Are You a Dragon?

I came across this USA Today article about the Year of the Dragon and business when researching a blog for one of my clients. As I read its focus on small business, I thought about how it related to my writing career.

As many of you know, I’ve been thinking about taking the risk and moving out into freelance land. The last time I talked about this, I was very uncertain and didn’t think I could do it. Now, it is starting to feel more and more right in my gut. I have two fantastic freelance positions with steady work that I enjoy and take pride in.

So, I’ve decided I’m going to be a dragon. This is the year that I’m going to jump off the side of the building (with a safety net of course). Besides the obvious wealth that comes from the Dragon, ambition, virtue and change seem to be the most appealing virtues of the Chinese New Year for me.

I’ve been harnessing the courage to follow my dreams. I’ve been looking for more opportunities to give back to the community. And change, I’m planning a lot of it this year.

Are you are Dragon?  Gung hay fat choy!

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Why are you Writing Today?

Today’s thought-provoking guest post is from the lovely Rachael Judd. To learn more about her, read my Seven Questions with her.

Have you ever looked at the project in front of you and it just stares back blankly? Eventually the staring ends as you decide to browse Twitter or jump on Tumblr for just a few minutes.  Hours, days or weeks later the project is still lingering, incomplete.

It’s easy to slack off and “forget” to write or “not have time” to write if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.
~WOW! Women On Writing Blog: Goal Setting for Writers

 

As I was surfing my Twitter this week I ran across this quote above. It came from a blog talking about setting goals for your blogging, but I think this last line takes it much further than goal setting.

 
Asked simply:  Why are you writing today?

In some professions the answer to WHY is quite simple. For a freelance writer, this question is much harder to answer.

Over the past several months I have been asking myself this very question. I started freelancing “on the side”, as many of us do, for some extra cash.  During that time I started my own blog as a chance to write about something I was really passionate about.  Then, freelancing became my “career”, blogging happens when I have energy and something about writing has changed.

I truly enjoy the flexibility of working for myself and I find the challenges of self employment to be minimal.  However, recently I have noticed something missing. As writing has emerged into a career I have seen it go from fun and exciting to difficult and overwhelming, the spark is gone.

Previously, the question “Why are you writing today?” was answered with “This is something I’m passionate about.”  Recently I’ve been answering that question with “I have the capability, time, energy and connections to make an income at it.” And that is where I am now.

Asking a new question. Can passion and income really intersect?

YES! Freelancing is a choice and a risk.  One of the reasons to make the choice and take the risk is to watch your passion and your income intersect.

However, to make this work the scales have to be balanced.

Too much passion usually means a lot of fun but very little income.  Taking on too many income opportunities may mean a full bank roll but very little enjoyment in the process.

Challenge: Make a change.

If you want to be a freelance writer for a career, stop and take a look at your scale. Do you have too much weight on one side? Are you loving each project but eating Ramen every day?  Are you enjoying Starbucks multiple times a day but dreading sitting at your computer?

At different points in the freelancing process sacrifices have to be made in favor of one side or the other for practical reasons, but before freelancing changes from passion to prison make sure you take full assessment of each step along the way.

To tip my scale back into balance I need to say no to a few paying projects that aren’t a “must” to my pocket book and say yes to some passion projects.  For me, a passion project includes some magazine submissions where I just haven’t pulled the trigger. It’s a risk since there is no guaranteed acceptance which also means no guaranteed pay. BUT, the payoff is the satisfaction of sitting at my laptop and feeling joy with every word that is labored over.

For now, that is enough to keep my career afloat and hopefully get me back on the write path!

Why are you writing today?

Writing + Personal Life = Overstimulation

Since I’ve started my new contract position, I’ve started to feel exhausted, but not tired. Let me explain.

I was talking with my dear friend Abbe and was explaining how exhaustion was a good thing. I’ve started to dive back into my creative self since taking on this contract position and have found that my mind wanders in 80 different directions because the content flows so freely from my head. Sometimes I type so fast that I what I wrote would make no sense to anyone if published without a good reread. I feel alive again.I feel motivated. I want to succeed. I’m overstimulated.

The only issue with this overload of words and ideas, is my mind continues to go on and on and on. The to-do list is my head is longer than the one I put on paper and I’m starting to feel like I’m juggling to much. Then I think about cutting back on something. And then I remember that almost everything I do now I love, and the one thing that I could cut is a necessity right now.

So I ask you, my readers, how do you deal with the juggling process? Do you write a super long to-do list and not complete it? How do you balance all of your balls in the air? Leave me your strategies in the comments below! I’ll share the best ones in an upcoming blog post!

