Living With a Writer, For Dummies

I’m the only writer in my house. I’m the only person that spends a majority of their day, at a computer, doing work. And I love it. I quite literally quit retail work to pursue freelancing, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

Unfortunately, that means that while I have the reprieve of not working with the public, I work from home. And no one in my house actually has a job… or a social life… outside of the house.

So, I’m usually surrounded, constantly, by people who do not leave my house and who also do not write and therefore do not understand the concept of being at the computer does not necessarily mean that I am doing nothing and that, yes, my being at the computer for 10+ hours a day is actually work and perhaps I should at least be left alone for a portion of those hours.

And it’ll happen in bursts. In the middle of a really, really good writing stride, only to be interrupted. Be it others in my house being rowdy themselves, or trying to have conversations with me, or… whatever whim of the hour is. Naturally, I have to respond, because the rules of social convention dictate that when someone speaks to you, despite doing something of Importance, you must respond. And give them time. Etc. And then I have to get back in the groove to be interrupted again. And I’m certain it’s not malicious, but it tends to be obvious when it happens multiple times a day that my agitated social cues are not enough to convey that hello, I am doing the Work, so talk about our inclimate weather to a person who cares and who isn’t in the middle of trying to make a deadline.

It’s a frustration that I imagine other writers face, where their efforts and their time are not respected, simply because people don’t understand that, huh. We’re actually doing work and putting in effort something. And I think for the most part, people don’t understand that writers, like other workers, need time and space to do their work. Writing takes effort and energy and constant interruption does nothing but impede that.

So, maybe you live with a writer, and maybe you’re possibly guilty of accidental interruption. And maybe your writer friend/roomie/relative/lover/partner is a bit like me, and tries to avoid confrontation as much as possible and is just letting it slide (while venting about it on the internet, lovely , or maybe they’ve tried to talk to you and you still don’t get it. A few tips.

  1. Work time is sacred. Respect it like you’d respect any other job that requires concentration and personal time.
  2. Our offices or office spaces or work spaces or wherever/whatever we’re using as a place of writerly harmony is not a free-for-all. You wouldn’t burst into the Oval Office willy nilly just because you wanted to talk to the president for a second, don’t come in our spaces when we’re doing our thing.
  3. Standing behind us to watch what we’re writing is creepy… Just don’t do it. You can always just ask what we’re working on later.
  4. If we’re quiet/not responding to you immediately/etc., it’s not because we hate you, it’s because we’re working.
  5. The ‘lol you have it so easy what with sitting at a computer all day’ and comments of other variations are truly, wholly, unnecessary.
  6. Yes, working at a computer all day is real work.
  7. Yes, writing is real work.
  8. We’re working, I promise you.

Get on my Knees and Ask, ‘Will You Hire Me?’

One of the things I disliked the most about public school ‘getting to know you’ assignments and college entrance essays, were those prompts they would give you where you would have to talk about yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses in this subject you’ll forget after your exams? Why do you think you’d be a good fit here at the University of Charging Too Much?

On and on and on.

The reason I disliked these so much could easily be summed up by two things: I find it very fucking uncomfortable talking about myself for the scrutiny of others, and my brain is an asshole who would rather do literally anything other than function long enough for me to strum up an essay’s worth of reasons why I think I deserve a higher education that isn’t ‘I don’t want to starve in the future because I have a terrible job.’ The anxiety of having to explain myself and up-talk the person that I am to total strangers in the hopes that maybe they find the train wreak that is the inside of my head interesting or easy to relate to, was always the bane of my younger-self’s existence; I had a visceral need to appeal to and please people. I was very glad to leave those days behind after finishing my degree (and am dreading it currently when I go back to round two of the educational boxing match.)

I bring this up, because the longer I freelance the more I find myself writing these god-forsaken essays, though now at a weekly rate depending on work flow. Since freelancing often comes with one time jobs and consistent, long-term clients can be rare, there’s a lot of shuffling about and cycling around new clients – and their dreaded but needed work proposals.

Often, I’ll be sitting at the computer with one pulled up. And I’ll know that I qualify for the job. I’ll have all my past experience lined up, ready to tailor to the specific requirements. Maybe have looked through some of the follow up questions that need further answering. Fingers poised over the keys and a tiny little mantra after I’ve looked over payment and decided that I can work with parameters – I’ve got this.

My mind draws blanks.

‘Why do you think you’re a good fit for this job?’ My answer? I don’t know shit fuck, my guy.

Points for creativity to me, minus a grade for lack of actual answer, however.

