image by kangbch courtesy of pixabay.com
Today is an important day in my personal calendar, so I’m not posting.
We all need days like this.
Back next week!
image by kangbch courtesy of pixabay.com
Today is an important day in my personal calendar, so I’m not posting.
We all need days like this.
Back next week!
image by super-mapio via pixabay.com
We all suffer from “tired brain” at times. When it’s possible, take a few hours or even a few days off to refresh the creative well.
But sometimes, we suffer “tired brain” with an immovable deadline. Your choices are to suck it up and deal or default and lose the gig. The third choice is to push yourself in the wrong way and still screw it up.
I prefer Option 1.
I’m sick and tired (of being sick and tired, but that’s a different conversation) of being told how much I should sleep, and having people flake out on something because they’re sleeping.
Hon, the first time I slept regularly for more than four hours a night was well after I moved out of NYC. I would not have had a career in production if I demanded or expected eight hours’ of sleep regularly every night. It simply doesn’t happen in most professions that require hard work.
Jobs have regular hours and clock on and off times. Careers demand more.
For years before I left New York, I lived in a state of perpetual exhaustion. I got a lot done. I had a great time.
I’m older now, and my body requires different things. I hear a rumor that if I live to be REALLY old, I’ll sleep even less. We’ll see.
But for now, when I have “tired brain” there are a few things that get me back on track and help me get it done:
–eat properly. Often, if I’m fading, it’s because I didn’t stop for a meal, or stop for the RIGHT meal. When I was doing eight shows a week on Broadway, flipping people in and out of clothes, I ate constantly, and I ate a lot of carbs. Now that I sit for many more hours a day, I lower the carbs and up the vegetables. If I really need to focus, I eat protein.
–switch tasks. If there’s something else I can knock off quickly without too much brain power or research, I’ll stop the task on which I’m fading and switch to the other one. Finishing the shorter tasks gives me the energy and motivation to tackle the bigger one.
–do the thing you like least first. Once it’s out of the way, there’s less tension and dread over everything else.
–take a shower. I get many of my best ideas in the shower. When I’m having major plot or wording problems, I’m so clean I squeak.
–Do something physical. I prefer yoga, or taking a walk, but do whatever activity invigorates you. Friends of mine use swimming as their go-to energizer.
–Meditate. When you “just sit” and focus on your breath, the murk in your brain clears up and problems solved.
–when you’re actually sick, take time off and get well. There’s a difference between “I’m sick” meaning “I don’t want to do this” and “I’m sick” meaning there’s actually something wrong. When it’s the latter, stop sooner rather than later, focus on getting well, and then you won’t drag out your illness with relapses.
–Schedule regular “well days.” No matter how busy your schedule, book in regular time to do something you think is fun, that is only a “want to” instead of a “have to.” When you take the time to refresh the creative well, you’ll be surprised how much more productive you are.
When I worked in theatre, we had the phrase, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”
And when I spent months with a minor league hockey team to research a book, I learned the valuable lesson of “Dig deeper and get it done.”
Life hits us all with the unexpected; sometimes the emotion is grief.
Much as we want the world to stop while we grieve, it doesn’t, so we have to learn to balance our needs with our responsibilities. Because we will never be hit with grief when it’s “convenient.”
At the same time, we have to deal with our feelings, or they will come back to destroy us at an even worse time.
But then, I believe art is one of the best ways to express, share, and heal.
I have two ways to deal with grief — I’m either immobilized or I bury myself in my work. Since I never know which mode will strike, I do the following to try to keep things balanced:
–Acknowledge that I’m grieving. To myself and to others. I don’t want anyone to think I’m “mad at them” when, in reality, I’m trying to handle my own emotions.
–Rearrange my schedule. If I know I’m going to need time off (whether it’s to provide care, comfort, help in arrangements, attend a funeral, etc), I rearrange my schedule. I tell the people to whom I have responsibilities what’s going on. I finish what I can/have to. I ask for extended deadlines when necessary. I hand off work where appropriate.
