Category: Life

The Fight of Freelancing

AdviceLifeOn Writing

It only took one day of summer for me to realize how much free time I’m going to have for the next two months, so I quickly decided to try freelancing.

My first thought was to try to get a part time job – just something to fill the time and make me some extra money – but unfortunately my schedule isn’t really ideal for that. I highly doubt anyone would hire me getting after finding out that I’d be gone for a month and probably wouldn’t continue once school starts), but freelancing is flexible enough that I think I could do it.

So, about two weeks ago I sent out a bunch of emails and waited for responses. Here’s what I learned about freelancing and myself.

  • Remember those punches I mentioned in the last post? Well, they don’t stop coming. At this point in my life (and most writer’s lives, I would say), rejection is pretty commonplace. Maybe it’s better described as a pinch rather than a punch? Anyway, out of the 15+ freelance jobs I applied for, I only received one response. Though it was positive (I took a test, and was told that I’d done a great job, but they had all of the freelancers they needed at the moment), I didn’t end up with a job. As we discussed in the last post, the only way to become successful is to keep getting back up, so I’m going to keep applying.
  • Freelancing is about beating out the competition. It’s a very competitive field – who wouldn’t want to work from home? – so you need to either beat other applicants by being quicker or more qualified. Timing is everything. If you apply for a position that’s been up for three days, think of how many people have gotten in their applications before you – it could be dozens. No matter how qualified you are, if an employer has already found someone they like, most likely they won’t even glance at your resume. That being said, qualifications are important as well. Ultimately, experience and skills are what gets you hired.
  • Applying for freelance positions is just like applying for any other job. This means it should be taken seriously and you should be professional – after all, they will (hopefully) be paying you.
  • I’ve realized just how much I like the idea of being a freelancer. I’m a much more charming person over email than I am in person (let’s not even talk about over the phone), and I find it easier to maintain a conversation that way. Like most writers, I express myself best through writing, so that’s the way I prefer to communicate. This entire process has reminded me how much of a strength of mine written communication is, and that’s a good thing to be reminded of from time to time.
  • And last, but certainly not least, there are so many resources out there for freelancers. If you’re serious about becoming a freelancer, consider joining the Editorial Freelancers Association. In addition to information, they have great job boards! (I’ve considered joining, but remember – college student budget.) There are also plenty of free job boards (here, here, and here), but much like getting any other job, freelancing can be more about who you know. So if you know anyone who works in publishing and might be able to help you out, contact them!

So though my brief foray into freelancing was not the best experience, I’ve learned a lot and I’m looking forward to using it the next time I decide to apply. If you’re interested in getting into freelancing, or currently are a freelancer, feel free to give your input in the comments!

 

Rolling with the (Figurative) Punches

AdviceLifeOn Writing

Life is hard. Sometimes you get knocked down, and you have to get back up. But sometimes getting up is not as easy as it should be.

I’ve spent a lot of time these past two years trying to figure out how to get back up, how to turn these figurative punches into something useful, something motivational. Yet it seemed like each time I got up, there was something else waiting to push me down. It’s even harder to get up when all you can think about are the bruises and how they remind you of everything you did wrong.

But I got back up. It may have taken some time, and some ice cream, and some tears, but it happened. And I’m starting to think that sometimes we need to be punched (once again, figuratively….), because we often get so caught up in our own plans for ourselves that we forget that maybe they’re not meant to be.

In January, I interviewed for an internship with a local magazine. It’s widely known for being one of the best writing internships in town (and one of the only paid ones), and I was honestly honored to even be interviewing with them. Later that day I received an email from the editor saying that they’d enjoyed interviewing me, but didn’t know if they’d be able to work with my busy schedule. Then she offered me a summer internship, even though I’d explained that I’d be studying abroad. I was ecstatic.

I sent a follow up email at the beginning of April, asking when she wanted me to start, and the response was a huge let down – “Thanks for checking in. Unfortunately, we have already filled the position with another intern.”

I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong, and more importantly, why I wasn’t even deserving of an email to let me know that I should change my summer plans. I moped for a long time. And though I can’t pretend to know why that internship wasn’t meant for me, I’ve gotten back up, and I’m trying to make the most of it.

Fixer Uppers and Deleted Scenes

AdviceLifeOn Writing

In life, as in writing, it’s hard to get rid of things. And while this seems like enough of a challenge on its own, things get even more difficult because it starts not to matter whether or not it’s something you like – sometimes you just need to cut things out. I’m finding this more and more true as I begin working on editing my novel while also getting preparing to move.

Sometimes there are scenes you love that are absolutely useless. Think of them like that Christmas gift your parents got you ten years ago – as much as you may have wanted it at the time (and you may even still want it now), it just doesn’t quite fit into your life anymore. It might be taking up too much space, or it might not match your new decor; either way, you need to get rid of it, if not to make room for something else, just to make your life easier.

We all have these scenes. I know they’re hard to get rid of, and have often been a part of your story for a long time, but you need to do it. It’s for your own good. If it makes you feel better, instead of deleting it entirely, try creating a new document called “Deleted Scenes” and pasting all of these scenes in there. Then you can read them whenever you’d like. (Note that I am not advising the real-life equivalent of this file. Do not throw all of your junk into a closet – take a picture and then donate everything to Goodwill.)