 

Morning Thoughts | 1.16.17

Waking up is the hardest thing when the only person keeping you accountable for waking up is yourself.

It’s one of the things that I’m learning, as I get into a workable routine writing and freelancing, running my own life entirely for the first time since, well. Ever. The bed is more inviting than the desk. It’s warmer, cozy, and some days I honestly have to ask myself if it’s really worth it to get out of the bed when I could just put off doing work for another few hours.

Spoiler alert: it’s always worth it to get out of the damn bed.

Take for example this morning. It was supposed to be a six o’clock day. Nice early morning, get breakfast and tea in me, go for a morning walk. Back home for shower, a little bit of writing, and then out to Barnes & Noble to occupy the cafe for a few hours and do work. Six o’clock ended up being eight. There was no walk, since I was brilliant and forgot to charge my phone the night before, and I like to be prepared when it comes to long, lonely walks in the woods.

That being, the day isn’t lost, merely pushed back. As I type, my phone is charging (or, will be, as a second glance has told me I have yet to plug it in) and I’ve got about three and a half hours before my afternoon trek out to do some work away from home – and, potentially new work to look forward to.

Here’s to a productive work week – and waking up on time.

 

Difficult Clients & Making Accomodations

I’m a very particular person when I work. I have a routine, a process. There’s a reason that I do the things that I do, because they work for me and make the ordeal of editing easier and run smoother.

Unfortunately, some clients just don’t care about that. Or, they’re just as particular and needy for a specific routine as I am. Either way, when it comes to work for the most part I can’t always do things the way I want them done. Sometimes clients want a specific format, or they want things completed in a strange way. I’ve had times where I’ve had to completely re-do work because a client didn’t like the format of my editing and wanted it done differently (something I wasn’t informed of before doing the work, which made it more frustrating.) My client today would like their editing sent to them in parts, rather than a whole, which is generally not how I do things unless I receive the piece in parts – it makes it easier to reference back to previous material when there are inconsistencies, and generally I don’t like sending in partial work, it just makes getting through everything more tedious.

Like I said, I’m particular.

I’m learning that, the more jobs I take on, and the variety of clients I get increases, they’re not all going to be as easy as others. Some are going to require a little more ‘breathe in, breathe out, it’s okay’ pep talks than others. Some are going to require me to learn and adapt to new working habits and routines. It’s all quite frustrating, really, but in the long run it will probably benefit me. At least that’s the hope; I could always be proven wrong.

 

Freelancing For Newbies: Don’t Give Up!

I think a lot of people have a misconception about freelancing. It feels like, for many, the idea is that you completely chuck your regular 9-5 aside, hop on the internet, slap together a profile, and then BAM, you have ten potential clients lined up, vying for your otherworldly talents, praising you for how amazing you are, scrambling to give you their money.

If only. 

The reality of freelancing is that it is just as hard, if not harder, to land jobs with potential clients as it is applying for ‘regular’ jobs, say like in retail or sales. More often than not, you will be rejected, for whatever reason. Perhaps another applicant has more experience than you, or their application was more impressive. It can be a number of things. And it’s very easy to feel, after the first, second, third, rejection, that you’re never going to get work, or you’re never going to be hired. The questions that arise are, am I even good enough? What was I thinking? 

The only way to get passed and get on with these feelings, is to keep on trying. Which, sounds very cliche in the grand scheme of things, but is entirely, one hundred percent, true. Freelancing is not a career choice where one rejection means the end of the world; it means that you have the chance to move on and seek more, perhaps even learn why you didn’t land the job you wanted in the first place, and then have the tools and knowledge to potentially land the next job you apply for.

To put things in perspective, I’ve been freelancing since February of this year. Not very long, but long enough. I have held steady jobs with several clients, and currently have three that I’m working with long-term. That, in my opinion, is pretty good, considering before now, I had never professionally freelanced, nor did I have ‘professional’ experience writing for companies or with publishing houses editing. I simply had writing under my belt, and have had experience proof reading and editing others’ work (for free.)

Here’s what my hiring history from February to this month looks like, which includes jobs that I initiated by applying to them on my own, as well as jobs that interested clients invited me to apply to:

2016-09-28-12016-09-28

That’s four hires out of nineteen applications sent in, with ten of those applications being declined by potential clients, three being withdrawn by myself, and two applications that expired because a client simply didn’t respond to the activity on that job. I’ll admit, it looks somewhat discouraging.

