If You’re Not Writing, You’re Resisting

BookFor a few years now, my husband told me. My business coach did too. Everyone told me I was wasting my time on paid writing work that didn’t fill my soul. But it’s hard when you’re freelancing and getting paid. It’s hard to say, “No” when you don’t know when your next big check will come in. But these were the first two signs. Another one had come years before.

Several years ago, I received a handful of Steven Pressfield’s book. I quickly devoured The War of Art, but it was only when I got into Turning Pro that my life changed dramatically. Here are a few nuggets that started the stone, that rippled across the river and that finally had a big impact on the way I perceived my writing:

“When you sit down to do your work, do you leave our web connection on?

It can be fatal, keeping up with the Kardashians.”

“When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, and about distraction.”

“We usually think of breath throughs as ecstatic moments that elevate us from a lower level to a higher. And they do. But there’s a paradox. In the moment, an epiphany feels like hell. It exposes us and leaves us naked. We see ourselves plain, and it’s not a pretty picture.”

It’s that last statement that really stuck with me. I realized after reading his book that everything I was getting “busy” doing, finding jobs, taking unfulfilling writing gigs and even playing games on my phone was taking me away from my real dream of publishing a children’s book, short stories and personal essays.

I am ashamed to admit that I bought into the belief that I could get what I wanted without the time and effort involved. I had devoted and sacrificed a lot to get to be freelance writing for the past 9-years. But that took research, networking and time. I didn’t give my next dream that same fervor.

When I read Pressfield’s work, I realized that all the other “stuff” I was doing was another way I was unconsciously distracting myself out of fear. I was embarrassed by the pieces I was sending off before they were given their fair due. I let time fall away from me while I was shopping online or searching for the next big writing gig. After having my second baby and took time off from all of my paid work, I had enough space to reflect on what I was doing-I was getting good at work I didn’t really want to do, and I was moving further away from my dreams.

The good news is that I got the wake up call and on the path now to turning pro. I’m working on the stuff I’m excited about daily. I’m attending conferences, reading books on the topic and writing at home and writer’s group. Thanks to finally waking up, I’m committed and hopefully that will bring me that much closer to my dreams.

How I Became a Freelance Writer

{Etsy print by LadyPoppins}
{Etsy print by LadyPoppins}

 

{by: guest blogger}

My freelance lifestyle wasn’t born out of a dream to forge my own path, pursue my innate sense of creativity at all costs or even break free from the corporate grind. Nope, my motivations weren’t as lofty as all that.

The way it really went was something like this: My husband was given a career-boosting opportunity that involved nine months of schooling in the Washington, D.C. area, with no idea where we would be moving next. We talked it over and decided together that he should take the opportunity, and before we knew it, we were on a flight from beautiful Hawaii to the Mainland and our Nation’s Capitol.

With nine months in a new city and no idea where we’d end up next, I knew I wasn’t exactly an attractive hire for local publishing companies, even with three and a half years as editor of a high-quality Hawaii magazine firmly under my belt. I also knew that taking nine months off might just be a career killer. I loved the magazine industry and didn’t want to give it up, so instead of pursuing another, more temporary line of work, I decided to go freelance. While my income level would go down, at least at the beginning, I knew it was the only way to stay in the game. Plus, I thought, if I decided to go back to full-time corporate work in nine months, I could apply again.

Up until I started freelancing, I always thought of myself as a real brick-and-mortar work type, one who thrived in an office environment, giving presentations, running meetings and performing and receiving scheduled feedback and reviews. I loved issue planning, sales seminars, client lunches and the like, and every time I visualized myself in the magazine industry ten years down the road, an office in a large city with a commute was always involved.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Today, three years later, I can’t imagine giving up my journey from the bottom to the top of the stairs (the exact distance between my kitchen and my home office) for a one-hour commute in rush-hour traffic. I’ll never trade in my jeans and T-shirts for a suit again if I can help it. Though I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing co-workers over the years, nobody beats our two adorable hounds, George and Patty, for workplace company.

I’ve traded a higher income for lower stress and constant deadlines for creative freedom. And that’s all fine with me. But there are negative tradeoffs as well. I have to be my own financial manager, my own marketing and public relations department and social media consultant. Without my husband’s income, I have yet to work out how I’d support myself writing without taking on a second job. And I do sometimes miss the outside validation that comes from a glowing annual review or promotion.

A lot of bloggers encourage readers to dream big and take the freelance plunge in one fell swoop. Some life career coaches talk about goal setting and pursuing a life or career “with intention” as if all one has to do is dream it in order to do it.

