On July 1, I kicked off a more serious pursuit of freelance writing. It’s been quite an emotional roller coaster so far and I haven’t made enormous gains, but I’m still optimistic. I began my gig hunting with a wide open mind. This led me to read a lot of job postings for opportunities that I’m not in the least bit qualified for. That led to me becoming really bummed out. Eventually I put that approach on hold to pursue another one. More on that in a little bit.
My biggest accomplishment in the past month was easily the writing Fellowship that I’ve scored with TheDodo.com. It’s like BuzzFeed for wildlife and conservation. I’ve published two articles with them and both have made the front page! They advertise that they are working with the same venture capital groups that were behind BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, so hopefully I’m getting in on the ground floor of something that could go really big!
My one complaint about this website is that they pay 45 days after the end of the month that you publish the article (according to a Writer’s Agreement that they made me sign). I was, however, paid within 10 days for my first post so I have no idea when to expect checks in the mail from this website. At least I know that they weren’t lying about paying me though!
The goal of 100% self-sufficiency through freelance writing has both sustained me and pushed me to the brink of a nervous breakdown. You see, I haven’t shown off my writing very much, and so the idea of putting myself in position to be published in a wider way has been pretty terrifying. So naturally, I used my go-to technique for handling scary things: avoiding them at all costs. I worked on everything but the things that frightened me. I half-wrote like three articles while researching several more, all the while guaranteeing myself that I would never finish anything that I could publish. All of my writing has to be squeezed in between my two jobs, so eventually the time drain of never finishing anything weighed on me heavily.
I was throwing the ball for my dog in the yard as I researched the fates of failed presidential candidates. I wasn’t paying attention to fetch. I just picked up the ball when Magic dog brought it back and then chucked it into the pool for him to swim after again. It wasn’t long before the ball smashed into the little frosted lights that hang from the overhang of our back porch. Tiny white glass shards spread all over the pool deck and (I feared) into the pool itself.
That’s when I lost my damned mind.
I had put so much pressure on myself and I had so little time for writing that picking up these tiny pieces of glass would leave me with less than half an hour to pursue my ambitions. I led the dog away from the scene of the accident, brought him inside, dried him off, and then went back out to search for glass shards.
Frosted white glass on a white concrete pool deck on a sunny Florida (read “unbearably hot”) day don’t make for a fun scavenger hunt. I looked high and low and didn’t find nearly enough glass. I swept everywhere within a 10 foot radius of the incident. That’s when I feared that the glass was in the pool and conjured horrifying mental images of my pup accidentally swallowing glass-laden water while joyfully swimming towards his orange rubber ball. I started cleaning the pool thoroughly, vacuuming and skimming to no avail. I was defeated. We couldn’t let the dog near the area until I found more of the glass (which I did find in a small gutter next to the back patio a few days later).
This was the first time that I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself.
That’s when I came up with what seemed to be a great way of coping with my self-inflicted frustration: I would write a quirky, charming biography of myself from the point of view of my writer’s block! I was a half-dozen pages into the project when I realized that I wasn’t all that interested in it and that it only served as a way for me to feel productive about avoiding writing that could be more realistically published.
As I mentioned before, I abandoned depressing job hunting because it was eroding my soul and undermining my elusive, occasional, and probably hypothetical self-confidence. I altered my strategy to involve finding out what the market would bear in terms of selling my writing to leads that I had already located. I would bank articles and then try to sell them in bulk. (Ex: This site pays $100/post and they bought 5 posts from me in one week. Thus they are good for $500/week). Just to keep myself from regaining too much sanity, I created an arbitrary deadline to strive towards and stressed myself out by forgetting its meaninglessness.
I had 4 out of 5 articles ready to sell to a website that I had never worked with before. I would write the fifth article over the course of the week. That was the plan. Upon delivering the first post, I realized that hidden on the website as a lengthy list of Writer’s Guidelines that I had never seen before. Committed to my imaginary deadline, I observed the ones that I could and ignored the rest.
The article was rejected with a form letter. I crumpled into despair, certain that I couldn’t possibly reach my goal now. The next day, I moped more heavily than usual as I read carefully through the Writer’s Guidelines and realized that of the 5 posts I intended to sell that week, only one might be of any interest to the website. I had jumped the gun in a fit of courage and now I had reaffirmed my mercurial low self-esteem. I thanked them for reviewing the article and adjusted my goal to getting one thing that I had written accepted by the site.
Once we had a more solid relationship, I reasoned, I would better understand what they would and would not buy from me. I realized that this would need to be my approach with other leads as well.
In the meantime, I was a neglectful jerk to my girlfriend who I treated like an obstacle to my ambition. She confronted me on it and I saw how much of a turd I had been and reevaluated my obsession with fictional pressures that I put on myself and how I let them affect the person I love the most.
I revised my one last hope, an article about hate groups that was surprisingly thoroughly miserable to write. Did you know that we live in such a politically divided country that we can’t even seem to agree on who is and is not a hate group?
I adhered to their guidelines, submitted it, and received a more cordial rejection. This time it was a human responding. They said it just wasn’t a good fit, but that they would love to give me feedback on some pitches before I spent the time to write another full article to submit to them.
You better believe I took them up on that offer! I pitched about 5 potential articles and thanked them for taking the time to review my much hated hate groups post, also asking if it was rejected for form/style or content.
Now I’m re-tooling the hate groups post to pitch it elsewhere. I’ve got about 12 hours of excessive research, rough drafting, and revision into this stupid post so I’ve gotta sell it somewhere!
In the meantime, I’ve realized that writing web content is enjoyable and fun. Even though the research takes hours sometimes, it’s a really awesome way to learn new things about this big weird world that we’re living in. With that in mind, I’m going to take up my job search once more with a narrower focus on the type of writing that I find interesting. Hopefully it will stave off the boringness of corporate form postings and the depression of confronting my limited professional-experience.
In the meantime, here are my published posts from the first month of my freelance pursuits:
How You Can Help 6 Critically Endangered Species with Populations of 500 or Less:
A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Studios:
8 Endangered Species Making Epic Comebacks:
A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Islands of Adventure: