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 Helium.com and cocktailtalk.net -- 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."
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