–What I don’t do is simply disappear without a word and not do anything. I communicate. I build myself a space where I can grieve. Time and space that I can inhabit without causing difficulties for those around me or harm to friends and colleagues. Because, as much as my grief is MINE, the entire world and the entire process is not just about ME. The entire world does not stop, even when you feel your world has stopped.
–I accept that while the rituals happen within a finite time, the sense of loss and the recovery is a process. There will be good days and awful days. I must acknowledge, honor, and deal with my feelings while still being fair to those around me. That’s not always easy. Again, communicate. “I need this time.” “I need a few more days.” “I’m going to finish X, and then I need Y time before I can take on something else.” I build in more time to do things I know will help me heal, and work harder not to take out fluctuating emotions on others.
–I accept that people may say the wrong thing, but most of them are doing the best they can. Grief can terrify the bystander. It brings their own fears and mortality into focus. I doubt most people who put their foot in their mouths all the way up to the knee and chew intend to cause more pain. They’re doing the best they can in the only way they can. Even if it’s in a way I can’t or don’t want to deal with, I attempt to accept it with graciousness and then vent or purge any pain or discomfort in my own time and space.
-I hold my boundaries. In spite of the above, some will try to turn your grief to their advantage. I don’t allow it. If they are persistent, then, yes, I break the above suggestion and speak up.
–It always finds a way into the work, in surprising and positive ways. I don’t necessarily sit down and state that I’m exploring grief in x play or y novel. But it often works out that way. And I learn something I wouldn’t have otherwise known, and can apply it the next time I’m grieving or working. My best work often comes from deep pain or deep joy.
–Self-care does not mean inflicting harm on others. Too often, people forget that. You can take care of yourself without harming someone else. They might be inconvenienced; they might hem and haw and try to make you feel guilty. Don’t.
–Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help if you remain overwhelmed. There are grief professionals, healers, energy workers. Find someone with whom you can work to heal. Because surviving the process takes work.
Remember, it’s a process. Eventually, instead of the pain and the loss as central, the joy from before the loss will take place of pride again — if you let it.
Blessings to you all.
I say this often, and figured it was about time an entire post was devoted to it:
Loving your job does not mean you forfeit the right to make a living at it.
Let’s break this down. For most of us who work in creative arenas, unless we are famous, we spend a great deal of time being asked when we’ll get a “real job.”
Being creative IS a real job. It’s a demanding one. Most of us work nights, weekends, holidays, because we CREATE others’ leisure activities.
I used to try to “educate” those who try to demean what I do for a living. Then, I realized that it’s not that they’re ignorant; it’s that they resent that I love what I do. So now, when someone asks that, I usually respond with something flippant or snarky. My subtext is always, “when you get a brain” but I don’t always say that.
How many people do you know, outside of the creative realms, who love what they do?
I’m always delighted when I meet a lawyer who loves lawyering or an accountant who loves taking care of the books, or a mechanic who loves fixing cars. Because that means I don’t have to learn more than the basics, and I can trust that individual, who loves the job, to do a good one. I can hire that individual, for a fair day’s pay to do a fair day’s work, and I don’t have to worry about it.
But most people I know don’t love their jobs. It’s something to pay the bills. Not only do they dislike their jobs and resent them, they are angry at anyone else who loves their job.
Being a creative person and committing to make a living doing what I love is a risk. It requires commitment. It doesn’t mean that I “don’t have responsibilities.” I have PLENTY of responsibilities to my family, etc. I am the breadwinner. It’s up to me to keep everything going. To point at me and claim I don’t have responsibilities because my family structure is different than someone else’s is not a valid argument.
For someone to say they “would” do something else if they “had time” or “didn’t have responsibilities” is simply a cop-out on their part. We all HAVE the same amount of hours in the day. How we choose to use them defines us. We prioritize. We make time for what matters. If we allow others to shape all of our time, that’s not on them, that’s on us.
If we are trapped in jobs we don’t like, then it is up to us to sock away as much as possible while we look for a job we like better that pays better. So many of us have to live paycheck to paycheck that it’s a challenge. We all know people who are working two or three jobs just to get by. Sometimes it’s us. We do what we need to do. But ANY job that is out of our creative work is only to support the work itself. As soon as you land something better and in your creative line, you take that opportunity and leave the lesser one. Too often, we remain trapped in a bad situation because it’s the devil we know.
