New freelance writers can learn a lot from Henry Rollins. Many people wrote Rollins off as “the guy who ruined Black Flag.” He took those early dire personal struggles–and all criticism of him as an artist– and used it all as inspiration to just keep going, battering away at a variety of projects to see what would work. Whatever you think about 70s punk, Rollins is definitely a success. He went from being an always-broke, semi-starving musical outsider to a one-man industry thanks to relentless speaking tours, small press publication, film appearances and other multi-media work.
Rollins is a force to be reckoned with when he sets his mind to putting the word out on a new project. He’s what every freelancer should be–a tireless promoter of the task at hand. Not everyone can live up to the demands of a self-employed creative person, but Rollins shows us how to do it right. Never rest, forget about self-defeating attitudes and activities. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Rollins is not the world’s greatest writer, but he’s got a real talent for non-fiction. He’s at his best when he’s writing travel pieces–his observations about life in other countries (and ours) is top notch. His fiction work is violent, transgressive and often funny, but he shows more writing prowess in his personal observations. The Portable Henry Rollins is a great primer for his work, and it is easy to take inspiration from his writing. Check out the selections from Get In The Van and his other titles…you’ll instantly get the attitude, the ferocity, the refusal to roll over and die–all the attributes a freelancer should have–or at least aspire to. You won’t learn how to make money freelance writing with this book, but you’ll take away a new sense of purpose for your own work. Rollins is infectious like that.
Years ago when I first learned my trade, I remember wondering why my writing mentors railed so hard against passive voice writing. We’re all guilty of it, most people don’t see anything wrong with it, and passive voice is one of the dead giveaways to an editor that you aren’t quite the kick-ass writer you think you are. Your cover letter might be exciting, your query compelling, but once you include those needless words and break the number one Strunk and White commandment, you are DOOMED.
Unfortunately, getting rid of passive voice is not the whole answer. Your writing needs help if you still use garbage words and phrases. What do I consider a garbage word or phrase? Read on:
“The new Remington Rifle can often be used to hunt small animals, but its real purpose is to shoot down big game.”
Tell me, just WHAT is the purpose of using the word “often” in that sentence? Never mind the rest of the errors for a moment, concentrate on that phrase “can often be used”. This is too much fat and not enough meat.
Try this on for size:
“Some use the new Remington Rifle to hunt small animals, but its real purpose is to shoot down big game.”
Why does this sentence read better? Because it gets to the point and obeys Strunk and White by OMITTING NEEDLESS WORDS. Now look at the rest of this sentence. “…but its real purpose is to shoot down big game.” Continue reading Confessions of an Editor: I Hate Your Needless Words
Are you a newcomer to blogging wondering where you can find the right tools to make good images? I personally use two excellent pieces of software–three if you count Paint, which is standard equipment for Windows PCs and laptops. Paint is so basic that it’s almost not worth mentioning–with one notable exception needed for WP blogs that aren’t hacked to include an automatic white (or black if your theme design is dark) border around the right-hand edges of text.
You need that little white border to keep the text from butting right up against the image. Yes, we know we’re guilty of this in some cases-I’m working on it with some remedial training of my non-Paint usin’ collegues, heh.
All you have to do in Paint to add that little white border?
- Open the image
- Select any draw/paint tool
- Make sure your primary color for that tool is white
- Click on the bottom right corner of the image and pull diagonally a tiny bit
- Watch the white space grow as you drag
Another excellent tool you will need as a blogger is found in MS Office 2007 and above. Continue reading Image Tools For Bloggers
The Golden Pencil ran a piece on freelance writing overwork, what I like to call “deadline creep” and time management. When reading Anne Wayman’s description of how she tries to keep her writing off limits on the weekends, I was reminded of a set of my own crazy work problems last year.
Like Anne, I think the division between work and play is very important for a self-employed freelance writer. The problem is, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid–and once I get used to being paid on a fairly steady clip I like to keep the run going as long as it will last.
Before the holiday season 2007, I was running myself into the ground. I worked 10 and 12 hour days, weekends and evenings. My problem was that I had taken a long series of smaller jobs for lower pay instead of working fewer gigs for more money. I felt trapped by the steady income–not enough from one individual client, but steady enough to make excuses for when all lumped together.
Oddly enough, circumstances forced me to cut out all the low-payers (which all had vast demands on my time far out of proportion to what was being paid). Once I ditched the time-wasters, I found myself earning much more on a single gig than with all those other jobs combined. Continue reading The Golden Pencil’s Anne Wayman on Overwork
The big controversey in the headlines at the time I’m writing this is Jesse Jackson’s gaffe on the Bill O’Reilly show. Jackson made some untoward comments about Barack Obama when he thought the microphone was turned off.
Jesse Jackson clearly never attended broadcasting school. If he had, he would know that a microphone is NEVER off, especially on network television. When the operator pushes the “off” button, it should be treated like a deadly snake some rancher has just killed. Did you know a poisonous snake with its head cut off can still strike and kill you? Jesse Jackson knows that now, all too well.
What can freelance writers learn from this?
For starters, there is the growing awareness of what happens when a potential employer, editor or publisher wants to Google you before they start paying you for services rendered. In the mid to late 90s, I knew of several people in the freelance IT industry who ran webcam blogs. Many of these people weren’t very concerned over the amount of clothing they wore on their webcams. I don’t think they thought very much about the notion that those pictures could still be floating around today, ten years later. Continue reading What Freelance Writers Can Learn From Jesse Jackson’s “Mistake”
If you aren’t getting any responses in spite of sending query letter after query letter, it’s time to examine the root causes of the problem. There are three basic issues that could be roadblocking you:
1. The publication isn’t interested in your ideas.
2. The publication isn’t using freelancers at this time
3. Your query letter sucks and the editor is laughing at you.
The first two you can’t do much about. To fix #1, you need to read more of a particular magazine or website and try again once you’ve got a better idea of what they print. To fix #3, we need a closer look at your work.
“To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Editor” is your first mistake–and probably your last with that particular query letter. It shows a basic lack of research. What’s worse, it shows a lack of INTEREST in that research. An editor can spot your lazy ass coming a mile away. Yeah, it’s harsh of me to say, but it’s true. Now you know. Continue reading Not Getting Any Freelance Writing Gigs? Why Your Query Letter Sucks