach, but he had a few career bumps before he steadied himself and found this unconventional calling. ‘I’ve never been one to look far enough into the future to plan for failure,’ he says. If anything, failure has been a blessing for him. Taplin achieved moderate success early on writing songs for the band For Our Hero, but in 2014 they split up and he was hurled onto a new path. ‘I lost all direction and purpose in my life. So I did what any sensible person in financial distress would do – I invested the last of my savings into a poetry book,’ he jokes.

'I lost all direction and purpose in my life. So I did what any sensible person in financial distress would do – I invested the last of my savings into a poetry book'

Beau Taplin,
prose writer

It paid off. In July he released Buried Light, a book of musings about life and love. Next up he’d like to tackle a novel. Taplin insists he has more in him than pithy one-liners. ‘I recognise why I might be pigeon-holed as a writer of Instagram quotes, but my advice to anyone pursuing a career in a creative field is to utilise all the tools you have available to you,’ he says. The wordsmith is quick to add that each writer has to do things their way: ‘You can’t follow the people who’ve come before you. Determine what makes you unique and stand out from your peers.’

Opportunities for creativity crop up in unlikely places. This month performers will recite anti-smoking poetry in CBD laneways as part of a Melbourne City Council campaign to spread awareness of smoke-free areas. It mightn’t be a dream gig for all spoken word artists, but it’s a start. As Taplin says, ‘Success is difficult, but achievable, so long as you make the most of everything at your disposal.’

Fancy a life as a poet? Dip that quill in some ink and sign up for Deakin University’s Bachelor of Arts (Professional and Creative Writing).

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