The reality is, for many of us, freelancing is a huge leap off of a very high diving board. Some of us risk our financial heath, our relationship power dynamic or the prospect of falling behind in our chosen field. All of us risk failure. I took a calculated risk with enough water under the high dive to ensure a safe plunge. And to be honest, I might never have jumped off if I had many other options. But today, as I sit here in my comfy home office, with my pooches curled up at my feet and a day of whatever I decide ahead, I can honestly say I made the right choice.

If you’re considering going freelance, I say, more power to you! I know I’m swimming in the right pool. But only you know how high your diving board should be and how much water you need in the pool before you make a splash. So be sure to think it through. Dip a pinkie toe in the water and try one article or two on the weekends for a while if you can. Review your finances carefully. Devour books on the subjects of freelance writing and starting your own business (Check out one of my favorites here). Talk things over with your partner. Attend a few free seminars in your area, if offered, on the subject of starting your own business (I attended a lot of free and low-cost SCORE events, for example, when I was first starting out.) Basically, run through all the boring considerations you won’t find laid out in most blogs that tout creative, freelance lifestyles. There’s no one right path to freelance success, so find the process that works for you, both personally and practically. When you have it worked out, and if you decide to take the plunge like I did, then I say, come on in. The water really is so fine.

Sabra Morris profile picSabra Morris is a full-time freelance writer on topics such as home décor and remodeling, wellness, family life, pet care, ecofriendly living, solar technology, retirement living, food and farm equipment. Her work has appeared in Virginia Living magazine, Northern Virginia magazine, Southern Living, Dog Fancy and Hawaii Home + Remodeling magazine, among others. She blogs at thefreelance-life.com.

Riding the Wave of a Freelance Writing Career

Santa Barbara waves

Having a full-time freelance writing career can wreak havoc on your soul, not to mention your wallet. Why? Well the latter is obvious. But for many people who are not in it, us creative artistic types tend to sway towards low self-esteem. It’s a given since most of us are born sensitive and tend to grow up in families who are less than enthusiastic about our dream of being an artist for a living.

But if you want to have a long-term career in an artistic field, you need to get beyond the ups and downs of your creative pursuits. People will love and hate your work. Basing your worth and value on their feedback will make you a little crazy. Depending on constant feedback will drive your editors a little crazy.

How do you do it?

While you’re waiting to hear back about a pitch, or feedback from a client try the following easy distracting tips:

1. Work on another project.

2. Go for a walk.

3. Watch mindless TV.

4. Meditate.

5. Read up on a new topic.

6. Practice self-kindness. (Repeat after me: “It’s okay if they don’t like me, I still like me..”)

7. Get lost in a novel.

8. Spend a few minutes playing a time-sucking game and enjoy it.

9. Cook a new dish.

10. Phase out in nature. [Ocean, trees, the dirt beneath your feet.]

11. Call up your cheerleading friend for a boost to your wounded ego.

12. Reread or write in your gratitude journal.

13. Love on a pet.

14. Watch a comedy.

15. Spend time with the very young or the old.

17. Savor a cup of tea.

18. Reread old encouraging and past positive feedback.

19. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers.

20. Do research on an organization you would like to help through volunteerism or donation.

A Writer’s Self Confession of Procrastination

{Pinterest photo}
{Pinterest photo}

Here it is. I can write to my heart’s content meeting and surpassing deadlines if it is for someone else. In fact, it is one of my writerly strengths to submit a piece days before it’s due. But my own work? Sadly, still sitting untouched in Google Drive.

I know that writers need a break. I understand that paid work feeds the hungry writer. But the idea that I’ve let this dream of mine slide eats away at this writer’s soul. It makes me feel like a failure and a fake. I see successes like hers and a pulsating thought rises in my thoughts, “You’ll never make it.” And it’s hard not to listen to that one. After all, a story doesn’t write itself.

In the lifetime that I’ve written I built an impressive graveyard of untouched, unfinished stories. I’ve always visited them respectfully, mourning their lost. But I’ve also done so with great pride for the attempts I made believing they were little souls that helped me grow, but were not ready for the world. It’s hard to keep telling myself this, however, when my priorities have slipped.

How does a writer keep themselves fueled and motivated when the desire to make money overtakes inspiration?

This quote from first time novelist Ayana Mathis helped me. Maybe it will help you too:

“When you’re working on a project for months and months—whether it’s a book or anything else that requires a sustained effort—it’s easy to get discouraged. The rewards are few, and you feel as if it’s never, ever going to be done…Acquiring any skill is like this: You make a little progress; then you lose ground; then you make a little more progress. Accepting the fits and starts is the only way to keep yourself from giving up.”