The flip side of this situation involves necessary scenes that are just plain bad. You know you need them, but you hate them, and you just can’t figure out how to fix them. They’re that horribly ugly piece of hand-me-down furniture that came from a family member’s attic – but you can’t just get rid of it because you can’t afford to replace it at the moment. (Though this may not apply to you, remember that I generally write from a poor college student point of view.)

There isn’t a story without a scene that needs to be rewritten, one you struggle with constantly: a “fixer upper” scene. You can’t throw it out, so, what do you do? The same thing you do with that piece of furniture you hate – you sand it down, repaint it, and stick it back in your living room. Though not necessarily the same for furniture, for writing I advise repeating as necessary. It’s the writing, rewriting, and editing that’s so important to your story (if you missed my earlier blog post on this, read it here). Sometimes you’re able to fix it up to the point where you’re comfortable, or you even like it, and sometimes you realize why it’s not working and you’re able to replace it with another scene that does the job better. Like any DIY project, rewriting can be hit or miss, but it can take a while to figure out how to make it work.

So those are the ideas I’m taking with me as I get started on my summer to-do list: if you don’t need it, get rid of it, and if you do need it, fix it up until you’re proud to have it on display. I hope you’ll take them with you as well.

The Last (Real) Summer

LifeMonthly UpdateOn Writing

I’m feeling pressured (by myself mostly) to make this the greatest summer ever. It’s the last summer before I graduate, and while I’m looking forward to moving and starting work, it’s a little hard to let go of something I’ve spent my entire life enjoying: three full months to do nothing but write, travel, and have fun.

So I have planned to do all of those things this summer, not only so that I enjoy it, but so that I have something positive to propel me into this last semester.

The Art of Helping Others

LifeOn WritingSchool

I had a sort of epiphany this semester.

In my creative writing class, we spent a lot of time workshopping our short stories. I made a comment about one girl’s work, and she told me after class that I always had the best responses and that I really helped her see the direction of her story.

My professor also told me this in one of our conferences. “You make great comments,” she said. “It’s often hard for students to find the balance between positive and critical, but you have it.”

It was a great feeling. I love writing, and I’ve always enjoyed the process of editing, but I’ve never really thought about how great it is to be able to help other people love writing as well.

We often see art, especially writing, as a solitary activity, and this can be limiting. When you work on writing with a group, or even just a partner, you make a commitment to help them make their writing the best it can be.

Just like it’s nice to share something you love with other – whether it’s a favorite meal, movie, or song – it’s good to be able to share the love of writing, that feeling you get from someone enjoying your work.

I think this is one of the reasons I want to become an editor. I know the feeling of being told my work is great,and it makes my day to be able to tell people the same thing about their work.

Embracing Deadlines

AdviceLifeOn Writing

All writers have to deal with deadlines – it’s simply a part of the job. But it’s amazing how much your perspective on writing can change when you embrace these deadlines rather than dreading them.

This morning I woke up to an email from the editor of a magazine I’m writing for. She sent it at 4:30 in the morning, which should tell you just how important it was. She asked if I could possibly write an “advertorial” (500-600 words) by 10:30, because the magazine was due to the printer by noon and still needed to go through corporate approvals.

Despite everything working against me at that moment (and there were many things, believe me, including the fact that it was almost nine o’ clock, I was still at home, over a hundred miles away from Waco, where I needed to be by noon, and I had absolutely no idea what an advertorial was), I agreed.

And while I am always willing to help out someone in need, part of the reason is that I love a good challenge, and this one just seemed to fall in my lap.

So I hopped out of bed, threw on some clothes, packed my bag, and made my way to the Starbucks across the street. And then I wrote. Well, actually first I looked up advertorials and tried to figure out what in the world I was doing, and then I wrote.

I finished at 10:12, read over it, and sent it. The whole process was a rush. I enjoyed it, even though I was hurried, and I really wasn’t stressed at all because I knew I could do it. And the deadline forced me to tighten my writing the first time around, not allowing for me to waver back and forth about word choice or other things that I normally obsess over. It was freeing, and reassuring, especially when I got the response that it was well done, which came with a huge thank you.

What I Learned in Boating School Is…

LifeMonthly UpdateOn WritingSchool

(I hope you all got that SpongeBob reference. Don’t worry, I’ll explain later.)

Another semester finished. I only have one more to go, which is a little hard to accept, but I’m starting to feel ready. When I posted in January about all of the writing I would be doing this semester (read the post here), I was a little scared. I’m proud to say that I’ve done every single thing I wasn’t sure I could, and successfully if I do say so myself.

My creative writing portfolio now includes three 8-10 page stories that I am so completely proud of. Though I complained about rewriting and doing edits (read the post that’s much more positive than it sounds here), it was the best thing I could have done for those stories. I’ve never thought of myself as a short story writer, but this class made me feel like one. I got great feedback, honed my skills, and learned more than I thought I would.