What you’ll notice,  however, is that there’s a lot of application activity, regardless of the fact that there are so many declines (ten remember? That’s more than half.) The very first job that I ever applied to through Upwork, was declined by the client. Ten days later, I was hired on by another client for ghost writing, which turned out to be a good experience for me, because I was able to work with an established author on their work, and I gained a lot of feedback on my writing that went on to help not only my own writing, but other ghost writing projects as well.

You’ll then see that my next four applications were declined before I was hired again, and that it was another three applications before I was taken on by another client. Had I given up after the first, second, even third rejection, I wouldn’t be where I am now, which is working with a team of clients that I truly, honestly enjoy working for.

Now, keep in mind that all of these contracts are, or were, on-going contracts, meaning that they weren’t one-time projects. My first client has offered me work since our initial contract concluded (a project I declined because of creative differences) and subsequent contracts have given me numerous projects that I’ve completed. Large gaps (April-May) where I have no application activity, is where I was working steadily with one or two clients, and when worked dropped off, applications picked back up as I began to look for more work, and more often than when I originally started freelancing, I would be hired.

The point that I’m trying to make here, for anyone who is looking to freelance through writing, or editing – or even blogging, copy writing, whatever it is you’re doing, etc. – is that to get jobs you have to apply to jobs. You have to apply to them even when your last ten applications have been declined. You have to apply to them even when you’re asking yourself why you’re even bothering – because the answer is simple: it’s what you want to do! And starting out, unless you already have established experience, is likely going to be slow. It’s going to feel like a lot of uphill walking. But those four landed jobs are invaluable in comparison to the ten that you didn’t get, and the more you work and the better the reputation you build up, the more you’ll (1) be accepted for jobs and (2) the more likely it is for clients to approach you because of their interest in having you as their freelancer.

Just keep in mind that it’s something that takes time. It takes perseverance, and a willingness to trudge past all of the potential rejections until you get someone that wants to hire you.

 

I told a client no today, and it was probably the best choice I’ve made in my freelancing career.

There are a lot of times, more often than not, that I’ve taken on a project that I didn’t really want. ‘Sure, I’ll write this story I have no interest in.’ ‘Of course, I’ll edit this piece that needs about five more re-writes before it even gets to editing.’

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

It gets very tiring, after a while, always telling your clients yes. It gets to a point where your heart isn’t in the work. Always accepting work you don’t want. Continuously having your skills devalued for work that isn’t necessarily up to par with here you are. It can be very draining and discouraging, day after day doing tasks you just absolutely have no passion for.

I was approached today with such a project. Two, in fact. Ghost writing for an old client of mine who I didn’t have much issue in working with in the past, but the subject matter wasn’t what I wanted to write about, and the restrictions on how I could write were ones that… I couldn’t really circumvent. I already knew that it wasn’t going to be a fun situation. I knew that the project wasn’t up for my skill level and that I wouldn’t be able to produce my best work. I decided to say no.

The anxiety, of course, ate through me – as well as my poor inner mouth as I chewed through it, waiting for a response. I got one, of course. The initial urging push to continue on and then the frustrated huff and puff of someone not getting their way. The final one word response to my continued (polite) declining of work.

Oddly, that infuriated one-word response was immensely satisfying.

Experiences with Ghost Writing & Why I’m Done

So for the last few months, I’ve been comfortably busy with ghost writing work interspersed with my day job. As someone who’s in between degrees and planning out the rest of their writing career, it seemed like a good idea. Gain experience in a professional field in something that I already intend to go into, make money doing something that I love. It seemed like a no-brainer, especially when I picked up the work at a time when I needed money and I was having a hard time figuring out what it was that I wanted to do.

For anyone that doesn’t know, ghost writing is essentially writing someone’s story for them — whether it’s taking their ideas and giving them life, writing a story from an idea or plot. Someone else comes up with the idea while you do the real work; you are also not credited for this work, and going into ghost writing you know that your name will never be on any of the finished pieces, no matter how good they are. Sometimes you will be paid royalties for any of the stories that you’ve written, but it’s not always the case (I personally will not receive royalties for any of the works that I have written.)

Initially, it was fun. I was getting weekly writing experience, regular feedback on my writing, and I was getting paid for it. Despite not getting any credit for the work that I did, I had fun to begin with. I wrote romance stories, a genre that I don’t tend to write straight on without something else going on with the plot, but for stories I would never write myself, it was an interesting experience getting out of my comfort zone. Writing experience is writing experience, no? It also seemed really cool to be getting paid to do something that I wanted to do.

