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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 239

Updated on January 15, 2019

The Winter of Big Winds

No, I’m not talking about any particular politician. I’m talking about real wind, and the winter of 2018-2019 to date. We are getting blown all over the map here in Western Washington. Now mind you, I’m grateful we don’t have to deal with blizzards or tornadoes or obscene heat waves, but when you live in a place surrounded by 100-foot fir trees, having gusts at 50-60 mph can be a bit nerve-wracking, and that has happened at least four times since the start of December. It’s getting so I just naturally duck when I go outside now, as if ducking will keep my head safe when one of those giant evergreens falls down. Silly human!

There was a story on the news the other night, some guy had to be rescued because he tried to ride his bicycle over a downed power line and he got stuck. True story! Dumb does not take a vacation in our part of the country.

Enough social and climate commentary . . . let’s do this thing called The Mailbag!

The Mail Room!
The Mail Room!

Freelance Writing

From Lacey: “What should I do to get started as a freelance writer? I need to make some supplementary income from home, but I don’t know how to get started in that business. Any advice would be helpful at this point.”

Oh my! Talk about opening Pandora’s box, Lacey! I’ve literally written dozens of articles about freelancing, and you want the condensed version in 100 words or less? I’m not sure I can do it.

Freelancing literally means writing for pay as an independent contractor. In a very real sense you are a freelancer when you write on a site like HP, but I’m going to guess you want to make a bit more money than what HP will pay you.

Almost all content sites and all companies looking for freelancers will want to see examples of your writing, and preferably your published writing. If you have never sold a piece, and if you don’t have anything published on the internet, you really need, at the very least, a blog where examples of your writing are online.

My friend Greg has a great website for freelancers called LancerLife…check it out and learn from a pro.

And then start applying for gigs. Craigslist has gigs listed…as does Textbroker…as does a dozen other sites. Dive in the water and see what happens. You can be like the rest of us and learn as you go.

Lack of Confidence/Stage Fright

From Terry: “How do I get over this lack of confidence, which at times paralyzes me? I’m afraid to publish for fear that others won’t like my work. Do you ever feel that way about publishing?”

Terry, I did when I was first starting out ten years ago. My wife is the one who talked me into finally publishing something, and she is the one who wouldn’t stop nagging me until I published my first novel. The rest, as they say, is history with close to 1,500 articles published, six novels, two non-fiction books, and five novellas. I just needed someone who believed in me to give me a nudge.

I don’t know what will work for you, but I think it would be a shame if you did not publish and . . . and I mean this . . . you are cheating the world if you don’t publish. Now is an important time in our history. I feel like culture is taking a backseat to crudeness and rudeness, and we need more writers. If you have any talent at all, you owe it to the rest of us to share that talent. Please!

I’ll buy your first book, so you already have one pre-sale!

Niche Writing for Money

From Sandy: “What do you think about niche writing to make money as a freelancer? Is it better to stick with one niche or is it better to be more rounded? I’m talking, mainly, about the best chance to make some money online.”

There are great debates about this, Sandy. I am in the “niche is better” camp, but I have friends who do not believe that and have made decent money writing about a variety of subjects.

I do not have a definitive answer for you. I really don’t think you can make a wrong decision on this. Do what feels best to you. Remember about niches, though: you better love the topic because that’s all you’ll be writing about for months or even years, so you better be enraptured by it.

I do believe this: a talented writer can make money writing about anything. I’ve written articles about oil drilling, microblading, and backflow prevention. I know nothing about any of that, but I learned and I wrote and I cashed checks for my efforts. If you’ve got the bones you can do it too. And that is my final piece of advice: work on your craft. Very good writers are in demand; it’s up to you to become a very good writer! No one can put in the hours, for you, to make that happen.

Travel writing is a nice niche
Travel writing is a nice niche

Getting Things Done

From Rajan: “Some deep questions and truthful answers. Bill, I have often wondered, with the number of things you do in a day, how do you manage to find time to keep so fit?”

Rajan, it comes down to two things for me: organization and survival.

I’m very organized and consistent. I follow a strict schedule during workdays. As long as I stick to the schedule, I manage to get a number of projects done. Mind you, I rarely allow any distractions to derail me, which is where many people go wrong working for themselves. I do not answer the door during my worktime. I don’t randomly pick another chore to do if it is not on my schedule.

It works for me!

The other factor is, for me, a belief that if I keep busy, doing meaningful thing, I will survive and thrive. I’m incredibly healthy, and I believe part of that good health can be attributed to doing meaningful work which pleases me. I don’t like doing nothing, and I don’t think my body likes inactivity. I’m like a shark….if I stop moving I’ll die!

Blame my dad; he didn't believe in idleness!

This man is to blame for my work ethic
This man is to blame for my work ethic

A Calm Day Today

There’s not a hint of wind today, and sunshine is promised for the next five days.

I am grateful!

A short Mailbag today, so I’ll share some lyrics with you from Dan Fogelberg’s work “Nexus”

Across the vein of night
There cuts a path of searing light
Burning like a beacon
On the edges of our sight
At the point of total darkness
And the lights divine divide
A soul can let it's shadow stretch
And land on either side --
Either side.
And balanced on the precipice
The moment must reveal
Naked in the face of time
Our race within the wheel
As we hang beneath the heavens
And we hover over hell
Our hearts become the instruments
We learn to play so well.
Wealthy the spirit that knows its
Own flight
Stealthy the hunter who slays
His own fright
Blessed the traveler who journeys
The length of the light.

Have a great week!

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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