Temping Gave Me My Grant Writing Start
The temp agency sent me to assist a professional association director with correspondence. Across the way, two women—a dietitian and a psychologist, I later learned—were unpacking large suitcases full of printed materials into a little office with a couple of desks. They were hired to travel around the country and conduct workshops under a government contract. I helped them for the next two years, at the end of which the government said it was one of its most successful training contracts.
One day while my two bosses were on the road the executive director came to me and asked if I would look at a couple of forms. Apparently, one of their educators had applied for and received a grant but didn’t know how to fill out the paperwork to get the money to which the nonprofit was entitled. I took a stab at it, got a couple of checks back, and the rest is history.
The website Zety lists 20 job titles for writers. They are:
- Copy Editor
- Content Creator
- Communications Director
- Technical Writer
- Public Relations Specialist
- Proposal Writer
- Content Strategist
- Grant Writer
- Video Game Writer
- Film Critic
- Travel Writer
- Social Media Specialist
Most are self-explanatory. Some are not. For example, I’m still not sure what a content strategist really does, although I’ve generated enough content that I feel I should know. Copy Editor and Editor/Proofreader are not, in my opinion, writer job titles. I wouldn’t have included Social Media Specialist, or maybe I would have. Writing tweets, etc. can be important and significant work I suppose.
I’d just returned to my teaching job at a Seattle technical college after 5.5 years overseas, and couldn’t settle back into the routine. After 3 years as an expat spouse in Singapore, and 2.5 years in Belgium—laced with non-stop travel—my heart was no longer in teaching. I’d traveled too much and changed too much.
I wondered how I could break into what looked like the glamorous and exciting travel writing arena.
I took a travel writing workshop
In July 2007, I enrolled in a 3-day travel writing workshop in Portland, Oregon, just down Interstate-5 from Seattle. I was so excited to sit in the class, along with 70 other travel writing wannabees.
One month later, after reviewing the course notes and slide shows, I sent out my first batch of query letters. An editor emailed back, requesting my proposed article. I remember thinking, “That was easy.”
A while back I announced with great pride and expectation that I was now aiming at “Inbox Zero.” You know, the scheme that insists we empty our email boxes by end of business every day.
Inbox Zero hasn’t worked for me. Not even close!
And the problem isn’t in just my desktop email, but in my gmail account and in an account I use with another firm I work with. Every now and again I spend an hour or so both deleting emails by the ton, and unsubscribing from the unread newsletters I tend to accumulate. I feel virtuous for about 10 seconds, then go back to whatever I was avoiding.
Rescued from Inbox Zero
This morning I my email carried the notification that one of my all-time favorite Medium author, Kris Gage, had written something called What the hell is the deal with “inbox zero?”
I have a few pet peeves about freelance writing and the tools I use to get the writing done. I’ll bet you do too.
Oh, I love my work. Freelance writing and coaching are two of the best gigs on the planet in my not very humble opinion on the subject. I’d be lying to you if I said it’s all cupcakes and flowers, though.
Here are a few things that annoy me the most.
Unsubscribes that are anything but instant
Is there anyone who truly has their email inbox under control? I certainly don’t even though I pretty regularly unsubscribe to all sorts of things. I’ve actually got four pet peeves about unsubscribing:
- When the unsubscribe link is hidden.
- When the link doesn’t work.
- When it requires me to enter my email address.
- When I’m told it will take x business days to process.
Each one of these is built on a lie (okay, maybe misunderstanding) about technology.
The few readers who take the time to destructively criticize
Those who know me know I’m open to constructive criticism, new ideas, and even kittens. Once in awhile, however, I’ll get an unfriendly email that details all sorts of perceived problems with my writing. Yes, I’m a creative speller – it doesn’t help to tell me I’ve spelled something wrong, particularly if you give me no clue how to find it. I wonder why someone bothers to try and discourage others. It’s even worse when it’s done publicly – which doesn’t happen too often.
I was never destined to be a writer. Instead, I was introduced to gambling at a young age (even before I was 18). I was never an academic, but I had gotten myself into a decent enough college. One thing that I was for sure was a gambler: a poker player and a sports bettor.
The Poker Boom
I graduated high school in 2004. At that time, online poker and poker, in general, was exploding. The World Series of Poker was the hottest thing on TV. The number of people playing online poker doubled every year from 2003 to 2006 in what was known as the “Poker Boom.”
Do you know how you really spend your time? This came to mind while I was writing about the benefits of volunteering for writers.
Not long ago I began to do pro bono work with a nonprofit. It’s a project I loved and still do, but I ended up giving way too much time to it. No one’s fault but my own and in truth I don’t really regret a minute of it.
Another truth, however, is I quit tracking my time and it wasn’t until I started again that I understood.
Knowing how you spend your time
I’ve come to believe that knowing how you spend your time is paramount to success as a freelance writer for multiple reasons, including: [continue reading…]
There are all sorts of reasons to give back by volunteering to help someone else. When I give back by volunteering:
- I get out of my natural self-contentedness
- I usually meet interesting people I wouldn’t have met otherwise
- The exposure to new people and new ideas enlarges my life.
I limit my volunteering pretty severely, except of course when I don’t. The danger for me is when I give back by volunteering I can enjoy the new project enough to distract me from my other work. A word to the wise – pay attention to how you’re actually spending your time.
3 Ways to give back by volunteering
Here are three ways you can give back by volunteering, and why I like them.
Write for a nonprofit you love for free
This is pretty obvious. I like this one because I’m often asked to write about something new or in a new way – lots of learning!
Officially Amazon owns book publishing. How do I know?
Yesterday one of the Wall Street Journal‘s headlines was
‘They Own the System’: Amazon Rewrites Book Industry by Marching Into Publishing.
Although I’m not always a fan of the Journal, I’ll take that as proof; now Amazon owns book publishing.
Those of us in the writing and book business have been aware this moment was coming ever since Amazon got into the self-publishing end of the business through what is now called Create Space. We’ve muttered among ourselves some how feeling less than celebratory about a world where Amazon owns book publishing.
The Journal‘s article opens with the story of how Mark Sullivan was able to sell his novel, Beneath a Scarlet Sky for “a low five figure advance” after it had been rejected by eight trade publishers.
A coaching client of mine asked about freelance writers burnout. She pointed me to ‘Existing On A Plane Of Burnout’: An Intersectional Discussion On Millennials And More which talks about millennial burnout.
As I understand it, millennials are feeling particularly subject to burnout for a wide variety of reasons. Symptoms include, according to How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation, inability to get even the simplest of life tasks done, like mailing a letter because they are exhausted. The author, Anne Helen Petersen, also calls it “errand fatigue.” She cites examples to the ennui that prevents them from returning clothes that don’t fit to running up large fines at the local library because they simply don’t seem to have the energy that makes them able to return the bag of books at all, let alone on time.
Not just millennials, writers burnout too
Maybe we should be grateful that millennials have brought attention to this phenomena and given it a name. I know I suffer from this from time-to-time and I’m hardly a millennial! I hear the same thing from other writers, editors, and maybe all my creative friends. We seem to hit periods where we don’t deal well, or even at all, with the mundane.