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.
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
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