Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the Writing Life

I'm a member of LinkedIn, a place where it's not unusual to see bait tossed out to hook a freelance writer. This week it's been and -- one pays a bit of something, and the other doesn't mention pay.

Pay interests me. I can always write for free here.

Funnily enough, a young writer posted a note on a local email list wondering how he could ... resolve to earn an adequate living as a freelance writer in 2009.

I suppose it is possible to go from "zero" to "living wage" in one year, but I bet it's rare.

I told him that if a person wants to write articles and essays, it was best to find a subject you know and love and write about it -- Find an area of expertise. Study it in depth. Find a market for material related to that expertise.

Add practical, real-world experience to that, and a writer will have a unique niche.

I had no business telling him anything about fiction. All I know is that I remember a well-published author saying, "Write the kind of stories you like to read."

That obviously brings passion to the page. Add persistence, and the writer has two very important tools.

I did admit my biggest bugaboo revolves around the idea that so much of the "writing life" isn't about writing. It's about marketing -- yourself and your writing. To me, if a person is writing to make money, the ability to market oneself is almost as important as the ability to write a decent sentence.

Marketing can start off simple: a website and a blog. Then move toward sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and other professional and social networking sites. And I am also hearing that more than a few freelance writers are using Twitter, although I know nothing about it.

But I say "Make haste slowly" because I don't think a decent writing income can be generated by a few simple steps. It takes persistence. And a thick skin. I have stuff written ten years ago that I've never sold; but I have also written stuff one day and sold it the next.

Of course, I do not make a living writing. I write because I love to write. And I love to write even though I understand Samuel Johnson's aphorism completely. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."


sc morgan said...

Hi Gary.

I tend to agree with you about this. By the way, do you know about Red Room? That might be a place to park your name and book...

Red Room was "Founded in June 2002 by Ivory Madison, the Red Room Writers Society began providing its innovative, signature Writers Studios to procrastinating professional and aspiring writers in the San Francisco Bay Area."

Now it's a Internet Web site with a huge network.

Ruth D~ said...

Someone told me about linkedin . . . invited me to come in and be linked. Seems like another place to check now and then, and without a book to make known, I wonder if there is anything in it for me. If I had a book to my name I'd be into everything. Maybe even skywriting. Have you considered that?