Tag Archives: writer’s college

When Preparation Meets Opportunity

We have back with us, Stephen Morrill from WritersCollege.com. Today he shares some thoughts about how it pays off to invest some time honing your craft as a writer…

I remember a student (who was still taking the course at the time) in my magazine query letter course who had barely read lesson one before a magazine editor was calling to ask the student to do some work for the magazine.

I, of course, took full credit for this wonderful coincidence. But the truth was that the student had been writing in her specialty field for some time and had prepared a number of articles and even published in some places, long before taking my course. It was a classic example of luck defined as preparation meeting opportunity. She was ready to meet the new challenge because she had thought about it, worked for it, and prepared for it.

When I started freelancing as a nonfiction writer I remember thinking that this was insane in one respect: I had work at the moment, even work to do for the next month or even two months. I had no clue where work would come from six months out. Accustomed, for fifteen years then, to a monthly paycheck, delivered to me if I worked hard or hardly worked, even if I was on vacation, this utter uncertainty was unsettling. I have not learned to relax. But I have learned that if you keep up the enthusiasm for writing and keep up the work and the marketing, the phone always rings.            

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That’s nonfiction, with short deadlines and many assignments each year. I think fiction writers have it harder. They usually have to write, alone and unappreciated (sometimes even by their family) for years to produce a product they then have to market. The sheer time lag between putting fingers to keyboard and getting to the end result is discouraging. Most writers, of course, do it part-time. Fiction writers are almost ALL part-timers.

Nonfiction can be so, but there are demands in nonfiction – going to appointments and press conferences, dealing with editors or clients on an almost daily basis – that make it a lot easier to do full-time than part-time. Even so, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the leading nonfiction writing society, once estimated that there were fewer than one thousand full-time freelance nonfiction writers in the United States.

What can you do if you are feeling alone and unappreciated and stumped by some vexatious writing question? Talk to other writers; we’re the only ones who can understand and the only ones likely to have some advice or sympathy. The best places to do that are at writing clubs (and every city has some) and, today, here on the Web.

Bringing me to my sales pitch. At WritersCollege.com we have classes that can boost your skills but, equally important, get you back into the swim, encourage your efforts. But that’s not all. I love discussing writing and if you do too, drop by and say hello. If you have questions, ask.

email me at director (at) writerscollege.com and if I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find out for you.

We’re all in this together. But some of us have been in it longer than others. Good writing!

– Stephen Morrill, director, WritersCollege.com

Please note that any and all contributor posts on Freelance-Zone.com are the opinion of the guest professional and are not researched, endorsed or fact-checked by us. 

Five Steps to Deleting Writer’s Block

by Stephen Morrill, Director (at) WritersCollege.com

Writer’s Block is the high blood pressure of the writing profession, a disease that sneaks up and affects us in such a variety of ways that it is not easily diagnosed or defeated. One day we’re all enthused about our next writing project. Thirty days later we hate the thought of the project because we haven’t done anything much in the previous month. And we don’t know what happened.

I’ve thought about this for more than twenty-five years, possible a record for procrastination. At first I simply did not believe there was such a thing as writer’s block. I got into writing by writing for money, to tight deadlines with unforgiving editors. I was tossed into the deep end of the pool and I knew I either had to grow gills or learn to swim. I learned to swim. Looking around at all the writers drowning around me, I could not understand what their problems were.

 Obviously, many writers aren’t very good at it and they will not get better without education and practice. But that’s a given. What I’m talking about is writers who are perfectly capable of doing the mechanical parts, who know the King’s English better than I do, but who, as the saying goes, “Stare at a sheet of white paper until droplets of blood appear on their foreheads.” What’s wrong with these people?

I think I know now. They don’t have deadlines, and they subordinate their creative urge to their other lifestyle demands. They have not yet made the decision to put writing foremost in their lives. So all their best intentions just…slide.

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I’ve done it myself, though not often, and, in my own experience three things happen:

1) A big project that has no intermediate deadlines can be postponed because there are more urgent things to do with our time and the deadline is a long way off. We keep doing this until the big project is upon us and now we are in big trouble. But it happens in such small increments that we never see it sneaking up. Its like the big project is playing Simple Simon with us. And winning.

SOLUTION: Establish incremental deadlines. Make each one a do-able deadline and make meeting the deadline a priority.

2) A big project is intimidating because it’s so — big — that we can’t see how we will start it, let alone complete it. So (1) happens.

SOLUTION: As with (1) establish small goals, mini-projects, that ARE do-able and not intimidating. Continue reading Five Steps to Deleting Writer’s Block

Writer’s College: The Freelance-Zone.com Interview Part Two


We continue our conversation with Stephen Morrill, Director of Writer’s College. Morrill has some recommendations for potential students alike at Writer’s College; be sure and drop by the site to learn more about teaching and learning opportunities there. If you missed part one of the discussion, have a look to learn about the types of classes offered and the qualifications of WC instructors. 

Freelance-Zone.com: What are some of the most popular classes at WC?

Any new course usually gets some action. There are regulars who may have already taken all the courses we have that fit their needs but they stay in touch via our newsletter and then sign up for new courses. Among those most popular at the moment: Article Writing and Magazine Articles (two somewhat overlapping courses), Editing For Writers and the Grammar for Writers and Editors are valuable tools for any writer. The Essays and Personal Stories, Mystery Novel and Novel Writing courses have a big audience. Publish Your Writing, Stop Talking About It; Just Write, and Seniors Do Write are good motivational courses. And the Greeting Cards course is a perennial favorite.

Is there a class that you could recommend specifically for freelance writers who want to break into the field?

My own Nonfiction Freelance Writing Business course is a must-take. Article Writing and Magazine Article Writing, of course. How-To Articles, Newspaper Feature Articles, Promotional Writing, Speech Writing, and Technical Writing are all good ways to earn money in the nonfiction trade. Relatively few writers go the nonfiction route as it is less glamorous and you have to write to certain rules. But, if you know what you are doing, it can pay the bills. It’s been paying my bills for 25 years now.

How would an experienced writer go about applying for a position teaching at WC?

Ask. We have a web page “Teach for Us” at our web site that explains the requirements. Essentially, we look for writers with experience in doing the thing they plan to teach and with published credentials in that. Academic background is secondary to in-the-trenches battle scars.

What is it that you get out of running WC and how does it impact your career?

Good question. I think the school actually earned a profit for several months once. But for the most part it barely pays for itself, if that. The prices are ‘way too low for the courses and I know that. But the thing I love as much as writing itself is talking about writing! Writing has been a great outlet for me over the years and I love to see others getting
that same satisfaction that I get out of it. And the school is merely an extension of that desire to communicate to others my own love of this wonderful job I have.

Are there any upcoming plans for WC that you can share with Freelance-Zone readers?

If the economy were any better I would double the course prices. But for now all I am doing is working on some new courses – stay in touch with our newsletter for news there. And it is time for a revise of the web site, not that it’s bad or anything, but I get bored with it every few years and make changes. But WritersCollege.com has been ticking along nicely since 1998 and I see no reason to do anything drastic to it.