Setting up the Smithy (it's all in a name)

When Sarah Hymas and I got together at the dark end of last year, we spent as much time brainstorming the name of our literature consultancy as we did about our fees, marketing, services, web design and almost any other aspect of our joint business venture.

This wasn’t frivolous chit-chat, though – we were both very aware that in marketing a service to writers, the words we used to describe ourselves had to be pitch perfect. It was essential that the name of our consultancy summed up not only what we did, but how we did it – it needed to say something about our values, our beliefs, our ways of working. It also needed to communicate what can be an ephemeral, hard to define process in concrete, memorable terms – and preferably lend itself to some kind of image or logo we could use across our website and all our other social media.

I won’t go into the names we tried, laughed at and rejected. Suffice to say we don’t like anything that puns on write / right and for at least two hours puns were all we could think of. In the end we decided on the Writing Smithy – and our logo, a forged tree with strong roots and delicate, reaching branches was designed for us by local web and social media consultant Tom Stables at 3manfactory. Perhaps it’s the sign of a good working partnership that I’m convinced Sarah was the one who struck gold first – she’s sure the name was my idea.

Whoever came up with it, like so many other good ideas, now we can’t imagine choosing anything else. The idea of the Smithy as a metaphor for the workshop, editing and mentoring space appealed to both of us. Editing is work, it’s often hard work, and novels and poems aren’t born in the warm breeze of instant inspiration (at least not for most of us) but in the sweaty forge of the seventh, tenth, or even twentieth draft.

The imagery of forging and of shaping raw materials also really appealed to our sense of what we specialised in at the Smithy – we really do feel all writers have original, worthy and interesting ideas of their own and that for those who want help, we could act as a guiding, supporting voice – to give shape and find structure, to assist in finessing process and to share craft, technique and career information acquired through our own experience.

The forged tree in our logo signals our ambition to help writers, as well as pieces of writing grow. Growth is work, and it’s often very hard work, but it’s also, we hope, inevitable for writers who work with us through our editing and appraisal services. We don’t guarantee any result (like publication, fame, fortune and big advances…) except positive change – and the direction of that change is in the writer’s hands.

For us, coming up with the name for the Writing Smithy was also about coming up with a shared ethic, a vision for what we wanted to achieve together and with our clients and a sense of how we were distinctive from all the other literature consultancies and reading agencies that are out there. I noticed how similar it felt to writing – how naming a novel or a short story isn’t just a descriptive act, but a way of bringing the idea behind the whole into being. My first drafts often don’t have names, and if they do, they are rough, working titles. But once a novel finds its title, I know it has ‘legs’ and from that point onwards, I have a clearer sense of the work I need to do to finish it.

Over the next few days Sarah and I will be guest blogging here about our work with the Writing Smithy. We’ll be able to tell you a little bit about ourselves and what we do, but also to offer an insight into working in a creative partnership, setting up a creative digital business in a recession and combining the work of supporting other writers with our own creative projects. We’ll be popping in and visiting the comments regularly, so if you’ve any questions, insights or issues that you’d like us to address – let us know.

In the meantime, you can find out more about me at my blog and website here, more about Sarah at her website here and you can visit the Writing Smithy website here.



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