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I am a writer, and I have been a performing this magic all of my life across several industries. First and foremost, I am a published poet and produced playwright, though I do not make my living from this work. These activities are more my life than my livelihood.
In terms of a career track, I have worked previously as a print journalist, instructional design writer in information technology, marketing communications writer in architecture, and a creative writing instructor in community arts education.
For the past 10 years, I have provided content for two Internet-based companies, written a blog about the writing experience and ghostwritten a wide range of projects for private clients –from autobiographies to company histories to “About Us” pages on web pages. So, I guess you could say there are not too many kinds of writing I have not been called on to perform.
Indeed, there are some very common misunderstandings about the act of writing. Because I have been entrenched in it for most of my life, people who see me at a keyboard or with a notebook tend to believe the process comes easy. It does not. Having a career in blogging is a challenging but rewarding process.
Sometimes, when I’ve been working on a piece of writing –especially creative writing– for days, and a friend comes to the door, I often get the comment that I look as if I’ve been wrestling with an animal. My friends do not know how close they come to truth with this comment.
The writing process is a detail –and labor– intensive process. If the writing is for a client, there is a ton of research that must be done before a writing plan can even start unfolding in my head. Once the research is done, I start a draft –just to get a version of the plan outside of my body and captured on paper or a screen. Then it is time to really work.
Every word, every sentence, every implied tone of voice and meaning must be put under the microscope to see if it truly belongs with the mass of words I’ve just written. This part of the process may have to be repeated two or three times to get it right. Then I walk away from it, if there is time, to give my eyes a break. I come back to the document I’ve created and edit for typos, grammatical errors and other technical mishaps.
Next comes the grueling process of submission. If the client or publisher likes it (a very rare occurrence), I am free to move on to the next project. If the client or publisher wants changes, it comes back to me for revision until it is exactly the way they want it to be.
I complain a lot that my brain is “fried” after I’ve been writing for long periods of time, but I would rate my job a 10. I love even the struggles that I have as a writer and blogger.
I think I’ve known since I wrote my first poem at age seven that writing is my calling. A strong science enthusiast, I am aware that there are many things I do well. Writing is something I both do well and enjoy. It thrills me to be able to use my gift to change other people’s lives for the better. Just the positive feedback that comes after someone has read something I wrote is affirmation.
I am not unique in knowing that writing is what I’m called to do. I am among a small group of people worldwide, though who actively, openly and without apology claim my calling. Many people do it “on the side” rather than fully submerging themselves in the work. Writing is not simply what I do. It is who I am.
I got started writing as a child because I felt everything (and everybody) in my parents’ house had a voice, and I wanted a space where I could make as much noise as I heard all around me.
As an adult, I started blogging because I wanted to make sure my children were able to read about my life as a writer. They both are strong writers and have always been curious about what I do. I wanted a record of it in my own words as a legacy for them.
I have learned the hard way that consistency is the key to blogging well. It is not merely about gathering words and publishing them. You are creating a “persona” for an audience, and almost everything you write is on the record. People never forget. Sometimes, this is a blessing; other times it is a curse.
The best policy is to approach the work honestly and be sure that what you share is truly something you want to share – that it’s not too personal or something that you might have to defend for the rest of your life. There was no one incident that taught me this. I have been around long enough to see other writers burned by being dishonest or too open.
In the working world, people really work! That means there is no time or room for being slack. The moment you blink, your replacement appears. You should write as if it’s all you’ve got. As I’ve told students in the past: If you believe that you “can” stop writing, then you should. Those who are meant to be writers can’t stop.
The strangest thing that has happened to me as a blogger or writer is the appearance of a stalker. This person never revealed his identity but, based on his comments, kept a file on everything I’d done and made it a point to post those findings on my blog daily. I turned the tables by publicly letting him know that I had the means to trace his IP address, and the posts stopped.
I get up and go to work each day because writing is my purpose on the planet. Even when I questioned, “Am I supposed to be doing this?” briefly, I was given a resounding yes. A few years ago I had a horrible car accident which made me reevaluate what I was doing with my life.
In a span of two weeks, I received a national award for poems I had written months earlier, I received a fellowship to attend a writer’s conference in California, I was awarded a two-week writing residency in Oregon, and a director at a theatre from my home state called to say that he had decided to produce my latest play. I never questioned being a writer again.
One thing that has been a bit of a challenge is the assumption by family and friends that you are always available to help them write last-minute letters, resumes, school papers, or anything else needed in the 11th hour.
I also get a ton of requests from people I don’t know who want some advice on the latest greatest poem or play they’ve written. It’s a form of blatant disrespect to me. On some levels, it says the person does not really value what I do.
This happens often when I am sitting at my desk and may be scribbling on a sheet of paper or playing a word game on my computer or surfing the Internet for research. People assume that if I am not in the grips of an open word processing document and moving my fingers furiously over the keyboard, I am not writing. Everything I do –even the scribbling– is part of my process. Writers think for long periods of time before they write.
Writing is very stressful, if you do not keep a balance. It is not healthy to sit at your computer every day for 12 or more hours per day. You need to give your mind and your eyes new scenery, and you need to MOVE! Exercise or some kind of commitment to moving around at regular intervals keeps you healthy.
Some writers I know have been brave warriors against cancer, depression and obesity. It is a sedentary job, but you have to break and be human. I work out at a local gym, eat properly and make it a point to move away from the screen at least once per hour, even if it’s just to yawn or pop my knuckles.
My salary always depends on how much or how little I want to work. If I do not take on a lot of assignments, the pay is low. When I do take on more work, I am paid well. Starting salaries are much lower because you do not have the experience to justify your salary.
Writers who blog for a company are on payroll and can make up to $35 K per year. As a freelancer, I make money by monetizing my blog – or earning money each time a reader clicks on an ad.
The bulk of my money comes from independent projects, which have ranged for me from about $300 to $24 K for a single project. Some of my Internet writing pays me a flat rate for completing work in addition to residual income from Internet traffic. I would not advise taking the leap to freelancing without another steady job initially. You have to build clients and a good reputation to earn a living from it.
There is no vacation for me as a writer – not even in my sleep. My radar is always on trying to anticipate the next thing I need to write about. The day that I can take a break from my brain is the day I can really get a vacation.
To succeed as a writer/blogger, you must really have mastered the art of persuading through words. Writers gain more access to higher paying gigs when they have an undergraduate degree, but many successful writers simply have high school diplomas. You must have a natural curiosity about the world that can lead to excellent research skills, and you must not be intimidated by new technologies.
The best writers are very familiar with social networking and are as comfortable blogging by posting articles as they are doing video blogging. Finally, you must be able to keep your nose to the ground in order to know what new developments are unfolding all over the world. This means staying connected to news and trends, however you have to do it.
I would tell a friend considering blogging to do it for at least three months to see if they can actually do it. Then do it for at least two years to build clients or cash reserve before quitting a job to do it full-time.
In five years, I would like to have found a robot to write blog posts for me at least a three months in advance. That is enough of a gap to keep me ahead of the curve –with a little room to comment on breaking news, of course. Seriously, I would like to still be doing this– and telling other writers how to do this better than I learned to do it.
Blogging career image from Shutterstock