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 an Art School Student Became a Freelance Writer

This may be late breaking news for those who already read this, but I L-O-V-E stories about how writers became writers. When writer and blogger Charyn Pfeuffer tweeted me from @charynpfeuffer and later emailed me about her personal journey to freelance writing, I was smitten. I asked if she would let me share her story with you here. Happily she agreed. Although we all have our own individual paths that led us to writing, there is a common bond that we all share-passion, wild determination and a quiet knowing that this is the right career. You’ll find it all in her message below. Thanks Charyn!

How She Got Turned On to Writing

{photo by Johnny Jet}

I stumbled into a career as a writer a little more than 15 years ago when I landed a job at the Philadelphia Weekly handling its Personals and Promotions Department. I managed a 10-page section of the newspaper, hosted several singles’ events weekly and eventually, started writing a dating advice column called “Ask Me Anything” (in a pre-Carrie Bradshaw era). I’d attended art school for college, so I do not come from a journalism background. My column took off and other media outlets in Philadelphia asked me to write for them. At the time, I never thought I’d become a writer, but I enjoyed writing and pursued lifestyle assignments. Less than two years later (and still employed by PW), I was getting a substantial amount of freelance work, so I decided to make a go of freelancing – with the stipulation that if I could financially support myself by the end of the first year, I would move to San Francisco – a place I always wanted to live and I figured if I was freelancing, I could go anywhere. I’ve always thought that writing was a cool way to meet people and have experiences I might not otherwise have access to; also it was an opportunity to learn new things on pretty much any topic. That combined with the option to freelance and ditch the 9-to-5 lifestyle, specialize in whatever topics interested me, and carve out my own path was attractive to me. I was able to support myself from Day #1 and have done so for the past 14 years. I’ve always looked at writing as a job, just like anything else. And like anything else, I’ve avoided working for free (for exposure, link juice, etc.) and won’t work for less than what I’m worth. Otherwise, it’s a hobby or volunteering and not a profession. At this point, I pretty much only work with editors I like and cover topics I have an interest in.

Her Biggest Pet-Peeve

One of my biggest pet peeves in this writing industry is writers who sell themselves short. We’re providing a skill and talent and it has value – demand what you’re worth. As a travel writer, I could be on free trips to five-star destinations 365 days a year, and although I love to travel, I’m not going to get on a plane to cover a destination unless the time invested balances out with how much money the assignments generated from the trip will earn.

Like her mini writer memoir? Can you relate with her serendipitous path toward freelance writing? I sure can. It’s a mix of good timing, passion, purpose, talent, commitment and following your instincts. And it’s all in a life’s work in becoming a writer.

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