Getting a Life

It’s been a while since I’ve actually written anything here about writing…a sad state of affairs, since writing is supposed to be the focus of this blog. My silence on the subject is completely attributable to two things:

1. While I am doing some freelance work, I am not writing creatively. I have been doing so much reporting in the past week or so that I feel too scattered and burned out to do my own writing. My thesis has taken a serious back seat. As in the back seat of another car, one that I’m not driving.

2. I’m feeling pretty uninspired, frankly. I’m cut off from all of the creative people, locations, and internships I had been a part of for the past two years, and I hadn’t realized how much those people and environments were keeping me going both in terms of my own writing and in terms of being aware of things going on in the literary world. It’s not exactly like I had my finger on the pulse, but I felt a bit more connected than I do now. The lack of connection is kind of sucking away my previously held optimism.

Kind of as a result of point number two, I ended up going to a panel discussion hosted by MediaBistro last night. The panel was titled Get a Freelance Life. (Exactly what kind of life I need to get is the subject of much debate, mostly by me, with myself, but that’s another topic for another time.) So at this panel, five freelance writers talked about how they go about their freelance lives, everything from pitching magazines, to setting pay and contracts, to how to deal with loneliness.

Most of the info was familiar to me, but I learned a few tidbits. I love hearing stories of writer’s experiences interacting with publications and editors, so it was entertaining for me just for that. And hey, I got a free book called, you guessed it, Get a Freelance Life.

So what did these successful freelancers have to say? There was lots, but some interesting bits:

• One thing I came away with was this (please prepare yourself for a hefty dose of marketing speak here… one of the speakers’ words, not mine): I, the freelance writer, should consider myself a brand. For every project that comes up, I should consider how that project is going to add value to the brand that is me. So, for example, if a magazine approaches me about doing a story on something I love to write about but it can’t pay much, I should consider doing the project to further my goals as a writer, thus advancing the brand that is me.

• a web site is crucial for displaying clips and contact info. (and advancing your, um, brand.) All of the freelancers there swore by their websites. I later checked them out, and really liked this one and this one, in terms of good design, concise copy, and clarity of message. Or brand, if you want to continue with that awful way of looking at yourself in a freelance career.

• Someone in the audience asked the freelancers to name web sites they found useful as resources. This seemed like a great question, but: They all mentioned, which I later discovered has an $89 subscription fee. Not sure if I am quite ready for that cost yet. They also touted the American Society of Journalists and Authors which I later discovered has an intense application process required for membership (i.e. publishing a book at a reputable publishing house or a long history of writing for national magazines. Newspapers don’t count. Which is odd considering that many journalists work for newspapers.). So anyway, those sites, not so helpful after all for the beginner. But! Since obviously if you are pitching to magazines you’ll need to be reading them, one guy suggested, where you can apparently get tons of glossy magazine subscriptions for $5.95 a year. It’s not all magazines like OK! either. They have Mother Jones, for example. They also have lesser discounts on mags like the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, etc. I couldn’t find a catch. So good tip there. And, if you are a freelance magazine writer, you can deduct said subscriptions on your taxes. Smart.


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