It’s a desire to keep going once we stopped that helps us through the periods of procrastination. It’s not stopping that makes us failures. It’s not even an end. It’s simply a pause. As we have all learned and grown in the process of building our freelance writing careers, it takes time. It takes courage. And it means not beating ourselves up when we fall. Because we all do. Every successful writer does. That means if you’ve briefly paused, you’re still in the running fellow writer. Don’t give up!

5 Less Travelled Paths Toward More Freelance Work

As the holiday approaches, you may be winding down your freelance writing business. Or you may be reaping the benefits of less saturation in the market. More writers taking a holiday means more work for you!

If you’re looking for fresh ways to add more work to your portfolio, here are a few tried and true methods that have worked for me in the past and is sure to work for you:

1. Peruse your local pubs.

I get about 5 free local publications sent to my address every few months. They’re like hidden job ads for writers sent straight to my front door. No money necessary. Just read, research and apply.

2. Take advantage of social media.

I never thought this would work in a million years. But it did. I searched for editors in my area and contacted one who’s work impressed me. I didn’t just hear back, but I scored my first assignment for their magazine. And it’s not just LinkedIn that can help you, but Twitter, Facebook and your blog too. Send it out there that you’re looking for new freelance writing gigs and you never know who may respond back.

3. Be opened to lesser paying gigs.

Yes I’m quite sure there are a lot of writing gurus out there who would disagree with me. But I have a good reason to risk selling out. It can open future doors for you. The more work you’ve got to show for, the more evidence you have that you’re an experienced writer. That adds up to higher pay in the long run.

4. Think outside the box.

You may flock to online writing job ads and your local newspaper to find freelance writing work, but if you want to travel the less travelled path, you need to think outside the box. This means being open and curious to every opportunity you’re given. For example, I often research the people who comment on my blog. You know that the people you’re attracting to your blog share your similar interests and passion as your own. They may own an organization you would love to write for or may be able to use a writer like yourself. You never know so make sure to ask!

5. Seek to be a solution solver.

If you’re out there searching for more work, chances are you’ll meet people who need website help, newsletter content or copywriting. It’s the reason why business cards are so important. But don’t just email a contact and ask if they need writing help. Check out their website first. Find out what it’s missing and how your skills can help make it that much better. The more specific you are about what you can offer, the more likely they will be to hire you. Besides that, it’s a whole lot easier for potential clients when you come to them offering help solve their latest problems. No need for busy entrepreneurs to go on a hunt to find the best writer. You’re right there, a qualified writer willing to help and ready to work.

What less travelled path did you venture on to score your latest writing gig?

The Part Happiness Plays in Your Writing

{by Brandi-Ann Uyemura’s iPhone and Instagram.}

The process of writing can seem nebulous. On a conscious level, you are aware that putting butt to chair and pen to pad creates a flow of ideas. But where it comes from seems a lot less clear.

Does a writer need to be in fits of rage or a constant cynic to engender passionate pieces of prose?

I often wonder if it’s like me and running. It only feels good when it’s bad. In other words, catch me running begrudgingly when all is well in the world, but I’ll pass you if I’m down in the dumps.

But can words dance on the page when things are sunny inside and out?

Can you, for example, be at the height of your career, enjoying the wealth of professional success, physical health and the comforts of loving friends and family and write your heart out about murder, violence, deep discord and text that would make an optimist weep?

I think so.

And so does Julia Cameron. In The Right to Write, she says that writing when happy not only inspires great pieces of work, but inspires joy and happiness itself.

Case in point, guess who’s stuck on the couch in a sweat-inducing room, in a foul mood with a possibly broken, certainly purple toe? Besides feeling the effects of a biking accident (rubber slippers I found are not adequate safety gear while biking), the painters have enclosed us in a claustrophobic bubble of plastic and tape. And have done so for the last few days.

What I enjoy most, being outside, walking/running on the sand, smelling the ocean air is far from likely within the next few days let alone the next several weeks. But I’m smiling ear to ear simply because the act of writing this post to you feels like hope. It is in its own way a little ray of sunshine peeking through that wrinkled plastic drapes preventing me from seeing the clouds.

But what about you?

Are you only able to write when you’re in a good or bad mood? Please chime in. My current audience is my broken toe, my rabbit and my poor husband and at least one of them is getting tired of listening.

