What ideas or picture do you have about your freelance writing career? Are you sure you even want a freelance writing career?
I was in sixth grade when I realized there were authors behind the fiction I was learning to love to read. I began developing the idea that I might someday join their ranks. As I recall my mental picture was vague – I was a grownup somehow writing books. I had no idea how books got written or published at that point, nor any clue of what sort of an adult I might grow into – sometimes I still wonder about that.
In high school I grasped the notion that many writers were writing in New York city. For awhile I had dreams of moving there and ‘conquering the city’ as a writer. Although that specific dream drifted off when I married, the idea of a writing career stayed with me, fueled by reading Writers Digest Magazine and buying the Writers Market every year.
I was 32 when I dared to send two over-the-transom submissions on spec to two women’s magazines. At that point my vision was of me typing madly every day sending off magazine articles and getting checks in the mail. Those first two articles didn’t sell, but I kept at it and gradually began to make some money at writing.
A writing career can go many directions
Next I discovered computers which I loved because they would check my still very creative spelling. I was so frustrated with learning about them I realized they needed writers who could explain how to run them – writers, not programmers. I went to a computer trade show and passed out cards explaining to anyone who would listen that I could write manuals if someone would tell me how things worked. I actually kicked off a fairly successful writing career as a computer manual writer. Which led to my first inside job – documenting both software and hardware, and then into writing for the magazine the company produced.
A year or two later I was asked to ghostwrite a book.
And so it went – and is still going.
Your writing career doesn’t have to be this crooked
I don’t regret my convoluted career path. One truth is that stumbling from writing interest/job to writing interest/job has given me incredible experiences. It also demonstrates the incredible flexibility a freelance writer has.
It also shows that a freelance writing career doesn’t have to look like climbing a corporate ladder – one step at a time in an organized fashion.
There are writers who figure out what they want to write early on and work at that. They find a specialty or two or three, learn to market themselves, and build a reputation and an income in those fields that work for them.
There are, of course, famous novelists who write successful book after book. You only have to look at the career of John Sanford or Sue Grafton to know what I mean. And I will admit to a fantasy for years about my own female detective series, which I let go of when I realized I don’t plot well and I mostly wanted to have written a mystery much more than I wanted to write one.
What a privilege!
What a privilege it is to be a freelance writer. We can pretty much choose the direction our career takes. We find examples of people making a decent living or better in all sorts of writing from poetry to corporate; all sorts of fiction, from kids books to science fiction are real possibilities, as is ghostwriting, memoir writing – the lists go on long enough to make us feel crazy as we try to decide.
We get to choose how our freelance writing career will look. It really is our choice and up to us.
Write well and often,