My screenplay ended up being a 97-page apocalyptic family drama that I sincerely enjoyed writing. Though the assignment was a difficult one, especially in a semester in which I felt as though I was writing every single existing genre, the late nights and long days were worth it. I haven’t been so proud of myself for a long time.

But the biggest thing was this magazine. I already posted about it here, and I won’t restate what I’ve said, but it was perhaps the most rewarding project I’ve ever been assigned. The end result is something I never would have thought I could have produced, and despite the roadblocks along the way, I wouldn’t change anything about it.

So, to revisit the title (and I hope this doesn’t lessen your view of me)…in one episode, SpongeBob is supposed to be writing an essay (10 words – I wish my essays were like this) so that Mrs. Puff can allow him to graduate boating school. She gives him seven words to start off with: “What I learned in boating school is…blankity…blankity…blank!” Mine’s going to be more than ten words, but here it is.

What I learned at Baylor this semester is:

  • school is hard, but don’t give up (you will sleep again someday, I promise)
  • feedback and criticism only make your writing better
  • you can do whatever you put your mind to

 

Origins of a Traveler

LifeThe Traveling FantasistTravel

I blame my parents for giving me this insatiable need to travel (“wanderlust,” as it’s often called).

When I was younger, we took family vacations everywhere, most of the time driving, which instilled in me the love of a good road trip. Before I graduated high school, we’d hit up all the major cities in Texas and made trips out to California and Vegas, not forgetting the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque along the way. We’ve been to Hot Springs in Arkansas, and beaches in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The first time I flew in a plane was on our trip to San Francisco my sophomore year of high school.

The pure love of seeing new things, exploring cities as an inhabitant and not a tourist – as we learned taking public transit in San Francisco – are some of the most valuable things I think I’ve ever been taught. I gained street sense in New Orleans and Chicago, and quickly learned to love a good walk.

I discovered that you’re never lost, you’re just taking the scenic route. 

And perhaps the most important thing I learned is that you don’t have to be rich to travel. You don’t need to have thousands of dollars of disposable income. You just need to have a plan, and a budget, and enough of a will to see a new place that you’ll give up Starbucks every day or cook dinner instead of eating out.

It’s because of all this that I can study abroad this summer, that I’ve been able to afford to take trips to see friends, and I cannot thank them enough for this.

When Writing Becomes Work

AdviceLifeMonthly UpdateOn WritingSchool

With the end of the semester quickly approaching, I’ve been working more and more on my final projects, all of which are focused on writing. Now that I’m spending seven or eight hours a night doing nothing but writing, I’ve started to wonder at what point this writing stops being fun or even bearable and becomes work.

I’m happy to say that most of the writing I’m doing is still pretty fun for me, even though my combined workload comes out to over 200 pages. After I got over my initial panic, my screenplay has been steadily coming along. The hard parts are over (I hope). Even my two research papers aren’t truly work–they’re on topics I enjoy and am interested in, so even though they each involve hours of research and writing, it’s bearable.

Surprisingly, my creative writing class has become the one most burdensome–the writing itself is fine, but my professor requires additional edits and self-analysis to be done for each story. It’s difficult, and I don’t feel I have enough time at the moment to devote to editing, but it has to be done.

So it seems what I’ve decided is that writing becomes work when it’s extra–additional revisions, feedback from professors that isn’t necessarily encouraging, papers that take longer than they should. This is the work.

Of course, as we all know, these are some of the most essential parts of the writing process. Writing is the fun part, and in most cases revising is not (especially when it’s on someone else’s terms). But it’s important and required. This work is good.

So that’s what I’m reminding myself as I type nonstop, as I wonder whether I’m getting carpal tunnel or if I’m getting sore from sitting too long. All of this work is making my writing better.

Screenplays and Schedules

LifeOn WritingSchool

This semester, I feel as if I’m writing on someone else’s schedule. In the past, even when I’ve had other classwork and writing assignments, I’ve always felt like I was able to do them at my leisure, when I felt like writing. Somehow it seemed as if writing was my idea, rather than the professor’s.

But especially as this semester comes to a close, my writing schedule feels forced. I don’t have time to go to Starbucks in the mornings and write until lunch time, even on weekends. I find myself frantically writing and editing during meals, before bed, and even at work.

I don’t particularly like it (though that doesn’t matter, because I have to do it), but it does create a sort of discipline, which is something that I know I need.

At the moment I’m working on writing a screenplay. At the beginning of the class, it seemed doable. I’ve written hundreds of pages before, and though I’d never written a screenplay I figured it would be easy enough.

Let me just say now that I was wrong. I’m three weeks out from the due date, and I’ve got about sixty pages left. It’s hard, but what I’ve been working on is getting rid of the idea of it being on someone else’s schedule. Instead of allowing the due dates to dictate my writing, I assign times for myself to work on different projects. It’s a way of taking back power, making it easier for myself to write.

It’s still not easy, but I’m finding myself falling into a rhythm, one I don’t often have during the semester, and that part I like. I can tell that I’m going to write more in the next month than I probably ever have before, and making it seem like it was my idea is the only way to make it bearable.

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