Reader Q&A: Advice for a Beginning Freelance Writer

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Q: “I was wondering if you could direct me to your posts that are specifically about how to get started. I am currently in the stage where I feel like this is a field where I could be successful, and my main question right now is where to look for job opportunities (the real ones, not the scams!). I’ve had success with my writing on a very small scale- had some things accepted for publication in a national religious magazine for children, an article accepted for publication in the local newspaper, won a short story contest, etc. I am a stay-at-home mom so the smaller projects are more appealing to me with my busy lifestyle (and my short attention span? :-)). I also blog on my personal blog and on a group writing blog.

Anyway, if you could just point me in the right direction- maybe websites where legitimate jobs are posted, or groups I could join to help me find these kinds of jobs, that would be fantastic.”

~Kasey Tross from Mormon Mommy Writers

A: Hi Kasey. What a great question! I think there are a variety of resources beginning freelance writers can utilize when on the hunt for legitimate writing jobs. Five years ago when I scouted the writing market myself, I learned quickly where to find the good ones and the not-so-good ones. I’ll break down the places I’ve used here.

Searching Online

It’s easy to see why doing a job hunt online would be a beginning writers first line of contact. It’s fast and accessible way to find writing jobs. You may be surprised to know that a lot of the great writing gigs (some I still have currently) I got came via this route. You just need to know where to look and what to look out for. Here are the things you want to keep an eye out for. It’s all the red flags that will help you stay away from writing job scams.

  1. Craigslist. It’s still one of my most favorite ways to get a job. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten a lot of amazing jobs from big name companies this way. You just need to be careful to weed out the real jewels and the fake ones. That article above and this article on what new writers should watch out for should help.
  2. Freelance Writing Gigs. I used this website to troll decent writing gigs when I first started out and I occasionally still check out this site for potential leads. On the positive side, it lists several writing jobs in different categories and in various locations. On the downside, they usually list lower paying jobs.
  3. About Freelance Writing. Anne Wayman offers a helpful and informative guide for writers on her website. Here is her 20 potential online gigs and her job resource list for freelance writers.
  4. Problogger. In the past, I got two legitimate paying writing gigs through Problogger. It’s a great website for writers who want to get paid for blogging.
  5. JournalismJobs. I consider this to be one of the most legitimate website to find journalism jobs out there.
  6. Mediabistro. While I have yet to get a job from here, that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried or that I don’t troll their list every so often. Their list of dream jobs includes high paying gigs from mega media companies.
  7. @Writerjobs lists various writing gigs throughout the US every day.
  8. Gorkana. Sign up for Gorkana alerts and get a weekly job list sent to your email.

Aside from online resources, the best places to get new writing gigs is through networking and cold calls. I’ve been most successful when I’ve kept in touch with old and new contacts and introduced myself as a writer looking for new opportunities. Truthfully, the majority of my writing jobs have come this way. It helps when editors and hiring managers already know you (even if you’re just an acquaintance). Having a face with your resume really gets your foot in the door. You can meet potential networks through meetups, parties, and even through cold calls (via email). I’ve gotten several jobs this way and even career shadowed a reporter for a newspaper once. Contacting him was one of the best things I ever did.

Once you’ve had a successful experience with someone you’ve met, you open the door to potential future clients. And you’ll need to rely less and less on online resources and more on your contacts.

Hope that helps!

Any experienced writers out there want to share where they received their writing gigs? Please share it with Kasey below.

Being a Shark Can Help Your Writing Business

{photo by bryan scott photography}

Don’t judge me, but I’m a big fan of reality TV. Just like I love a good memoir and an autobiography, I get a high from watching real life people do crazy ass things. To me, it’s just inspires me to do something crazy myself.

One of my favorite shows is, “Shark Tank.” It seems antithetical to my very nature to be a shark when it comes to making money. But maybe that’s why watching it thrills me so. It’s also observing the inventors, creators and designers who work up the courage to give their 5-minute shpeal on what makes their product so shark worthy that a panel of millionaires would invest in it. It’s scintillating stuff for me. Better than a high from a horror flick or a roller coaster ride. Two things this scaredy-cat introvert would never do.

Anyway, I got to thinking that the things that make a few of these business people successful on the show can also be applied to what makes us freelance writers successful too. Qualities like consistency, determination, integrity, honesty, humility and a crazy perseverance to keep going despite flat out rejection and brutality honest responses (non-responses count too).

I also thought they should do a Shark Tank version for non-profit organizations and in googling it found this article: 7 Entrepreneurial Lessons From, “Shark Tank.” In it, they cover significant points that can help elevate individuals wanting to be a successful entrepreneur, which includes everything from being humble to being a good marketer. They comprised a great list of factors that any small business owner including writers can sink their teeth into and garner business savvy tips from.

What do you think?

