Thursday, May 31, 2012

How I Became a Paid Writer

I was sitting at the counter in a drugstore having a soda, minding my own business when an editor came up to me and said, "Hey, you look like a writer! How about a job?" Suddenly I was a writer!

Yeah, right.

I was seven years old when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I may have had momentary dalliances with ideas of being an actress, a nurse, or a rock star, but the desire to be a writer remain in my heart above all else. So I wrote. bits and pieces of things, ideas, poems, whatever. When I was 11 I started writing a book that I never finished. It was the best activity EVER.

I spent years sending stuff out to magazines, major and literary. I sold the occasional poem or story to little literary journals. I sold a filler to Women's Day. I basically was not advancing much as a writer. I did not study journalism. I didn't get a degree in writing or English. In fact, I studied criminal justice in college  I chose it to broaden my experiences and world view as a writer. That, and to piss off my dad. I knew that I would be a writer eventually, even though a psychic my mother once took me to said I would never succeed at  it, that I would only write to please myself -- like a hobby. There was one thing I knew that she didn't -- I knew she was WRONG!.

For several years I set about writing poems about and for the people around me. I gave them to each person they were about. I would also dabble around with the occasional story. I took a couple of continuing education classes at the University of  Colorado that were taught by writers instead of teachers. My skills progressed immensely.  Then I won a poetry contest that my mother insisted that I enter. I was elated. I joined the Poetry Society of Colorado and began really working at poetry. I entered the slate of annual contests every year and began winning a great deal. This really honed my writing skills into saying exactly what I meant succinctly and clearly.

During these years life managed to take me in the right direction. I managed to land a job at the Colorado Daily newspaper as a marketing assistant. I finagled my way into writing letters for a few marketing campaigns to garner new advertisers. Before long they were laying me off. It was a quirky newspaper that all but shut down publishing during the summers. Fate took a hand and the editorial department hired me as their calendar editor instead.

During the summers most of the writers were laid off until September. One day a press release crossed my desk. It was for an art showing for work by my neighbor across the street. After 20 or 30 minutes of getting my courage up, I walked into the editor's office and pitched my article idea. It felt something like throwing myself off a cliff. To my great joy, the editor agreed. Now I had to write something well enough to prove that I was worth taking a chance on. It worked and I began writing articles more regularly. This was in addition to my job, so I was considered a freelancer. Just like that I was suddenly a paid writer.

One of my early articles was about my junior high English teacher, Frank Reno, and the book he had written about the historic King Arthur. He had been my biggest mentor in wanting to become a writer. Back in the day he would read and comment on my scribblings when I would bring them to him after school. It was delightful to interview him and to let him know that his extra support had been worthwhile.

It didn't last. The next summer I was one of the people laid off. From there I went on to write, edit and publish the newsletter for the Poetry Society of Colorado. It was unpaid, but it kept my hand in the field.

At my most recent job I wrote newsletters for homeowners associations. A bit on the boring side since I wrote mostly about lawn care, rules, water conservation, and snow shoveling, but at least I was writing. It was during this job that I started seeing a new way to do things.

I joined Facebook just to be able to see some family photos. Then I began reconnecting with old friends, my coworkers and others. I started looking at the blog of one coworker and it dawned on my that I needed to blog. So I created this blog and started putting EVERYTHING on it. I was putting all of my writing out there. I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing with it yet. Eventually it turned into this writing blog, as well as a link to writing samples for potential writing jobs.

That helped lead me to getting a paid writing gig with and the potential for another that looks like it will start sometime late in June or early July. For that website I would have a column writing local business trends and news. I found these opportunities on Craig's List. I'm supposed to be looking for a "job" right now. Oddly, I am getting more bites to freelance. Somehow I don't mind.

So basically, I became a paid writer by putting myself out there and by not letting anyone tell me that I can't write. I also didn't sit back and wait for it to come to me. I know I can write. You know you can write. So keep writing. I'm going to.

1 comment:

  1. I loved your post. And I agree, never give up on your dreams. As long as you continue to write, you have a chance to succeed.

    Keep up your dreams, write, write, write.

    Juls Duncan, author of the Morgan Koda Adventures Series.