Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So This Is What Changing Your Life Looks/Feels Like

OK guys--big announcement time!

The first time I said these words, they didn't quite have the excitement I thought they would. They came out more with a definite tone of uncertainty (or was it fear?) But, here goes:



Ah. There. Finally--I put it out there in a BIG way, as I'd hoped to do at the office.

For many reasons, for many months (years?), I've been toying with this idea. Then a few things happened a few weeks ago that definitely got me thinking. And once I decided that I couldn't turn back, well...I didn't turn back!

But I have to admit, it's not the sweet relief I expected. I'm feeling a bit of everything right now. Excitement. Relief. Overwhelmed. And yes, still a healthy dose of white-knuckled fear, which has been keeping me glued to the keyboard these past few days.

And let me tell you, the stress has been working better than any diet plan ever could!

I'm also finished with my job NEXT WEEK. Once I decided to get out, I've wanted OUT! It's weird to still have one toe in that world, trying to finish up whatever needs finishing, and frantically trying to line up some writing work for After I Leave. It's surreal and great and I don't know what else!

So I'm not sure if this will be short-term or long-term, but this will be my life for awhile. I've contacted editors I haven't worked for in years, and my sudden freedom is forcing me to get creative. I'm dreaming up writing courses for all sorts of folks, and saying "yes" to work I wouldn't normally consider. I need some sort of income stream until the bigger things start coming in.

They will come in, won't they?

I'm also using this time to give my copywriting venture a much-needed, long-delayed jumpstart and working on my capstone project for my Master's program. I'm also willing to teach virtually any class that has an "ENG" prefix at 3 community colleges.

So that's the good word. I've jumped. Stay tuned for how I make out over the next few weeks!

What's happening in your world lately? Have you jolted yourself into doing something completely unlike you (just as this is for me) recently?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Post: I Smell a Great Journal Topic

by Mari L. McCarthy

I recommend that all writers should keep a personal journal, for the self-knowledge, understanding, and creative riches that journaling offers. While my work is mainly in the area of Journaling for the Health of It ™, I also consider myself a writer and artist. I definitely use journaling to inform my artistic creations.

Here are a few ways I've found that journal writing supports other kinds of writing, even though the two disciplines are very different.

1. Clear out mental clutter
The more clear your mind, the more easily your writing flows, isn't it true? A clear mind lends to success in any endeavor. Journaling lets you do a regular 'data dump,' clearing out your mental cobwebs so that your alertness and concentration can increase.

2. Become more observant
The more you journal, the more skilled you become at remembering and arranging the details. As you write about your experiences, they become more specific in your mind. Moreover, when going about your life you begin to collect details that you want to write about: morning bird songs, shadow patterns on the floor, that strawberry you ate this afternoon, the way your shoes are pinching your feet, the intoxicating smell of fresh dark chocolate.

3. Realize the bottomless depth of your creativity
The more you journal, the more you realize that you have an endless supply of ideas, thoughts, impressions. You realize that you never run out of ideas, even if sometimes you may lack the will to access them. You see that writer's block is about your willingness, and not about an actual dearth of ideas.

4. Practice storytelling

The more you journal, the better you become at telling stories. The ability develops without much trying on your part. That is, you don't necessarily concentrate on telling a good story in your journal; your aim is just to get your body-mind responses to things on paper as fast as possible. But, over time, you'll naturally improve. You can prove this to yourself by reading over entries from six months or a year ago, and comparing them to newer posts. Does your ability to articulate clearly improve over time?

5. Practice free expression
Usually when you write, you expect that one or more other people will read it. Not so with journaling. Your journal is where you are allowed completely free expression. Journaling is where you can write for many pages about the rapture that overcomes you when you smell dark chocolate.

In sum, journaling is an essential tool for sharpening and enhancing your creative instincts for any purpose.

By Mari L. McCarthy - The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Journaling for the Health of It™. Please visit Mari's blog at http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/. In 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness (http://www.createwritenow.com/peace-of-mind-and-body---27-days-of-journaling-to-health--happiness/), Mari walks you through an easy process for accessing your natural inner strengths. Mari's latest publication is titled Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life. See http://www.createwritenow.com/journaling-therapy-ebook/ for details.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Would You Trade In the Freelance Life?

Besides the deadlines I’ve been scrambling to meet and the papers I’ve been frantically trying to finish, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past few weeks and I’m in a real period of transition—perhaps the biggest of my adult life. I think it’s finally time to claim what I truly want to do, and stop making apologies for it. More on that in the next few posts.

So it’s gotten me thinking—with all of the instability that comes with the freelancing life, have you ever regretted your decision to pursue it, whether full time or part time? It seems to be one of the few career paths that’s virtually recession-proof…there will always be some kind of writing work somewhere if you’re willing to search for it (and put enough “feelers” out there). But do you ever regret giving up stability (whatever that looked like for you) for the admittedly unpredictable freelance life?

