I am a writer. There are no books lined up in bookstores with my name on them. But my words are floating all over cyber-space in various articles covering everything from how to have a creative baby shower to where to buy the best ear tags for cattle ranchers. I write for online businesses, and my clients have included baby products, pet supplies, a children’s book about dogs, and a closet organizing company.
But my favorite collections of words are found on faith websites and faith blogs. All writers have a love affair with words. I used to get distracted while looking up a word in a dictionary, because I was so curious about all the other words on the page. Now that I use an online dictionary I am able to just stay focused on the one word that I looked up. I love the way a writer can arrange and rearrange words to evoke a mood or introduce a brand new idea of thought to the reader.
My personal blog is a faith blog. My faith is a big part of who I am, even though I am not sure that it makes me any different from the person next door who does not realize that God loves them. We walk through our days in extremely similar ways. The main message of my blog is to assist believers who find themselves working really hard to gain God’s approval and acceptance. If they persist in this way of living, it will lead to bitterness and a harsh judgmental attitude. Picture SNL’s character of the church lady.
I am currently working on a short non-fiction book that addresses this tendency. If I ever complete my book, it may end up filling shelves at a bookstore. I don’t know. My book begins each chapter with a true story of my personal encounters with God over the years. My hope and desire is that the words that God used to convince me of His unconditional love, will also convince the readers of His shocking and ridiculous love for them.
The idea that my new arrangement of words on a page could change a life is astounding to me. But I know that is possible because I have been deeply affected and changed by words that I have read. Mere collections of letters set up in a certain order and spaced out to make a sentence, a paragraph and a book…what an extraordinary thing!
I am a writer. I am choosing to spend my days with words. Today my words will be about how to keep your closet clean and orderly. Tomorrow my words may be about how much God loves you. I will even be using some of the exact same words to say these two very different things! I love that! Susie Klein, Writer
As most of you know, I am a freelance writer who works from home with no other day job. I used to have a full-time day job that I loved completely… it consumed my life in every way. I would come home in the late afternoon exhausted but content. After spending the day with dozens of people in challenging situations, I was drained and longing to veg the evening away in front of the TV.
But I always found a way to write. I filled journals, blogs and a small nonpaying newspaper column. I sometimes imagined that it would be Heaven to just stay home all day every day and write to my heart’s content. If anything could be more perfect than my ministry job, it would be being a full-time writer!
I have now been writing “full-time” for two years and um….nope, it is not Heaven. Silly me, I discovered that self-discipline is not my strong gifting. I can waste multiple days away without producing a single worthwhile sentence. Who knew that waking up to a totally blank day could leave you just as blank when you hit the bed again that night?
But in recent months I have experimented with setting up a writing schedule that works for me. This is where the helpful part of this blog post will begin. I have learned a few things that may be useful to other work-at-home writers.
I NEED a Writing Schedule!
You may think that having unlimited time to write would make the creativity flow like water. Surprise, surprise…not for me! I have an empty-nest (sorta) and no outside appointments of any kind. My time is my own. I have complete freedom. The fact that I have time has caused me to procrastinate enough to become the high and not-so-mighty Queen of Procrastination.
I have discovered that this lady really needs to be on a schedule in order to accomplish anything. So I figured out how to schedule my writing assignments. That leads to my next lesson learned.
Finding a Writing Rhythm
I have 3 client articles due each week, every week. Another client expects an article once a month. Since the due dates are constant and very close together, if I fall behind…it is a grand mess! So the early days of writing whenever I feel like itare gone. Thankfully, my clients have allowed me to set the schedule. I was able to organize the posts to work with my rhythm of work and rest.
My Writing Calendar is marked with just my regular writing jo
bs. In between those due dates I respond to job ads every single week. I submit to a weekly writing contest and write for a website that pays me if my post receives enough votes from readers. I also keep a careful chart of every job submitted, invoiced and payment received.
But one or two days a week I do not do any of that. (At least I TRY not to.) My mind can become a constant swirl of worry and concern because I am self-employed and it rests on me to be organized and careful. My small, but consistent income helps us pay our bills each month. The problem with working for yourself is that you cannot leave the job at the office. It is there all the time, even when you could be relaxing.