Life will always change. Make sure YOU make the decisions, and they’re not made for you.
On top of that, REFUSE to do the work you love for those who don’t respect the WORK it takes to do what you do and won’t pay a fair wage. Especially in the arts.
I don’t have the patience for people who try to punish me because I love my job and they hate theirs. That is on THEM – the refusal to get out of being stuck.
When someone tells you they are giving you a “great opportunity” – chances are it’s great for them and not so great for you.
Do some research. If it’s a job with a company, check with salary.com to find the median range for the position. If it’s a freelance gig, do some research with other freelancers, the Freelance Union, and places like Writers Market, who, in their print edition, have a list of standard rate ranges.
Put together your quote from that. Give yourself some wiggle room. Decide what your bottom number is AND DON’T GO BELOW IT.
It is often better to not take the gig than to take it for content mill rates.
If you keep getting lowballed and accepting that, then you’ll get the reputation for being the “cheap choice” rather than the “most creative” choice.
Another trap freelancers and creatives often fall into – the self-deprecating comments. Undervaluing ourselves in our words. Often, we’re trying not to come across as boastful or arrogant. But, in reality, we are telling those to whom we speak that we don’t value what we do, so they shouldn’t, either.
When you’re in a meeting or a networking event, frame what you do and how you describe yourself in positive, active terms. No negatives. No passive or qualifiers. Positive verbs. Don’t make claims on which you can’t deliver, but keep your phrasing positives.
If you don’t expect and demand respect for your work, no one else will, either.
When we do work we love, our lives are better. When we do work we love, the work itself is better. When I’m excited about a project — whether it’s writing a play or researching my next novel or planning a marketing campaign for one of my clients — the excitement reflects in the work.
The work is stronger and better. The excitement I feel as I work on it, that energy, is absorbed by the words themselves. Good marketing people can communicate the energy of their projects to engage, enchant, and enlarge their audience.
Great marketing people are also excited by the work itself.
It’s a very specific talent to form words and images into engaging, sensory content, to be able to ignite energy and excitement, turning the two-dimensional form of a page or a screen into the three dimensions and beyond of imaginations.
We deserve to be paid — and paid well — for doing so.
Loving our jobs makes us BETTER at them. Which means we are worth MORE than, not less than, someone who does not.
Independence is something most of us crave, especially as freelancers. Take the day off and enjoy!
I loathe the phone. I have a rare condition called hyperacussis, which means I am hyper-sensitive to certain sounds. Some sounds (like leaf blowers) can trigger a heart arrhythmia, and, in the right circumstances, a heart attack. Other sounds make bruises appear. No matter how upscale, there are certain sounds involved with phone technology that feel like someone jabs knitting needles through my ears. It can take a couple of hours to recover from a five minute call.
There are more reasons I loathe the phone. People deny what they said in a phone conversation. “That’s not what I said” or, even more irritating, “That’s not what I meant.” Words matter. Use the right ones. Understand what you’re saying and say what you mean.
Which is why I write a memo after any forced phone conversation going over what was discussed. And stating that if I do not hear to the contrary within two business days, I will move forward on what we discussed, as written in the follow-up memo AND contract.
Most of all, I resent the time phone calls take. There is no “good time” for me to be on the phone. Any phone time interferes with my writing time and creative process. By “my” writing time, I don’t just mean working on novels or plays. I mean the uninterrupted creative writing time I need in order to deliver my best work for the client. That best work that the client DESERVES.
A “quick” phone call (and they never are) can derail creativity for the rest of the day. I only accept phone calls by appointment. So, when I am forced to schedule phone time, I do it during my least creative times of the day. And I have to build the recovery time into the day (that is not billed). Also, I’ve yet to have a business-related call of more than 90 seconds that wasn’t a waste of MY time, or that couldn’t be handled more efficiently in an email. It’s the caller liking the sound of his own voice and wanting someone to applaud as he works out whatever he wants to work out.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for brainstorming. But I’d rather do it in person. Or via email. Body language, tone, and environment are important to a successful brainstorming session. It’s not an effective use of time to brainstorm on the phone while typing a letter on the computer and interrupting as people wander in and out of the office. It’s wasteful of time and energy for everyone involved.
