Much More Than A Writer

Make sure you join Girls With Pens on Facebook where we search out the best writing links from around the web every day so you don’t have to.

Check out Lisa’s post today: Fish Stories and Amazons – that crazy phenomenon and rite of passage for women surrounding the retelling of birth stories.

Check out Marcy’s post today: The Lie of Helen of Troy – Have you bought into the lie that beauty is purely physical and matters more than character, honor, or intelligence?

Gone are the days of writers sitting in their writing cave and never interacting with their readers, or having to promote themselves. Learning a variety of related skills is necessary today to be a successful income-earning writer/author. As a full-time freelance writer, a lot of work I take is writing-related, but not writing-only. But, through these various jobs, I’ve learned a number of valuable pre and post publication skills.

On the heels of my interview with James Scott Bell, I thought it would be beneficial to look at what kinds of skills, programs, etc. are valuable to have or work towards.

Some of the writing-related things I’ve been hired to do (and had to learn on the fly):

Write and submit event press releases for a large non-profit intended to get pre-event coverage in newspapers.

-related skills: researching editors/reporters, coordinating interviews, learning to catch reporters interest to get coverage, timing press releases to get timely coverage, collecting contacts

Value: Submitting press releases is mind-numbing a little boring, but every author needs to be able to get coverage about their book’s release and know how to catch a reader’s eye. Being able to write a compelling and news-worthy press release AND have it picked up by the media is invaluable.

Hired to write web copy.

-related skills:

  • learned to enter content and images to the back end of Joomla, Business Catalyst, and WordPress
  • learned about SEO (search engine optimization), web writing best practices, importance of backlinks, currency of content, cross-promotion across platforms, key word searches, naming photos, etc.
  • continuing to learn how to manipulate an e newsletter in mailchimp, creating lists, creating new templates, etc.
  • learned to focus on audience
  • continue to learn basic html coding
  • administration of social media accounts forces me to stay on top of all changes, keep my ear to the ground of how to best use various platforms, and build an audience

Value: Becoming an intermediate creator of web content gives the necessary skills to successfully keep up a blog/website. Eventually, building up an email list and sending out newsletters may become a valuable marketing tool.

Hired to ghostwrite books, speeches, and do research.

related skills: research and fact verification, adjusting your voice, writing within specific guidelines, interviewing skills, being flexible

Value: Ability to write for different mediums, outcomes, and audiences, adjusting the message accordingly.

Continue To Search For Work

To be a freelancer means that for tax purposes (in Canada at any rate) you have to prove you work for different employers, not just one. Plus, putting all your eggs in one basket (only taking work from one source) is risky because freelancers are easy to hire and easy to let go. Lots of turnover. This means continually searching out work, putting yourself out there, selling yourself. Taking several months off from finding work can leave you in an income lurch for months if you lose a contract for any reason.

Value: Learn your strengths and weaknesses, make insider contacts, gather recommendations, learn rejection isn’t personal – all kinds of great things.

Can you think of any other skills it would be valuable to learn or acquire to help your book’s success?

Lisa

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A Writer’s Most Difficult Challenge

If you want to be a writer, the most difficult challenge you’re going to face isn’t writer’s block. It isn’t learning how to properly use a semi colon or write a lead or interview a source. It isn’t even getting an agent or making enough money to pay the bills.

If you want to be a writer, the most difficult challenge you’ll face comes when someone you love says one of the following things about your career:

“You need to start making better decisions.”

“It’s time you grew up and acted like a responsible adult.”

“You can still write as a hobby, but you need to get a real job.”

You want them to recognize how hard you work and how worthwhile your job is. More than that, you want them to be proud of you. Their words hurt.

If they keep at it long enough or if you hear it from enough people, the pain crescendos to a level where you can’t ignore it anymore. You start to doubt yourself and the decisions you’ve made. You’re forced into doing one of two things. Either you build a protective wall around that part of your life, perhaps even your whole life, and you exclude them from it, or you give up the career you love for something more acceptable.

Neither is a good solution.

So next time you face these joy-stealing, dream-killing, confidence-shaking falsehoods, here’s how to survive.

Remind Yourself that the World Needs Writers

When I was growing up, a lot of people pushed for me to become a veterinarian or a teacher, despite the fact that I faint at the sight of blood and don’t have the patience to deal with a roomful of children or teenagers (hey, at least I’m honest about my limitations). They told me (in not so many words) that becoming a writer was a waste of my potential. Why would I throw my future away?

The world needs writers.

Without writers, we wouldn’t have classic literature or textbooks to study. We wouldn’t have the books, journal articles, and other written resources teachers use to learn their subjects and prepare their lesson plans.

Without writers, the millions of people whose favorite pastime is curling up with a book or magazine would have to fall back on watching TV or movies . . . except that without writers, we wouldn’t have TV shows or movies.

Without writers, politicians would become a lot less eloquent. (You don’t really think they write their speeches themselves do you?)

Without writers, both print and online newspapers would have no content.

Without writers, we’d have to revert to preserving all the new advances in knowledge through oral traditions. Any student of history will tell you what a flawed method that is.

Ask for Clarification on What It Means to Have a Real Job

Some well-meaning relatives may go so far as to suggest you should have gotten a job at a fast food place long ago. I believe that all law-abiding work is honorable, but don’t understand why a minimum-wage job is a “real job” while writing isn’t. What does having a “real job” mean?

Does it mean helping people?

A few months ago, after publication of an article that Lisa and I co-wrote on pornography addiction, we received an email thanking us and telling us that we might have saved a marriage. Is that not just as important as serving someone their coffee and donut?

Does it mean fighting traffic?

Seems to me that telecommuting and home offices are a growing trend because people don’t want to fight traffic, burn increasingly expensive gas, and worry about bad weather.

Does it mean someone else needs to sign your paychecks?

Someone else does sign my checks. Unless I have a split personality, I can guarantee the checks I receive don’t have my signature on them.

Does it mean putting on a tie, or khakis and a polo shirt/blouse, or a uniform?

I could put those on to sit at home if I really wanted, though I’m not sure why I would when I can work in sweats.

Does it mean having the respect of clients and colleagues?

If you’re professional, you can build good relationships, a good reputation, and develop regular clients regardless of your job title.

Find Some Allies

This world will always have people who feel that they know better than you what you should do with your life. It’ll always have people who find it easy to judge you for your choices even though they’ve never been in your position. It’ll always have people who draw attention to your failures and weaknesses rather than your successes and strengths.

Find yourself some people who’ll call you out on sin rather than on personal preference, who have your back, and who will fight harder for you than you do for yourself. You need the support. Even Batman had Robin and Superman had Lois Lane.

Keep In Mind Who You Really Need to Please

The Apostle Paul writes, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

When it comes right down to it, other people’s opinions don’t matter. You have to make your own decisions and follow your own conscience. You are accountable only to God.

So have a good cry and some chocolate. Realize that it’s always going to sting. And then pick yourself up off the floor, sit your bottom back down in your computer chair, and meet that deadline . . . and the one after that . . . and the one after that . . .