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Take a Break if You’re Injured!

injuredLast week I injured myself. I was fixing lunch and when I was cutting an avocado open with a newly sharpened knife I sliced the forefinger on my left hand. (I thought sharp knives were safer than dull ones!)

Since my finger was curled the cut was a deep U shape along the outside of the first knuckle.

I was supposed to have coffee with a friend. After I stopped the bleeding, got the rather ugly cut taped up, I sent a text telling my friend I was injured and asking if he would take me to urgent care. I then ate my lunch – and the avocado was perfect, because I was hungry and I figured it would take awhile to get this handled.

Four hours and five stitches later he brought me back home. Even though the whole experience went easily enough, and I was treated well and felt well cared for I was trashed when I got home.

The next morning I had no energy. I wasn’t in pain, but I felt like I should do very little but sleep. Another friend who has had several deep hand cuts over time assured me the injury was a real shock to the body and I should just take it easy. Turns out he was right and I appreciated his advice.

Self-care can mean a lot of things

We talk a lot about self-care. Often we mean things like eating well and getting enough rest and exercise. We may give a nod to sleeping more when we have a cold or taking time to deal with something like a migraine. If you’re at all like me I hadn’t given much thought to being injured. Nor had I known a cut that required five stitches could be such a shock. But it was.

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Tempted to Quit Freelance Writing?

quit freelance writingI don’t know a single writer who isn’t tempted to quit freelance writing at least once in a while.

While there are all sorts of reasons people quit freelance writing my hunch is the two biggest are:

(1) consistently not making enough money and

(2) boredom with the business and the writing they are doing now.

Not consistently making enough money

The big problem is writers tend to be creative types and (including myself here) we don’t really like marketing much. The other part of this is we’re not particularly good at consistency in business – writing is our strength and what we love to do. The other stuff not so much.

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client responds“A potential client responds after I sent out Letters of Introduction two years ago!” a member of our forum lamented. “Can you believe it?”

She wanted to know how to reply or if she should even take such a tardy response seriously.

Although several advised caution, I encouraged her to take it seriously, respond in a general and interested way and move on, until she was offered a contract. This is of course, my usual reaction when a client expresses interest. Treat them well and keep on marketing.

The only thing that might have made this case different was it took the person who had received the Letter of Introduction or LOI.

I learned the attitude of treating every contact with respect and as if they might buy back in the days when I was selling real estate – actually acreage with homes in San Diego County. We used to advertise in both the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. We often wrote what today might be called info ads – stories about a property or two that waxed lyrical about living in the country, etc. It seemed like once or twice a year someone would appear and gently fish out of his wallet a yellowed strip of newspaper. They’d not only seen our ad some years ago, but had taken time to clip it out and carry it around for all that time. Many of those folks eventually became customers of ours.

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Benefits of Getting into Technical Writing

technical writingTo break into technical writing and be a successful technical writer, it is important to mentally transition into being prepared for the journey.

Are you an introvert? Do you prefer to be the only writer in a company? Do you enjoy interviewing people? If you said ‘yes’ to all of these questions, continue to read more about the benefits of a technical writing career.

Technical Writing Jobs are Abundant

In the United States, most technology start-ups and reputable organizations need tech writers. A few examples include Microsoft, Google, Twitter, IBM, the United States Government of municipalities. Technical writing is a necessity in health care, real estate, engineering, construction, manufacturing, technology, oil, and gas, etc. If you have a skill for marketing writing services, finding a recruitment agency can help you find long term opportunities.

Daily Responsibilities are Always Changing

A day in the life of a technical writer is never the same. On one day, we spend a full day in stakeholder meetings to gather important information. The next day can be spent writing multiple documents at the same time. On the third day, we can travel on site to see the technical aspects of the subject matter to have a thorough understanding of the project. Furthermore, the job requires minimal supervision because, at times, organizations expect these writers to manage a project with the help of a busy project manager.

Contract Work or Full-time Work

Technical writers can start a life-changing journey by contracting, which offers an opportunity to work for some of the top organizations most people will not work. On the contrary, an individual that is seeking security such as benefits, and paid vacation can benefit from being a fulltime technical writer. As with any other line of work, contractors receive higher pay and can ask for rates that typically do not exist for fulltime employees.

Transition into a New Role

Technical writers can transition to becoming a Business Analyst, Project Manager, or IT professional. These positions require a skill for comprehending and writing complex technical topics. If you are an engineer, Systems analyst or enterprise architect, transitioning into technical writing can be done with minimal effort or additional education.

Technical Writers are Respected

A technical writer that can manage multiple projects, produce error-free content, and work effectively with difficult colleagues with a positive attitude is an organization dream come true. A part of the reason technical writers are treated with respect is it requires patience and the ability to receive constructive criticism from multiple people in a company other than a project manager. This job requires an individual with thick skin and an open mind to continue learning.

How to find technical writing jobs

Technical writer jobs are available on websites that include Indeed, FreelanceMyWay, Glassdoor, and Media Bistro. If you decide to freelance, design a website and business cards to self represent your services locally.