The problems started to come the longer I was writing, when it became apparent to me that the content I was writing just wasn’t the kind of content that I wanted to write, regardless of whether or not my name was attached to it. Romance can be a fairly cliched genre, and when you’re writing short stories, clients tend to want it cliched, because in 20,000 words or less there’s only so much you can do with it depending on your client’s wants, and how strict they are on you sticking to their plotting. Typically, they want it extra cheesy, like the pizzas you eat in college knowing you ought not to, with lots of love at first sight, head over heels, ridiculous stuff you’ve seen already. Now if that’s your preference, of course, that’s fine. But as a writer, it’s hard to enjoy doing your job when your job consists of writing the same plot with different names and a slightly varied setting, with very little freedom to do something different. Something fresh. This is, also, partly because you subconsciously and consciously don’t want to throw down your best ideas on writing you will never be recognized for. So at the end of the day, I was left writing mediocre content from and for people that couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work to write their own content.

And don’t get me started on trying to write LGBT+ stories. I wrote one lesbian story and one bisexual story that featured polyamory out of the ten plus short stories that I’ve written in the course of being a ghost writer. Those were only because the clients asked for those specifically. If you want to write something with people of color, or with LGBT+ people, or disabled people, you’re going to have to dig, and dig, and claw. Given most of my characters in my own writing tend to be queer, people of color… it was a rather restrictive box.

Preferences aside, I also learned it was very easy to be cheated out of your earnings — or rather, people have no problem trying to cheat you out of your earnings, or try to pay you less than you deserve. I have seen a range of clients attempt to charge extremely low for ghost writers (clients that I have had, I’ve been paid anywhere between 5 and 10 dollars per every 1,000 words, which isn’t terrible.) I’ve also experienced a client simply not paying me, and not communicating with me post-project, which was only resolved because the freelancing site that I use automatically funds you your earnings if the client doesn’t approve or respond to your work after two weeks. And, at the end of the day, it’s really not all that unexpected. As a ghost writer, you’re basically paid to cheat for other people who either can’t write or don’t feel like writing; ethical business practices aren’t always there.

It should be noted here, that I knew exactly what I was signing up for when I began. I signed contracts, I read over rules. I knew I would get no credit. This isn’t a ‘I was duped’ story, rather ‘this is an experience I tried and I realized quick that it wasn’t what I thought it would be.’ 

After sitting on all of this for a rough month, I’ve decided that ghost writing isn’t for me. I want the freedom to write good stories. I want the freedom to write the kind of characters that I want to see in print. What’s more… I want my name on what I want, without another individual taking credit for the work that I’ve done. I’ve gained a lot of insight as a writer from doing this, certainly. But I think it’s best left as an experience, and not as a career choice. I also didn’t really want to continue to risk the chance of not being paid by clients who end all communication after a story has been delivered — I love writing, but I also love getting paid for it, thank you.

With that in mind, I’m happy to getting back to writing my own stories. Here’s to growth and progress. I originally thought of my choosing to pull out of the ghost writing was a failure. Here I was, just a few months in and not wanting to do it anymore. But that’s the thing — you try something, you don’t like it, you move on. I’m happy to move on to bigger, better things.

Namely, the cup of tea sitting at my desk and the blank word document waiting to be utilized to its full potential, for a story of my own.

Ciao!

Busy, Busy

After a nice little break from work because of Easter, it’s back in the grind. This time, it’s taking on revisions, and as little as revisions actually frustrate me, I’ve come to realize with writing that sometimes clients don’t tell you exactly what they want from you until after you’ve given them something that wasn’t what they expected of you.

Long story short, I now need to make something that would have been roughly 20K when finished into something no more than 12K.

Oy vey.

The good thing is, I’m fairly good at condensing. The bad thing is, planning for the kinda development a longer project takes and making it smaller is… a task. A task I’m more than willing to take on (money is money and I still get to do what I like, so where can I really complain?)

I’ve managed to cut/re-write a decent portion of the piece in question. Now it’s sitting and waiting for client approval.

In the meantime, I’ve started on another project, writing something of my own. I haven’t done that in what feels like forever, but hopefully between work, work, and work, I can find time to just sit down and do it 🙂

 

 

 

Good News!

My first story for my newest client got approved!

I admit, I had begun to get a little worried. The usual turn around on approval is typically 24 hours (this one ended up being a little over 48.) Being my first assignment with this new client, I had fingers and toes crossed on things going well..

I wish I could share a portion of it on here, but with ghost writing there’s pretty strict rules on distribution, so I’ll have to be content knowing that I liked my story and the person receiving it liked it, too. I was quite proud, considering it was something that I wouldn’t have written on my own time for myself, but it ended up turning out really well.

Now, I get to move on to a second assignment. 🙂