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Why Freelance Writing is Like a Piece of String

writing“How can writing possibly be like a piece of string,” you ask?

“Ah,” I say nodding sagely, “because most questions about writing have at least two or three answers if not more!”

Yep, it’s true. Ask any two seasoned freelance writers a writing question and you’ll get answers that are not at all alike. They even may be contradictory!

Take for example the often asked question, “Should you write for free?” There are all sorts of ways to answer this question and they range from “No” right on through “Yes” and on to “Maybe.”

Just for fun I googled: write for free site:aboutfreelancewriting.com. I think I counted 5 or 6 entries on the first page alone… and without reading them I know they don’t all agree.

Is my opinion about writing inconsistent?

No,  not really, or at least not always. See? It’s the ins and outs of freelance writing that are far from predictable.

That’s why it bugs me when an editor says something like “our pay is standard” or “we use standard contracts.” And yes, I know Writer’s Market and others publish pay rates for writers, but they at least use a range. They don’t really have a choice since they gather pay information from both writers and editors. In truth the prices are all over the map.

On the other hand, some of my opinions about writing are consistent, like freelance writing is a pretty good gig. My mind immediately comes up with reasons why that might not be true for everyone, but I’m going to ignore it for now.

What about spelling and grammar?

It would seem spelling and grammar might be an exception.

No, not really. Both, of course, have rules. But since English is a living breathing language it’s also ever changing. Don’t believe me? Peruse this article about the history of spelling.

If you’re old enough, remember when ‘he’ always referred to both men and women. That so-called generic ‘he’ has changed in my lifetime to something more inclusive. It started with the awkward attempts to combine he and she, and now seems to be defaulting to the non-gendered, formerly incorrect and awkward ‘they.’ Yeah, I’m likely to still get arguments on this one. Put ’em in comments please.

From issues of pay and getting paid, to the real meaning of copyright, I can think of only one thing about freelance writing that stays the same. That is, if you want to be a writer you’ve simply got to write. It used to be words on paper, now it’s words on the screen. Tomorrow, who knows, but somehow the writing will need to be done.

Write well and often,

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Work for free or work for pay? Depends. On what the writer wants to do. I give away my work when it’s in line with “fun things I want to do right now” (e.g., blogging, commenting, crafting short stories just for fun) vs. “writing someone else wants me to do that will benefit their business” (e.g., technical writing, a guest post, or a book I wrote and self-published or submitted through traditional channels). I’ve had a very good career as a senior technical writer (switched to data science about 4-5 years ago because tech writing wasn’t providing enough challenges or variety in writing). I’ve done freelance writing, as well. I can tell by the per word rates mentioned whether a client is serious and values the work or not.

    As for gender-neutral pronouns, I’ve been lobbying for the all-inclusive “s/h/it” for years, now. I don’t now what that hasn’t caught on. I can deal with “they,” fine, but “themself” vs. “themselves” gets awkward – are we being gender neutral or inclusive of those with multiple personality disorder? (I’m torn between the logical and the linguistic, here – leaning towards the linguistic because the logical “themself” sounds stupid.)

  • I’m working on a project at the moment where no gendered language is allowed and it’s amazing how many gendered terms slip into every day writing – things like using the terms brother or sister instead of sibling. I love the way language changes and evolves, but I also like rules and some old-school grammar. Ah, the conflict!

    • Good for you… yes, although I’m not in favor of dumping all gendered language. For example, if the brother’s name isn’t clearly male, or even if it is depending on the audience, I may choose brother deliberately. But getting conscious of all gendered word is, well, difficult to say the least.

  • Sue Chehrenegar

    I remember when the seniors at our college were reading their papers, a teacher reminded us that in the description of an animal, the word “it” should be used. No mention of gender should be made. I believe that rule still holds.

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