I can definitely see where the benefits would far outweigh the bummers—flexibility, the chance to work on a variety of projects that challenge you (rather than leave you feeling burned out, overworked, and generally stuck in a rut), not to mention saying “no” to those persnickety clients that often turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth. So why are so many of us reluctant to claim the life that we’ve dreamed of?

I guess fear is the biggest motivator to just stick it out, wherever you are. Fear of not having regular income. Fear of never finding work again. Fear of giving up the safety net (benefits, etc.) But think about it—wouldn’t you regret the fact that you didn’t take the chance to see if you really could do it? That maybe you could live life on your own terms? It would probably be the most terrifying—and exhilarating, satisfying—thing you would ever do. It’s good to really scare yourself once in awhile. It shows what you’re truly made of.

So, fellow freelancers, I ask you—would you ever trade in the freelance life for something a little more predictable?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Anatomy of a Freelancer's Resume

As I said in Monday's post, I landed a slew of new assignments since the beginning of April, and these projects have more than restored my faith in sending LOI's to editors.

Some of these editors asked for my resume, so I had no choice but to seriously take a look at putting one together. I had a version that I've been using, but I wasn't happy with it, as I wasn't clear on format or how much/little information to include. So I was thrilled when I came across this post that explains how to write a resume as a freelancer.

Needless to say, I followed the suggestions in the post and now have a working resume that I'm very happy with. Hopefully the post will be useful to you, too.

What about you? What helpful tips have you picked up lately?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is Too Much Networking a Bad Thing?

There are more business networking organizations in my area than I realized. A few weeks ago I received an invitation to yet another new group that’s starting with the purpose of generating leads and connecting business owners. The meetings don’t work with my schedule, so I can’t attend anyway, but I sighed when I saw the notice. I believe 100% that networking and face-to-face relationship building is one of the surefire ways to build business, but I’m not sure that all networking events are truly worthwhile.

I’m also realizing that for the writing business to grow, we may need to focus on landing larger clients rather than focusing so much on small businesses. The small business may need more help, but their budgets are stretched thin and these business owners may simply not be able to afford our services. So we’re aiming a bit higher, and we’re being more selective about the networking events we attend and organizations we might join. I’m sure business owners have landed a fair share of work from these types of events, but, as I did with my writing projects awhile back, I had to trim some of the things I was taking on. I don’t want to accept more just for the sake of doing more. I’d like to focus on fewer, but more lucrative and satisfying efforts.

What about you? Have you had much luck with events focused on lead generation?

Monday, May 9, 2011

What's New?

The past few weeks have flown by in a blur of landing new projects, interviewing, writing, and meeting deadlines; wrapping up an extremely demanding semester of grad school, holding a successful writers’ conference for a 2nd year (more on that in a minute), and basically trying to keep up with the general demands of life. It hasn’t helped that my day job has exploded into a nonstop schedule, which hasn’t left much time to squeeze in any writing-related tasks during the day, so I’ve had to literally do everything either via email or at night or on weekends.

I think the worst of the rush is behind me. Seeing the end of the semester was a huge relief. Not that it’s translated into more time, necessarily, but I have fewer projects weighing on me at the moment.

So here’s a little more specific info on what I’ve been up to lately:

  • All 3 of my non-magazine clients have had projects in the last month, which meant more juggling for me, but also some nice added income, which is always appreciated! If my little windfall (and a lot of what I’m reading on others’ blogs), it’s a very good time to be a freelancer, as business seems to be picking up across most sectors.

  • Thanks to reading some older posts on Linda Formichelli’s fabulous Renegade Writer blog, I was able to find several assignments for a number of under-the-radar trade and specialty publications. I also connected with a new editor thanks to a “tweep” connection, which restored my faith in social media. (I know that several freelancers have landed work through social media channels—personally, I haven’t gotten a ton of work in this way, but I keep trying and keep my information updated)

  • My writers’ group held our 2nd Annual Write It Right Conference in mid-April. Although I was a bit disappointed by the registration numbers initially, it turned out to be a positive thing, as smaller attendance was more conducive to meaningful networking and relationship building. I know there were a lot of emails exchanged between attendees, which is always great to see. We got a lot of compliments on our presenters and the day itself, so we really can’t ask for more than that. Unfortunately, we had torrential downpours that day, and some of our attendees had to drive over an hour to get to the event, so that was a little worrisome. Also, our keynote speaker had been in Texas for the week prior, and he flight was delayed coming back to PA. She arrived in Harrisburg at 3 a.m. and made it to our conference (approximately 2 hours away) in time. Talk about follow through and professionalism!

  • This fall I’ll be completing my last semester in the Master’s of English program at Kutztown University. I’m spending my summer reading and researching for my capstone portfolio project. I wish I could just finish the program without having to do anything extra, but I suppose grad school doesn’t exactly work that way (ha ha). I’m really looking forward to getting my degree and seeing what other possibilities in the field might be out there for me.

What about you? What’s new and exciting in your respective worlds?