I like to pretend I am a writer at dinner parties and grocery check out lines, which naturally leads to people starting to believe I am an actual writer. In the last few weeks, I've been contacted by a few people for writing advice, which likely is due to the fact my blog bio claims a writer owns this site. Plus there is that whole thing that I am one of those rather lucky folks that has been able to make some money from actual writing. Though all of it has either been ghostwritten or for businesses, which means I am still missing out on that glorious byline, but being paid to write is still being paid to write. The fact I've actually sold some work, may actually give you the misguided idea that I've got it together or possibly even (snicker) successful. I'm still basically wallowing down at the ground floor of the writing business, but that doesn't mean I can't try to offer some help to people in my spot. The best way to offer that help is to actually share snippets of my journey, especially the parts that are a little bumpy.
Any regular reader knows, I am currently stuck in the vortex of soul sucking that is known as my office job. The last little bit has been extra frustrating and cranky-inducing, mostly due to that fact that I realize I am not wired for a career in this job and I am desperately yearning to break into a business that I believe I am meant to be in (psst. . . writing). Over the last few weeks, I started realizing that while holding down a full time job, I've been fairly successful on landing a few small writing jobs. For the most part, most of the places I approached lead to some type of paid work. This lead me to think that if I started doing a much stronger push for jobs and send out a squadron of query letters that it would automatically land me a bountiful basket of paid writing gigs. Then my overactive imagination started leading me to visions of prancing away from my office job by May and becoming a real, live full time paid writer. I knew that was fantasy, but I also knew that the quicker I escaped, the more soul I'd have intact.
These past two weeks, I have written and sent off more query letters than I have the entire past year (I am a writer -- this is a slight exaggeration). I stopped being picky about the clients I tried to get, and began sending out letters to the type of jobs I'd always been a little afraid to try to get. I also started sending out a lot of letters to jobs that were nothing but possible pay cheques (believing I'd rather have an uninteresting short term writing job than a long term soul sucking office job). I knew I wouldn't land all these jobs, but also believed that since I had always got a job or two from sending out far less letters in the past, that I was destined to get a small little army of clients (maybe we couldn't conquer China with this army, but we'd at least rule my street -- or a portion of my sidewalk).
Well, I currently have absolutely zero writing jobs lined up. I've only got three responses back. Two of which are about possible future work (though nothing immediate) and the third turned out to be the type of job where they only like to hire people with 'Sucker' plastered on the forehead. It hasn't been the windfall of success that I hoped. I don't see me doing any office quitting dance in the next month or two or three. The lack of replies has been a bit of a rhino trample (or as the title states, ogre stomp) all over my ego. Though, in this case I probably needed a bit of a reality check but it has given me the proverbial 'question if I am really meant for this type of work' reflective moment.
I've talked to a few freelance writers and read countless blogs and articles on freelance writing, and they've mentioned how everyone will get rejected from jobs and you must always be prepared for dry spells. The reason freelance work is such a scary job is there isn't a guaranteed pay cheque and there is always the chance you'll have a few weeks with no work. It is the reason many writers talk about creating several different revenue streams and never stop marketing your work and try to always make more connections with those in the industry. Of course, there is a reason a good freelancer doesn't splurge all their earnings on Pop Tart castles and gum drop tiaras, because there is always a chance for the 'rainy day' where money isn't coming in. Now for some of the established writers, they rarely have absolutely no work, because they learned to do several different types of writing and that diversity in writing lets them survive the times some revenues streams dry up. For the beginning writer, those tough days are far more frequents and the reason many writers reflect upon the days they lived off Raman noodles and Value Village. All this information, is the reason that I've never seriously thought of quitting my office job, because I know how valuable that consistent pay cheque is.
I know all this, but it still was an imaginary cannonball to the gut this week. My instinct was to whine and cry about my current state, until i realized I married the type of wife who would point and laugh about me imitating a tantrum ridded 3 year old rather than pat me on the head and offer me a cookie. I had my few seconds of self doubt (and sure will have it again) and then realized it was time to just start sending out more query letters. Plus there is the positive that this down time will allow me to work on some more entertaining ventures such as magazine articles or short stories or even the long thought about novel (which all can eventually be stuff I try to sell). I know I am prone to doubt and worries, but I also know that such things have never paid off a mortgage in the history of mankind (or at least, not on their own). Instead, I need to just keep on working really hard and jumping at every opportunity there is to land a client.
I partly wrote this piece to vent a little, because writing is how I do such things. I posted this article because I think it does have some value for the budding paid writer. It takes a lot of work to keep getting consistent work. There is going to be those days or weeks when you feel like nobody wants what your peddling. It's frustrating and it is heartbreaking, but it is far from the end. You get out of this mess, the same way you got in, you write. You keep on writing (and reading). You'll never have anything to sell or anything to show prospective clients unless you write. If you're in a similar situation like me, then you have made money off your writing already, and so you know you're good enough. So, just keep writing.