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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 278

Updated on October 20, 2019

The Touch

When I work in the garden I never wear gloves. I know, I know, I’m drying out my skin and yes, it is extremely hard to get my hands clean after a couple hours of digging in dirt, but to wear gloves seems like a sacrilege to me.

It all dates back to 1955 for me. I was seven, and our family took a car trip back to Iowa to see my grandparents.

Grandpa was a corn farmer. He loved the soil. He took me out in his fields one day, had me kneel down in the soil with him. He cupped his hands, sunk them in the soil, and held them up, a handful for me to smell.

“Smell that, Billy Boy? That soil is life. Farming starts with the soil. If I take care of the soil the soil will take care of me.”

“But Grandpa, how do you know if the soil is healthy?” I asked him.

“You gotta feel it, Billy. There’s a certain feel to healthy soil. That there’s why your grandfather doesn’t wear gloves. I need to feel the healthy in it all.”

If you have to ask me what that has to do with writing, you haven’t been paying close enough attention to these Mailbags.

How about you? Do you have any special memories of your grandparents you would like to share with us in the comment section? Or how about memories related to touch?

You think on that while I tackle the questions for this week.

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room

Ghostwriting Credit

From Rinita: “I have another question about freelancing. If you ghostwrite articles for clients, how do you continue to build your portfolio to show your past work when you want to look for new clients? I could, of course, continue to write my own unpaid articles on my blog page, but what is the best way if someone asks for a portfolio of past articles written professionally? Any advice you could share would be most helpful. Thanks a ton and hope you have a great week”

This is a great question, Rinita, and a problem most ghostwriters run into.

Ghostwriting, by its very nature, is an anonymous pursuit. Clients do not want it known that they did not write their own content; they are oftentimes embarrassed to admit that fact. So how does a ghostwriter prove to potential clients that “they have game?”

There are three things you can do. First, you can include a Portfolio Permissions Clause in your contract with your customers. This clause gives you legal permission to share “author” status with potential customers and only potential customers. This will often be sufficient and satisfy past clients.

Two, you can post excerpts of past work without actually mentioning where that work came from or who you did that work for. Again, you should seek permission from clients before doing this.

And three, you can maintain a Client Testimonial Page on your website. On that page will be glowing reviews by people you have worked for in the past.

That should be enough to get you started and find you some new clients. Thanks for your question!.

My wife touching the grass...just because!
My wife touching the grass...just because!

Making Money Writing Travel

From Sarah: “I want to start writing articles about travel. Actually I’ve already started. My question is how do I make money doing this? There are already so many articles out there about traveling. I feel like my words will get lost in the vast internet.”

Sarah, here’s the real of it: you may NOT make money writing travel articles for exactly the reason you mentioned. The internet is flooded with travel articles, and food article, and craft articles, and…and…and…and

If that’s your excuse, don’t bother starting!


What can you write that nobody else can? That’s the first question I would consider if I were you. Look for an angle which has not been used yet. Become unique! Give readers something they have never had before. Sit down and think of an approach which will garner you views simply because of its uniqueness.

And then make damned sure you are a good enough writer to pull it off.

And then attack social media marketing like a blitzkrieg!

Seriously, I could go on and on. I think I wrote an article on how to write travel articles way back when. There is a ton to think about regarding making money on the internet, but you can start with the first two I gave you: find a unique approach and learn your craft. After that, start reading articles about marketing from people like Heidi Thorne, who is on HubPages. Her advice on marketing is pure gold.

Good luck!

Find uniqueness in travel and then write about it.
Find uniqueness in travel and then write about it.

The Quest

From Art: “What is your goal when you sit down to write? I guess it would be different for everyone, right? I’m just curious what it is for you.”

Art, I have two goals when I sit down to write HP articles or novels. One, I want to connect with people and two, I want to change people with my writing.

Writing is very personal for me. This is the way a painfully shy person (me) can communicate with others. This is how a retired teacher (me) can still teach. This is how a man overflowing with empathy (me) can connect with others who also feel.

I want to entertain you. I want to inform you. And I want to transform you.

On several occasions I have received emails telling me that my articles on alcoholism led to people getting treatment and finding quality sobriety. Do you have any idea how wonderful that is? My writings literally saved lives. I have tears in my eyes right now thinking about that.

I wrote an article about child abuse on an Indian reservation which led to a state investigation. That’s goosebump stuff for this writer. And countless times I have had people tell me my writing brought tears to their eyes, or made them realize that they are not alone in this world.

Gold mine!

Art, here’s what I think about writing goals: whatever your goal is in writing, sink your heart and soul into it. Do not do any of it half-assed. I don’t care if your gig is baking or your gig is car mechanics, write about it with passion and joy and a desire to inform. If you are just in it for the money, and there is nothing wrong with that, then be the best damned writer/marketer out there. Give people what they want, whether they know they want it or not. Lol

Best wishes!

Back to the Touch

When I first started dating my wife Bev, we would go for walks in the park, and she would always stop at each flower and touch it. Her fingers would lightly glide over the petals . . . the same thing with trees, hands gliding over the bark . . . and grasses and dirt and . . . Bev is a tactile learner, and it is a beautiful thing to watch. It’s just one more reason why I adore that woman. She gets it!

And I hope all of you will “get it” during this lifetime. It really is the only way to live.

The lyrics from some old song are coming to my mind: “Sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much . . . “

Wishing you all a brilliantly creative and satisfying week ahead. Please remember to do all things in love.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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