Both in-person and on-the-phone brainstorming sessions are billable hours, as far as I am concerned. It is time out of my workday that is devoted to the client and the client’s needs. Which is fine. That’s why I work with clients. To meet their needs. But that time needs to be scheduled, respected, AND PAID.
When it is, and when the uninterrupted time I need to create excellent material for my clients is respected, the client is the one who wins.
I can’t tell you how often I hear from my fellow freelancers about how frustrated they are by constant phone interruptions. How it makes it impossible for them to get the work done on time, how it negatively affects the quality of the work, and how much time they lose from their workday.
I tell them to bill for the time. Or to schedule specific times for phone consultations.
“Oh, I can’t do that! My clients expect to reach me by phone!”
Because you’ve allowed that expectation.
A lot of freelancers offer an initial free half hour phone consultation to generate new business. I’ve never found that resulted in booking more paid business. In fact, I’ve attended conferences where participants boast on how many free phone consults they do, and all the free information they gather, never having to pay anyone for their time. I also no longer do coaching sessions via phone. I do them either in person or via email. Occasionally, I’ll use Skype, but under specific conditions. Too often, the person on the other end of the phone is invested in the Myth of Multi-Tasking and is doing six other things while on the phone. None of them are being done well, and the consultation is a waste of everyone’s time.
Set it out in the contract. If you want to give them X amount of free phone time, go ahead. But otherwise, state in the contract that you charge X dollars for X minutes of phone time.
I charge in 15-minute increments, like a lawyer, and state that appointments for calls must be made in advance. I send an invoice immediately after the conversation, and expect payment by the end of that business day via PayPal. Anything else, send an email. During business hours, I’m quick to respond.
Clients don’t believe I will actually adhere to the policy and hold the boundary. But I do.
That is why a thorough contract is so important.
It has cut down on unnecessary phone time, because they don’t want to pay for it, and they learn pretty fast that yammering on about nothing costs them money. The result is more focused time when we are on the phone, and my clients get a faster turnaround time with higher quality work. So it benefits THEM in the long run, even though it’s a different process than the way they’re used to working.
Some people adore doing the bulk of their business dealings on the phone. If so, good for you. Unless that time is built into your project or hourly rate, though, I suggest billing separately for phone time.
I found it makes a huge positive difference in both productivity and quality.
Which means my clients are happy.
And we all win.
The best freelance gigs I land generally come about when I get interested and excited about a company and decide I want to be a part of their team. Which means convincing them that their lives are better/easier/more profitable if I’m part of it.
When I was younger, I used to emphasize my flexibility – my chameleon-like ability to adapt to most situations (unless I find them unethical or feel my integrity is being compromised).
As I’ve aged and gotten more experienced and more confident, my angle has changed to be more about being very much myself instead of what I think they want. At this point in the game, I bring a lot to the table. Either it will be a good fit to move their vision forward, or it won’t. I’d rather know by the end of the first interview than find out six months in. The best way to do that is to be unabashedly MYSELF from Moment One.
But Moment One won’t happen if I don’t do my homework.
When I find a company that interests me, with whom I think I’d like to work, I go through the website. I go through press clippings. I read about the members of their staff, about what’s important to them as human beings as well as well as the overall company vision. I go through social media, articles, interviews, newspaper articles.
Then I figure out how and where I’d be an asset. Where do my skills, and, even more important, my energy and enthusiasm for what they do, support and fit their platform? How can I expand and engage their audience? Spread the message in a way that is positive, productive, and truthful?
From there, I craft the pitch/cover letter. I mention what I like about their company and how I think my unique skill set would add to what they do and what they WANT to do. I don’t tell them they’re doing something “bad” or “wrong.” I might not agree with the current approach in their marketing/web content/etc. materials, but I don’t know the story behind it. As someone who claims to be excited by their vision and want to work with them, why would I shame them? If there are things I think could use a different approach, I can talk about it in the interview, but within a positive construct.