Final Thoughts

The next time you are thinking about starting a new writing career, consider the idea of becoming a technical writer. You can work remotely from home, land a gig with an internationally known company, or interact with executives to complete projects. A career in this role is abundant in North America, and in most cases, you will be the only tech writer at a company. It is a perfect job for introverts or technical professionals with a desire to transition into a less intense career.


discipline My discipline? Sometimes I doubt it exists. Although I’ve been writing for years, last Sunday an acquaintance of mine described how she had spent an hour practicing dance, two hours practicing the piano, and would have spent several hours practicing golf. The golf had been interrupted by rain, which was the main reason we were together.

“You’re really quite disciplined aren’t you,” I said feeling anything but in comparison. She demurred and I spent several minutes arguing silently with myself about whether my discipline means I get enough done.

Fortunately I’ve trained myself to get off that self-criticism pretty quickly. It just makes me miserable and I believe we’re supposed to be happy. Besides, it was Sunday which is one of the days I allow myself serious downtime.

What does my discipline look like?

Obviously, since I support myself writing, I do get enough done. Maybe not because my discipline is in place every single day, but because, on the whole it’s enough.

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Eobstaclesven with the obstacles, the life of a freelance writer is full of freedom as you can work from nearly anywhere in the world. For this reason it is one of the most coveted positions a person can have especially if they find the right clients. Writing for clients allows the freelancer to learn about topics that otherwise they would have never researched.

Being a freelancer does come with obstacles that most people might not think of. The benefits of working at a traditional job like receiving health benefits but rather having to pay the high premiums is one example. The other larger issue is during the beginning of your freelance writing career it can be difficult to predict monthly income. Setting a budget is far more difficult for your personal life if you are unsure of how much money will be coming in. The following are obstacles that most freelance writers encounter as well as how to overcome these things or eliminate the problem completely.

Productivity Is Low

It can be difficult to remain productive if you don’t have a decent work environment. Because of this, you should do your best to create a dedicated space in your household where you keep your office supplies. This doesn’t have to be a full home office; it can be a space in the corner of your kitchen or bedroom.

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What do you want from your writing now?

what do you want from your writing nowIf you’ve been writing for any length of time it’s time for you to think about what  you want from your writing now.

That’s because as the pre-Socratic Greek Heraclitus is reputed to say, “change is the only constant.” (Personally I suspect he got that idea from someone else. There really isn’t much, if anything, that’s truly original – a topic for another time.)

Simply wanted to be paid

If you’re at all like me, when you first started writing all you wished for is to be paid as a writer. And after devouring Writers Market for years, and sending out at least a small bale of queries, (what’s the cyber equivalent of a bale?) it finally happened.  My first writing sale was a booklet for Hazelden about how to have fun after you sobered up, and it’s still in print and I still get tiny royalties every quarter.

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The Worst Advice I Ever Received About Writing

worst adviceThe worst advice I’ve ever received about writing was and occasionally still is “don’t.”

You probably recognize most of these – any one of which could qualify as the worst advice:

  • Don’t count on writing paying the bills
  • You need a regular job
  • Writing is so insecure
  • You’ll never make any money writing

The list could go on.

Nay-sayers give the worst advice

Nay-sayers give the worst advice, always telling people that whatever their idea is it’s no good. However, those who always discourage people are pretty up front – their pessimism for themselves and others is straight forward. If your Uncle Joe is a true nay-sayer he’s always going to say don’t do it, whatever it is. Saying you want to be a writer is bound to elicit his worst advice. One way or another he’ll tell you don’t risk it.

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attention to detailI have some problems with my poor attention to detail. I’ve known this roughly forever. It shows up in a variety of ways.

Apparently I was either born with or developed early my ability not to see things like a messy house, or car, or tottering stack of papers until suddenly I do. I’m often surprised and even though I recognize the mess as mine feel surprised by it when I do spot it.

Although I learned to varnish the brightwork (woodwork) on boats, it required mastering a certain focus that doesn’t come to me easily. And I’ve not found a way to transfer that focus to other situations.

This lack of attention to detail also shows up in my writing. Those of you who’ve followed me for a long time know I’m prone to typos. I often don’t see them, although I find them easier to spot on my desktop monitor than on my so-called smartphone.

Dictating changes, but doesn’t eliminate the errors

I watch my men friends type on that tiny mythical keyboard with some amazing accuracy that my smaller fingers just can’t seem to get.

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transition to freelancingYour mental transition to freelancing is the true key to your success.

You can have the 6 months income saved, what you consider the perfect computer and home or other office space. You can even have one or two clients already paying you, and still your attitude can get in the way.

In fact, if you don’t believe in yourself and your writing you’re unlikely to be successful as a freelance writer.

What is the right stuff for the mental transition to freelancing?

First of all, there’s no certain formula, or criteria that will guarantee you’ll make the transition to freelancing successfully. What worked for one person will not always work for another. That said, it is possible to point out a direction for your thoughts and feelings that may be helpful. Here are what I consider the three most important: A strong desire to freelance; some comfort with uncertainty, and self-knowledge and self confidence.

Strong desire to freelance

Look, in some ways having a regular job is mentally easier than freelancing, particularly in the beginning. The regular job is predictable, and so is the paycheck. Switching to freelancing is hard. If you’re a writer, you’ll need a different skill-set to build your freelance writing business. You’ll need dedication and discipline.

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