Dan Miles | Middlesex University London
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Dan Miles

Dan MilesFreelance Writer and Humorist

BA Performing Arts (Drama), 1997

What made you choose Middlesex University?

At my interview day John Topping, the Head of Drama, said: "You all probably think you're the best of the best. Middlesex is the place that can make that fact." I know he was paraphrasing Top Gun but I was so fired up nowhere else would do after that.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply? 

I had a friend already on the course who raved about it. The more I looked at it the more I wanted to study it. It was ambitious, challenging and the location on Trent Park was to die for.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

The fact the course evolved with me. As you progress you can want different things than you did at the start. BAPA was never limiting. In the beginning all I wanted was to act, by the end all I thought about was writing. I can't think of another course that could have supported that transition.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

I did stand up comedy for the first time in my second year and it was the most terrifying and incredible experience imaginable. The module was taught by legendary comedian Huw Thomas and I enjoyed it so much I returned the following year as his teaching assistant. There are rumours a tape of that first performance is still in the library somewhere, though I hope I never see it again.

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

Make your course unique and definitely try things you never have before. I had never considered writing until I chose the playwriting module on a whim. That decision changed my life.

How did you come to write for the Huffington Post? Did you approach them or did they approach you?

They approached me. I had been begrudgingly attempting Twitter as a way of expanding my readership and somehow one of the editors read an article of mine via a retweet and offered me the chance to blog for them because of it. It was the most flattering call of my life. I admit a lot of writing comes down to luck, but you have to work really hard to be that lucky.

What approach do you take when pitching stories to editors?

Persistence and volume. Everyone wants new ideas whether they admit it or not. You have to keep sending them great stuff and pretty much wear them down. The more you send the more you can get published, the more you get published the more you can get paid. It's been likened to getting inside a castle by using your head as a battering ram, it's possible, it just takes time.

What made you become a freelance writer and what are its pros and cons?

The main con is definitely a lack of security. You can make more money with one freelance article than a staff writer who pens a couple dozen will get in a week, but the staff writer gets that every week plus holiday and sick pay. Some weeks you can sell a dozen, other times nothing for a month or longer.

On the plus side it's an incredible challenge and the chance to write about whatever you want. And the thrill of your work being out there is just exhilarating.

What has been your defining career highlight to date?

My first viral hit. It got 58,000 views in its first day. I misread it and thought it said 5,800 and was still pretty speechless. Then my girlfriend corrected me and I almost fell over.

What are the top three tips you would give to current students or recent graduates who are looking to become a freelance writer?

1) Use what you know. In the beginning I worked as a bartender to fund my writing and the more I did it the more I wrote about what I saw around me and the more people enjoyed it. Writing doesn't exist in a vacuum, it needs something to kickstart it. If you love music write about music, if you love theatre write about theatre. In the beginning you need a niche that you can talk about with authority, the more successful you get the more you can stretch that field to include other things

2) Accept that you are a salesman and the product you are selling is you. It doesn't matter how good a writer you are you still need to make other people realise that, and that means calls, emails and plenty of free samples if needed. Luckily your product is something you actually care about and you really want to be able to eat and pay rent.

3) Persistence is a virtue but stubbornness is an art form. There is a heartbreaking amount of rejection involved in any art field and your ego has to be spongy enough to absorb it, but as the saying goes - if you're not getting rejected every day then your goals aren't ambitious enough. Or as Churchill put it "success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm".

What one piece of advice would you give to the 17/18 year old you?

I can think of a few things but they wouldn't have listened.

Read Dan's work at www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-miles or www.bezerkskrankenhaus.com

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