So if you do not schedule a day or two off, you will find yourself worrying about the work even when you are not working! Let’s say your spouse suggests a trip to the library or a movie. You feel guilty for enjoying some fun because a task is waiting for you and you don’t know when you will do it. If you have a schedule for each task, you will know that tomorrow it will get done, and today can be a fun day. What a beautiful difference that makes!
Social Media Shutdown
Logging out of Facebook is another key that has changed my productivity in a huge way. It seems like a simple and obvious step, but I LOVE FB! As a stay-at-home person with very little outside communication…umm I need me some social on the media. I love my online writing group and depend upon them to answer questions, challenge me and give me some giggles in between assignments.
They have become an accountability method for me in recent months and it is working beautifully. I tell my group (or all of FB sometimes) that I am logging out from 10am to 3pm. This forces me to stay off, because they will know if I hop back online. There have been some very interesting side benefits from this practice.
Now I get up and move around between assignments instead of popping over to FB for a bit. If I need a writing break, I go fold some laundry or empty the dishwasher. I often do stretches and a short work-out between assignments. No social media during working hours also allows my mind to drift and be more creative and inspired. I can enjoy social media without guilt during the non-working hours and that is much more fun!
I hope this long post has inspired you to find your writing rhythm and create a workable schedule. It will free you up to enjoy the present with less worry about the future. Being a Freelancer ought to involve some freedom, right?
This morning while sipping our coffee in the back yard, I was describing my latest writing project to my husband. After I had yammered on a bit (not sure if “yammered” is a real word but it feels right anyway), he said,
“You really do enjoy it, don’t you?”
Meaning the whole process of writing and rewriting an article or blog post for a website. I’d just told him about a back-to-school themed article I was writing for a parenting website. In order to round it out with facts and not just opinion, I had sent it to a former elementary school teacher for her input and reaction. It was returned to me with favorable comments and a few additions and corrections that inspired me and made me even more enthused about the project!
My answer was that yes, I do enjoy the process…once I have the idea for a piece. BUT, I hate the in-between time. There is a wonderful and “high” feeling upon the completion and acceptance of a piece of work submitted. I celebrate by plastering my good news all over Facebook and Pinterest for all to see. But it is closely followed by the question of what to do next for a client or for my own websites.
I do not enjoy the wandering mind and staring aimlessly out the window, trying to grab a deep thought or whimsical social comment to write about. While watching television, browsing the Internet or watching my dog be a dog, my mind is constantly looking for a subject or a “hook” that will grab a reader’s attention for a minute or two.
There is always this worry that I may have already used up all of my ideas and creativity. I know it is not true. Fresh ideas are out there and my imagination is being renewed every day, but those in-between moments when it feels like I have said all that I can say, those are not fun at all. I told my husband this and we agreed that song writers, painters and poets probably all suffer from the same concern. He used to be a full-time pastor and he recalled the difficult times in-between sermons when he wondered if more inspiration would come for the next Sunday.
A writer needs down time in order for creativity to recharge itself. Sitting in my house staring at the wall only brings frustration and if a deadline is near, panic. By “down time” I mean time spent resting or doing an activity that is not staring at a blank screen. Most of my ideas come while I am up and busy or out driving on an errand. During the night, ideas will arrive and I have a pen and tablet near my bed for that purpose. (De-coding what I have scribbled during the night is another interesting project!)
Since creating this official “Writer’s Website” in December of 2012, with no clue about what I was doing, I now have three consistent clients that I provide articles and blog posts for each week. I was hired by these clients by responding to their job ads online (Write Jobs is a great place!) and it was very helpful to be able to point them to this website. Of course, I also included writing samples and whatever they requested, but this site gave me confidence and a sense of authority in this area. And I continue to respond to job ads every week, it is just a part of being a freelance writer.
I love what I am doing as a freelance writer. The pay is terrible, but I am in the beginning stages and still working to find my writing rhythm each week. Freelance writing includes a great deal of careful administration duties that are very important. I love a good graph or chart full of details about articles going out and payments coming in! As long as those dreaded in-between times do not stretch out too long, I will be just fine!