It’s All About a Schedule

Since I’ve taken on this new project, I’ve realized that now more than ever I need to make myself a schedule. I talked a bit about the balance  in my Balancing Multiple Hats post. This contact position is more content and social media heavy than I have taken on prior, but I’m ready for the challenge and I think that the key to success is how I schedule my time.

While the time I have to write varies daily, I’ve sat down and made myself tangible goals to ensure I complete my tasks and that I’ve made the progress I need to stay on track.

  • Writing Sprints: The best thing about Twitter is having a strong community of writers on my side. I completed my first of what will probably many more with the help of Jeanne (@jeannevb). Tuning out of social networks for a while and keeping the TV turned off resulted in a quite productive hour.
  • Google Calendar: I am a huge fan of my tiny little pocket purse planner. I’ve decided to move into the technical age and input all of my meetings into the Google calendar that syncs with my Android. The automatic reminders of meetings are helpful.
  • A Blank Journal: I love having one of these with me to write down my notes about a project, keep track of information and have with me at all times to write outlines and ideas on for pieces. It’s a great compact item to have with me during my commute because it fits in my bag. It enables me to utilize available time during a commute.

What are your favorite tools and tips that you use when you are working on a project? Give me some ideas in the comments!

Why It’s Important to Stay in Touch with Your Network

In an earlier post, I talked about the importance of having a strong network and how my network has helped me gain new experiences. Yesterday, my network helped be secure a new contract position that has the potential to move my career in a new direction.
 
While my skill set, experience and desire to learn and write secured the offer (in my opinion), I would have never have found out about the opportunity without the help of Samantha, my former editor at Center Square Journal. She recommended me for this position and connected me with the right parties.  As a result, I interviewed and secured a new contract opportunity that has the potential to fulfill the desires I shared with you in my last post
 
I spent a lot of time this wk pimping friends & recommending them for paid gigs. We shld all do this more. @jeannevb
 
Keep in contact with your network and pay it forward. You never know if you can help enhance someones career by recommending them for opportunities. It can make a world of difference to them.
 

Taking Risks

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my writing career. I’ve been starting to formulate a plan for the direction I’d like to take next year. But a lot of it involves taking risks.

I’ve been toying about working for myself or working contract projects and then moving on. The idea of working for myself and controlling what kind of writing I do is an appealing idea. I’d be working more, but heck, it would be for something I 100% enjoy doing.

I would love to write a children’s book and I’d love to do NaNoWriMo. Those things involve time that I haven’t figured out how to incorporate into my schedule.

There is not enough time in the day to pursue the writing I’d like to do and that’s why working for myself seems like a great option.

But then my rational side kicks in. Why would I not want to have full-time job that provides some sort of security? What if I go out on my own and something happens and I can’t pay my bills?

I know a lot of people who are working for themselves and there’s a divide. Have any of you taken the risk and gone out on your own? What were your experiences? Were they worth it?

Everything’s Cyclical in Writing

When I decided I wanted to declare journalism (well at DePaul it was Communications) as my major in college, it came as a natural decision to me. I like to ask questions and I like to write. I also love sports. I put two and two together and voila, I’m going to be a sports journalist. I’m going to kick Jay Mariotti off the back page of the Chicago Sun-Times. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way.

I briefly started and wrote a sports section for Lawndale News and was lucky enough to sit in the press box on opening day for the White Sox a few years back. Those of you who know me for a long time know how much I love to tell this story. When I freelanced after college, I would always try to snag the sports-related stories, but nothing panned out the way I wanted it to.

I had moved on from the dream, focusing on other things than traveling the country following the Cubs, Sox, Hawks, Bulls and Bears. My writing became more community oriented, something else I discovered a love for in college. I had almost forgotten about my love for sports writing until a few months ago.

Someone in my network posted about a project she couldn’t take on and I hopped on it immediately. Tickets, I can do social media for a ticket company. I met with the founders of HappyFanTickets, presented my proposal and hopped aboard that day. And I never looked back. It’s been a few months now, and I’ve been a part of something special. Working with a company from the ground up is truly special; you get to watch it grow and know that you contributed to said growth.

This is more than a project to me. It took me back around back to my love of writing all things sports related. I’m lucky enough to create content for and shape the HappyFanTickets blog, thecornerofcheapandeasy. I get to write about sports, have intellectual spars with people from different educational backgrounds and learn new things.

Writing world, thanks for throwing passion back at me. I appreciate it!

Have any of you had an experience like this?