As someone who regularly gets spammy emails from content mill marketers and faux writers stating my content is “bad” and theirs is better, I know how off-putting it is. Also, most of these generic emailers stating they want to “help” me reach a wider audience are full of errors AND have obviously not spent any time reading ANY of my sites – or they’d know my specific needs and vision.
If I wouldn’t hire someone like that, why would I want to BE someone like that?
I do try to find an individual to whom to send the pitch, not just a general, vague email. I have a cover letter template, but I slant each letter to highlight the parts of my experience I feel are best suited to their unique situation. I read carefully to decide which of my several resumes are most suited, what kind of samples to send. Of course, if they demand unpaid, project-specific samples written just for them, I stop the process and look elsewhere (see last week’s post).
Of course, there are always companies that, once you do the research, don’t look so inviting. I’ve ditched more than one pitch when they demanded that contact be to a specific individual at a specific email, but then didn’t have a staff list and stated “no phone calls.” If it means digging all the way back into the articles of incorporation filed with the state, it’s probably not a place that’s a good match. Or, if, as I do my research, I get that feeling that maybe they aren’t working along lines I can agree with. Of course, when I read negative or positive pieces, I then research THE WRITERS of those pieces, to see what the context of the article/interview/critique is.
I also keep detailed notes, much like my fact check sheets when I do an article, to follow the path in case I need to double back and reconfirm a piece of information.
I also see if any of my colleagues know anything about the place, and what their experiences were.
Yes, it takes time. But, if I really want a gig, it’s worth it.
In the course of my research, of course, I come up with some of the staff. Still, I prefer to check a current staff list just before I send something, to make sure I’m not sending a pitch to someone who just left. Or was promoted.
Or, if there’s an “online application” through a third party head hunter, and I have to re-enter, manually, everything that’s on my resume – pass. Waste of everybody’s time.
My rule of thumb now is, if I find the process of contact irritating, that’s probably a good indication of what it’s like to work with them. Best if we don’t put ourselves through the pain.
Because there are an awful lot of exciting, passionate, ethical entrepreneurs out there.
It just takes a bit of work to find them!
If you cruise the job boards and read listings, one way you can cull the worthwhile jobs from the non-worthwhile jobs is their approach to samples.
Professionals ask for samples from your previous work. They might ask that it’s on topic; or they might just want a general sample for voice and style. But they are smart enough, respectful of skill, and capable of reading a sample and seeing if the writer’s style, tone, and craft are compatible.
Companies lower down the scale, who tend to put quantity over quality, will often demand an unpaid sample on a topic they assign. I’ve seen this in web content jobs, and, disturbingly, in some of the corporate script-writing jobs.
Sometimes, they are clear in the ad, and you can just move on without bothering to pitch. But some companies wait until you pitch and then demand you write a “sample” per their specifications as a “test” without pay.
This is different than a company that requests a standard editing or writing test that it wants for all applicants – although the top companies who do that also pay you for your time.
Freshly minted freelancers (and many fresh authors, scriptwriters, etc.) worry that if they submit material, it will be stolen. The only place that’s likely is in the land of the Unpaid Sample.
Note that this is different than an agent or an editor requesting sample chapters of your completed novel. That IS legitimate. Legitimate agents and editors don’t need or want to steal anything from eager authors.
The Scam Samplers give you parameters and demand that you write a complete article (or script) with sources, embedded links, et al – for nothing. In other words, they have a pool of unpaid writers. They then tell those who submitted that they’re “going in a different direction” or “the position has been filled.” The company vanished. The unpaid work then turns up, under a different company name, and a different byline.
I remember, several years ago, someone in a freelance group in which I participated, brought up such an ad. This guy was angry because he’d answered the ad, submitted the sample, and was told he didn’t get the job. A week later, the company’s website was gone. Three weeks later, he came across a new website for a similar company – and his work was up there, verbatim, under a different byline for a different company. He posted on the loop. Nearly two dozen other freelancers had submitted to the same company. All of them were told that they hadn’t gotten the job. ALL of their work was up on this website. Unattributed. Unpaid.
