Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hope and perseverance

Late last night I heard from a student who said coming to class made her feel better, that she sometimes felt so downtrodden because of the need for money--she's not yet making any money from her writing--and being among writers gave her hope.

Sometimes it seems all you have is hope. Hope can be the rope that stops you from falling.

In Pen on Fire I talk about working as a temp and how much I hated it. It was so time for me to make a living writing, yet it wasn't happening yet. I didn't want a career in the corporate world because that's just not what I wanted for my life. So I kept writing fiction, took classes in nonfiction, learned how to write scripts and other types of writing that could someday bring in cold hard cash, and I maintained hope--hope that it would happen someday.

Crossing over to freelancing took more energy and focus than I ever though I was capable of, but I had to break out of the 9-5 work mode...I just had to. I met a cable TV producer at the Irvine Fine Arts Center darkroom where I developed and printed black and white photos, and he gave me a job writing a documentary on the Orange County homeless situation. It paid peanuts. I took it.

I continued to temp during the day and at night worked on the documentary, sometimes staying up all night. With the eventual tape, I got freelance jobs writing corporate scrips. Then I learned about writing press releases and doing PR and got a few freelance gigs doing that.

It took a while for the income to pick up, but eventually it did. I didn't have connections. What I did have was perseverance. And hope. My students who begin to publish have those qualities, too. Without them, you might as well forget it.

If you're desperate to write for publication, articles are the way—esp. business and technical articles. Don't forget trade magazines. They pay well and need freelancers. They may not be as impressive as mainstream magazines, but they're a great way to start getting a freelancing income going and the editors are, for the more part, delightful to work with. They appreciate you.

Getting into public relations, too, as a freelancer, where you write press releases, can be your bread and butter for a while. For a long time before I started focusing on writing for magazines, I did PR, and found it quite lucrative. After a while, the PR writing itself--not the people I worked with--became boring. But it was great money while it lasted.

Yes, talent counts, but without hope and perseverance, talent means nothing. Don't dwell on how hard it is. Instead, write hard, learn hard, and make perseverance your middle name.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a very inspiring Blog, Barbara. It is easy to get discouraged when you are first starting out; I am there right now. This blog reminded me of what I needed to hear: just keep doing the work even when you don't feel like it. Also, some great ideas for jobs to sustain one while starting out. Thanks.

ifiwereawriter said...

Thanks Barbara. You have a very motivating way of expressing yourself. You inspire me to continue on no matter how long it takes. I appreciate your words.

Evelina said...

Thank you! Just when I was ready to hit "delete" and forget everything I ever wrote. This is exactly the motivation I needed!

Anonymous said...

Barbara and other people who responded to the "hope" blog: Thank you!
I just took a short story writing course, my first, at UW-Madison.
I wrote some new stories, and honed my skills, but the best advice I got was,"Write for 2 years. Enter contests but don't worry about breaking into mags. yet. Take the pressure off yourself."
I can't do that entirely.I'm 60 years old, so I'm in a hurry. My first 2 magazine queries are going out tomorrow.
I have a small income so I won't starve. What do you think?