The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 231
Pretty Damned Lucky
I, like everyone else with a television, have seen the heartbreaking pictures of Paradise, California after the wildfires came and went. One day a town of 27,000 people is thriving, going about the normal routine of life, and the next day that same town is completely gone. We see it over and over again, natural disasters, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves, reminding us, almost daily, just how fragile life is.
It all just makes me grateful that I still have a tenuous grip on life.
I’m not one to make inspirational speeches. I prefer to stay in the background, out of the public eye. I prefer to live the talk rather than just talk it, if you get my drift. That probably explains why I love writing so much; it affords me an opportunity to be a part of this huge world while at the same time staying comfortably cloaked in anonymity. I can reach out, get close to you, while at the same time keeping a distance from you. I know many of you understand that last sentence.
I’m just not a gregarious guy, and I’m fine with that, and yet I need the connection I find with all of you.
So thank you!
Small Mailbag this week, and that’s fine what with the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaching . . . so, for my U.S. friends, have a wonderful holiday. And for the rest of you, have a brilliant week in November.
From Rodric: “I feel like my writing style is changing into something else and I don't know what it is. It has to do with what I am learning on HubPages. The voice I write in is supposed to be funny and relatable, but it seems to gravitate toward serious and informative now. Do you think voice can change without a writer wanting it to? Also, is it good to have a go-to voice to write in or should it be malleable to what is being written, the purpose of what is being written?”
Interesting questions, Rodric . . . really interesting questions! Can a voice change without the writer wanting it to? It’s the word “without” that gave me pause. I think the natural process, for anyone who writes a great deal, is for the voice to change. I know mine has over the years. I can go back, read some of my older stuff from eight years ago, and barely recognize that voice. Did I want it to happen? I never gave it a thought, truthfully. It just happens! I suppose, with a concerted effort, a writer could prevent change from happening, sort of a robotic formula followed each day, but that doesn’t sound like much fun to me, and it also doesn’t sound like much growth to me.
As for your second question, and this is especially true for those who are creative writers as well as freelance writers, I think having more than one voice is almost mandatory. I certainly write in a different voice for customers than I do when writing stories or novels. If I didn’t I wouldn’t make much money freelancing.
Rodric, here’s my bottom line: the voice you are adopting is the voice you are meant to write in. Your muse will always win in the end, so you might as well not fight her.
From Bernie: “I know you are a freelancer, and from what I can gather you are pretty successful at it, but how did you reach that point of success? It just seems like there are so many writers vying for a limited number of good paying jobs. How does a writer crack the code and find success doing what you are going?”
Okay, Bernie, you are in luck. Since I only have two questions for this Mailbag I’m going to spend a little extra time on your question today. It’s one I’ve been asked before, but in the past I’ve had to rush the answer. No rushing today!
There are quite a few factors which are in play when talking about freelancing. One is an ability to write, and an ability to write in different voices and genres. Good-paying freelance gigs rarely go to a person who does not have a firm grasp of grammatical rules. In other words, and you can quote me on this, crap doesn’t pay!
Secondly, a successful freelancer is an organized self-motivator. Not everyone can thrive in a workspace of one, without a boss hovering nearby to make sure the work is done and done well. Working from home takes discipline and determination. It sounds glamorous, having no boss, naming your own hours, and having the conveniences of home nearby, but it also requires some dogged self-control and somewhat of an anal personality.
Thirdly, if you can’t stand rejection, get out of this business immediately and get a “real job!” Freelancers starting out will be rejected nine times for every victory, and I may be generously optimistic in that statement.
Fourthly, don’t quit your day job. I was an idiot and did exactly that, without a safety net. It worked for me but I sure wouldn’t suggest everyone else follow my lead.
But, Bernie, you asked about me specifically, so let’s get down to it. In many ways I was very, very lucky. I truly had no idea what I was doing when I quit my teaching job and declared myself to be a writer. I was winging it every single day. I knew I could write, and I knew I had the tunnel-vision determination to stick with it, but other than that I had no clue how the freelancing business worked.
Within a week I found my first gig on Craigslist. Within a month I had my first magazine article published, and a week after that I answered an ad, again on Craigslist, which turned out to be my personal gold mine. I was accepted as one of their “go to” writers, and I’ve been writing for that company now for almost seven years, to the point where I now turn down work.
So success can happen in freelancing, but you better be prepared to pay your dues.
Someone asked me what I felt about the HP awards currently being voted on. I forget who asked that so I'm sorry.
This is just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
I think they are ridiculous! Period! For whatever reason, the HP staff and management have decided to make a joke out of the awards. That may not have been their intention, but that is how it is seen by a good many writers, and some of us have been around now a quite a few years.
Those of you who are fairly new here have no idea what fun HP once was. There were regular competitions. There was a feeling of value, appreciation, and worth here. Writers were made to feel important on HP.
It doesn't feel that way any longer.
Listen, I've won my share of awards, and I'm very grateful for them. I just wish those who win after me could experience the same sense of pride and accomplishment that I experienced back when those awards meant something.
To my American friends I wish you happiness and blessings on this week of thanksgiving, and to my other friends, around the world, I wish you happiness and blessings, as well, today and always.
Thank you for giving me an online family.
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”