I’d seen the job. I’d pitched. But as soon as they asked for an article written specifically to them for their specs – I sent them a response with how much it would cost.
I charge for such samples. I charge a lower rate, but I charge. And I expect 50% in advance, and 50% paid on receipt of the sample.
When I got a nasty email in response, I told them no.
Something similar happened a few months ago, when I pitched to a company to write 3 minute corporate videos for their product. I hadn’t written for that type of product, but I’d written enough corporate videos that reflected the various company’s visions and products with a sense of humor that I felt good about the submission. I’d used several as samples for other jobs – and landed those jobs. I knew the samples stood up.
The “producer” got back to me and said they loved my scripts. Now, they wanted me to participate in a TWO HOUR Skype session with the client, and then write a spec script for the product itself to see if I could “get” their tone. Then we would start talking contract. Because, of course, in spite of the rate listed in the ad (which was near the top of my range), that might change (go lower) during contract negotiations.
I spent two and a half decades working production in theatre, film, and television. Any professional director or producer can read a similar script excerpt or sample and know if the writer “gets” the tone. There are also specific Guild rates for all of this type of work, including working on a script that is later rejected.
I sent them a rate for that amount of work.
I got an immediate email stating no, no, no, they weren’t PAYING for this work. There were many strong candidates and this was part of the competition to see who would get the job.
I wished them well and withdrew from consideration.
This led to a barrage of nasty emails over 36 hours berating me for my unprofessionalism and that I should be grateful for the opportunity. To waste two hours of my time on SKYPE and write a complete script for free. Not grateful when someone tries to scam me.
I forwarded them all to my lawyer and had him deal with it.
These are the jobs that aren’t worth a freelancer’s time and effort. You won’t be paid; you won’t have anything worthwhile to add to your portfolio.
A legitimate, professional company has personnel who can read, comprehend, and project whether or not a particular writer’s style is right for their vision. I do script coverage for several small production companies and individual directors. That’s the job – discernment of art, craft, and style. If they want a project-specific sample, they are willing to negotiate a sample rate.
If either side decides it’s not the right fit, you part with cordiality.
Everyone’s time and skills are respected, and properly compensated.
Anything else is not worth the time, energy or frustration. Let the scammers eat themselves.
Note I didn’t say “My Rolex.” I don’t have or need or want a Rolex. I stopped wearing a watch years ago.
The job listings for one of my areas of marketing work, especially when it comes to working for non-profits, have a disturbing trend, especially in my region of the Northeast. One of the job “requirements” is that one have high-end, recognizable contacts in the field. And share those contacts in the interview process.
The jobs themselves, with this demand:
–have no benefits;
–barely pay above minimum wage.
Yet they expect me to bring my Rolodex, which has been built and curated over decades of hard work at market rate (with benefits) for . . .what? Why? Why would a professional at the top of the field give away a carefully built and curated contact list?
That’s not how it works.
A full-time, benefitted head-of-department job requires a proven track record in the field and solid examples of accomplishments. Contacts are part of that package. But contacts are used as part of a process, not as a product delivered in an interview. A part-time, un-benefitted, underpaid job is not going to attract the level of worker you demand. Because those individuals are being paid what they are worth, by people who understand the market, the value of these workers’ skills, and how relationships are built over time, from job to job.
I’ve actually been asked for my contact list as a requirement for landing an interview. I refused and was told I wouldn’t even be considered. Which is just fine.
That’s like those content mill/fake article markets that say you have to write a “test” article for free. Then, they tell the applicants they hired someone else, gather up the free articles, change the company name, and use them without payment or permission. Which is why I don’t do unpaid “tests.” Pay me or look at my portfolio and see if my style fits your needs. Don’t expect me to work for free.
I also get angry when an organization who knows I worked on Broadway with recognizable names demands, “Tell (recognizable individual) to give us X.” Or “You know lots of famous people. Add them to our contact list.”
First of all, I don’t make demands of the people with whom I worked. If something comes up that I think is appropriate (a donation for a cause or lending a name or a signed whatever), then I will make THE REQUEST. When I feel the request is not appropriate, I won’t. And I won’t randomly hand out their contact information, either. It’s a breach of trust. It’s also against the anti-spamming law.