Did you silently sing that title to the tune of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It”? Good, that’s how it sounded in my head too. But my pitch had nothing to do with Cherry Chap Stick (or kissing).
On this journey as a freelance writer who really would rather not be so “free”, I have read countless articles about how to sell myself to potential clients, agents and publishers. We are supposed to come up with great new ways to express our ideas and the goals of our clients, in words that will catch the attention of the reader.
When we have a new idea, we get to ‘pitch’ it to our client or potential client. I think that is one of my favorite parts of watching the Mad Men series. I love the tension in the room as the ad men and women do their best to convince the client that they have an awesome and amazing idea for their next commercial or print ad.
I am still giddy about a recent small success in this area. I say it is small because it really is. The pay is low and my idea did not increase the pay at all…BUT my idea did turn the uninteresting writing job into one that I enjoy and smile about now. So that’s a huge plus, right? Here is how it happened…
I was recently hired by a pet supply company to write for their website blog for a small payment on each post. They have published 3 or 4 of my informational/educational style blog posts so far and that was fine. It is a business website and I sent them articles with little or no personality showing through because that is what they asked for. I have written hundreds (yes hundreds) of articles in this style for businesses over the last 2½ years. It is simply a matter of finding the subject, doing some research and pulling it all together in a neat little package.
But then one night I was looking for some bedtime reading because I’d finished my pile of library books. I had shelved a bunch of books from my mom’s collection after she passed away 2 years ago and among them was “Marley & Me” by John Grogan. I had not seen the movie that was made from the book, (I don’t think) and it was not on my “musty read” book list because I figured it would be too sweet and syrupy. I pulled the book from the shelf and found that my mom had inserted a newspaper clipping inside the front cover. It was a book review and interview with the writer of “Marley & Me”. Something about his picture and the article made me want to give the book a try and I ended up reading over half the story by the time my eyes were too sleepy to stay awake.
I loved the personal and natural way the writer described his life with his crazy, misbehaving dog. It made me thankful for my silly dog Layla, also a Labrador mix, and his experiences felt very familiar in many ways.
Sometime during the night I came awake with the thought that I could write a different style of pet blog for my pet supply client that could attract more readers if it was personal and real, like the book I was reading. I loved writing about my dog on my own blog once in a while, but had to remind myself not to go overboard and get my readers tired of dog stories. This would be so fun, to be able to write my own true experiences in a creative way and be paid for it! Could it work?
I did not know if the business would care for this idea at all. They may not think that it would fit them or be professional enough for a business product website. I wouldn’t blame them at all. Who needs a mushy “I love my puppy” blog on a successful pet supply website?
Then I did something totally uncharacteristic for me…The very next morning, without over-thinking it and talking myself out of it, I wrote up a sales pitch for the idea. I reminded my client that they hired me to write articles and blog posts that would bring customers to the website so that they would stay and buy pet products. I explained my idea and said that I could include links within the posts that would lead the readers back to the products they sell. I told them that dog lovers and bloggers are very loyal readers who would return again and again if they connected with my stories. I would use search-engine-optimized-key words that would pop up when online users were looking for the items they sell. I even told them that this style of blog would add some needed warmth and personality to their website. (Yikes!) I added a sample post as an attachment. I also mentioned that I would totally understand if they thought it might not be right for them. And then I hit “Send”. Gulp.
They liked it! I wrote a pitch and they liked it!My new version of the blog went live this last week and I am still smiling big about it! It brought the website lots of comments, thanks to my great writer-friends and Facebooking friends! No, it is not going to make me any more money than the original job description and I will still do some of the posts in the informational/educational style….but, there is something about having an idea and putting it out there and be rewarded with the freedom to pursue it! One of my first goals as a young person was to write a regular newspaper column like Erma Bombeck, and this comes pretty close to what that must have felt like for her.
Got an idea? Throw that pitch out there and then close your eyes and duck. Yeah, I was always one of the last to get chosen for a softball team in school.
Susie Klein – Writer