Are there any lessons, tips, advice you’ve learned on the road to freelance writing that’s helped you? Do share.

 

You’re Thinking Too Much!

via Piccsy

Ever notice on the days you hem and haw over an article, your head suffers and your writing suffers too?

And the pieces you don’t sweat to pieces are your best ones?

Weird how that works isn’t it?

I find it amazing that the weather is less consistent than this extraordinary fact. I could spend hours, days, weeks pouring out my soul to molding ideas into words and words into a story. I put it aside. Unhappy with it, I rework again. And again. And again. And when it’s finished I’m shaking silly, drained, brainless.  Then I offer it on a plate and like the waiter in Sedona who embarrassingly rejected my request to take a picture of my husband and I, it’s pushed to the side.

But the ones that came from a spontaneous burst of inspiration? Those you like.

I asked award-winning writer Sophia Dembling about it. She’s one of our beautiful Psych Central bloggers who writes about Real World Research. And recently she’d dug up some interesting finding on performance and overthinking.

Here’s what she had to say:

“Research on athletes shows that the more they think, the worse they perform and I think that applies to writing, too. I can really get in my own way if I think too much while I’m writing a first draft. I’m much better off doing my thinking before starting to string words together. Then I have an image in my head of what the story will look like and can just spin the tale. If I’m writing an article, I’ll often read through my notes, then put them aside to write the first draft. Writing without notes helps me home in on what’s actually important and not get tangled up in trivia.”

Although she says, perfect pieces don’t usually form this way, you can get enough to work with. “It’s like sculpting a bust of someone. First you form your clay into the rough shape. Then, you work it and work it and work it—smoothing, and cutting away, and adding here and there—until it resembles the person. Or, in this case, the piece you envisioned when you sat down to write that first draft.”

Kind of like what I did. The difference? Dembling says, “Sometimes I’m so unhappy with my first draft that I put it aside and try to start over. Invariably, I end up going back to my original version and revise that until I’m happy.”

The real test to find out if you’re thinking too much? If you find yourself consistently starting over, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’re overthinking.

The One Thing You Should Be Doing as a Freelance Writer

{via pinterest}

When I wrote this list of easy ways I increased my chance to freelance writing success, I neglected something BIG. In fact, it was the number one thing that helped launch my career. And the fastest.

Just this past March, I wrote about how I was on the fence about this one. Looking back, I’m patting myself on the back and singing my “hallelujahs” because had I not done so, I might be singing a whole different tune today.

How I Became the Lone Wolf

When I started freelancing about four years ago, I was way behind the pack. Writers and authors were established, experienced and had a giant leg up on me in terms of social media. Although it was relatively new then, having a website and a blog in its early days seemed to propel a lot of early writers and bloggers into success. Basically, they were fishing in a relatively quiet stream. Today, my blog is one of millions and the fact that you’re even reading this is a blessed thing.

It was watching real estate icon and business mogul Barbara Corcoran on The Nate Berkus Show. It reminded me what sole factor helped me get ahead. She heard Madonna was pregnant and decided to create a report on all the homes Madonna would be looking for. Three news station picked it up and one of them called Corcoran, “the broker to the stars.” She said that was the “game changer” in her career.

Similarly, instead of being just a freelance writer, I zoomed in on what I was most passionate about-people who overcame tremendous obstacles to follow their dreams. My husband DVRed a PBS show on inspiring people. I was so moved that I emailed the producers. Surprisingly, I received a response and contact information of one of the stars on the show. It was author and Olympian Bonnie St. John. She was introducing her book at the time and let me interview her for my first blog 2inspired. That was just the beginning. That interview led to more interviews and more opportunities. I was hooked!

A blog radio show host Cory Clay of Rich Ideas Radio even contacted me. She found my blog and wanted to interview me on what it was like being an “inspiring writer.” It was one of the most thrilling experiences! And I was honored to get the title. Prior to that I had just been pursuing what made my heart beat. I didn’t even think of myself as inspiring, let alone a “real” writer.

Somehow my efforts paid off. I kept following what excited me and writing what I was most passionate about. I also keep in contact with an editor for The Writer magazine. A magazine I loved and an editor who I loved writing for. When the time was right, she gave me the opportunity of a lifetime-a chance to have my own monthly column for the magazine. And what’s it called? Inspiration Zone.

I guess what I learned in the process is that it’s so important to set yourself apart from the crowd. At the beginning, you might be terrified to do so. It’s much easier to align yourself with other experienced and published writers. But the sooner you find your own voice, niche and what fuels you, the closer you will be to freelance writing success.

What was the one thing that helped your freelance writing career soar?