Why hasn’t the organization itself built and curated a contact list over the years?
Obviously, I have contacts in the field (in many fields) that I would use in whatever job where appropriate. With their permission, I might even add them to the organization’s contact list. But I’m not going to hand over my contacts in an interview, or even as a condition of a job. Especially not one that’s underpaid and without benefits.
These relationships were built over time and based on trust. The contacts know I won’t hand out their information without permission and allow a barrage of inappropriate demands. To break that trust hurts my contact, and hurts me, beyond my work for the one, demanding organization. The organization will receive a “no” and I will use a valued contact. Not worth it for any of us.
You want to hire me because of my CONTACTS rather than my skill in communicating your business while expanding YOUR contacts? Unappetizing on every level.
The arrogance and the sense of entitlement in these demands astonishes me. It’s also a good indication of an organization with whom I do not wish to work.
There’s been all sorts of fa-la-la going on lately, especially on Twitter, about how often writers do and should write. And I don’t mean in a deck-the-halls way. I mean in an I’m-refraining-from-swearing way.
It’s interesting where the harshest criticism against those of us who write every day comes from. There are two factions: One faction is those with the luxury of a day job in a different field or a partner who pays the bills, who only write “when they have time” or “when the muse strikes.” Unpublished and under-published writers often fall into this category. Writing is what they do on the side, not how they keep a roof over their heads. Because their day job gives them financial security, they feel it also gives them the right to deride, bully, and even shame those of us who earn our living at it.
Honey, I have no shame. Not when it comes to my writing. I do this because I love AND because I value my craft and my art enough to be paid for my work.
The other faction surprises me: Writers with traditional publishers who have agents and advances that allow them to take two or three or five years to write a book. Sometimes, they have other sources of income or a partner shouldering the bills. But often, they started out by writing a lot to keep a roof over their heads, but now they don’t have to. Hey, good for them, they’re living the dream, but have they forgotten what it’s like?
I distill it down to this:
Is writing your business or your hobby? Is it the way you keep a roof over your head?
If it’s your business and how you keep a roof over your head, you show up every day like you would at any other job and you put in the work.
There’s nothing wrong or bad or anything about writing on the side or writing as a hobby. It’s just a different career trajectory.
Getting paid for my work isn’t shameful. It doesn’t make me “less of” a writer or a hack.
It makes me a professional.
I remember, even when I worked on Broadway, how people told me I should “get a real job.” It’s also around the same time I kicked musician and poet boyfriends to the curb who spent all their time in bars with floors full of peanut shells, downing watered-down drinks, and moaning that landing a publishing contract or getting paid to work was “selling out.”
I call it “going pro.”
Because I simply do not have the time or the patience for creative vampires.
Also, there’s a misconception that “writing every day” means you never get a day off. What “writing every day” means you show up the way you would any job and do the work. You CHOOSE days off. You take vacations. Sometimes you’re sick. Sometimes you have to deal with a crisis. But you still show up regularly and do the work. Sometimes you’re tired; sometimes it’s a hard day. But you show up and do the work.
I’ve written about “The Muse” before on Ink in My Coffee, especially during the years I made the transition from working on Broadway full time (which means many more than 40 hours a week) while writing an additional 40-60 hours a week to writing full time. I’ve personified the muse, joked about it, etc.
But the bottom line is that I made a deal with the muse: I will show up and do the work regularly. When the muse smacks me upside the head with the Frying Pan of Fresh Ideas, I will make notes AT THAT MOMENT – even if it’s on a napkin or a sticky note – and I will be grateful, every day of my life, that the muse is my partner on the journey. I will honor, respect, and work with the muse. And the muse will not abandon me. Even if sometimes I get a kick in the butt or silence for a few days.
When you put off or ignore the muse, when you tell the muse you “dont’t have time” or you’ll “get around to it”–the muse will pack up and leave.
Creative energy is a sustainable source. It feeds on itself. The more you create, the more energy you have to create, and the more you can create.
So meet your muse. Evolve with your muse. Make a deal with your muse.
Then fulfill it.