writer

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It has been a while since I added any new content here!  I hope to remedy that. Over the past year and a half, my wife and I have been busy being foster parents to two mischievous boys, ages seven and nine.  Well, they have now been back with their biological family for a month and the “empty nest” is starting to become more and more real to me.

Now that I am not playing “Mr. Mom” anymore – at least until a new placement comes into our home – I will have more time for one of my other great loves – writing.  Not that I have been completely dormant as a writer.  I have a few projects that I am working on, namely a children’s book and a sort of memoir, both revolving around the topic of bullying.  I also continue my assignments at Examiner.com as the Rockford (IL) Workplace Issues Examiner.  You can find my work for Examiner here.

As I progress on the books I am writing, I will give updates here. I also plan to post some excerpts as they become available.  I am targeting the middle of 2014 for publication of both books.  They will be available on Smashwords and Amazon.  Until then, keep reading whatever you can get your hands on, even if it’s just for a few minutes per day.  Keep your brain sharp and your heart open!

Here is an article that outlines some of the most common writing boo-boos.  For the record,  the one on comma usage is my biggest pet peeve.  If you vomit commas on me, I will get rather surly….

Professional writers often worry that their work is unnecessary. After all, can’t anyone with even a basic education write? The answer: no, they can’t. Even college graduates don’t seem to be learning composition basics.

Of course not everyone is going to be the next Mark Twain, but career success does depend on not looking stupid. Sure, some clients, coworkers, or resume readers might make some of these mistakes themselves. But it takes just one person to see just one mistake for you to be discounted.

Avoid these 11 mistakes and get the job, make the sale, and write better!

via 11 Stupidest Writing Mistakes.

SFX magazine asked Eoin Colfer (the Artemis Fowler novels) the secret of getting started as a writer. He said, “Like an profession, you gotta keep doing it. You’re not gonna be a writer if you write just two pages a year. You’ll know people who are saying ‘Oh yeah, I’m writing a book!” And they’re basically talking about writing a book.”

He adds, “Try to bring something of yourself to the book rather than take everything from your favorite author…A good way to do that is in every story you write tell yourself, ‘Now I’m gonna put one thing in this that I’ve never heard anywhere before.’

Read More:  Time to Write: How to get started as a writer.

Chris Anderson is one of my People Who Inspire.  I agree with his message in this article.  This is the struggle I am going through at this very point in time.

I now have a job that is taking up some of the time that I was using on my freelancing.  I have several articles that I need to finish in the next couple of weeks.  But I also need to put in the needed time at my new job.  Even though this job is temporary, it is still something I want to excel at.  Trying to strike that balance has been tough.

I don’t want to work seven days a week, but I may have to.  Boo hoo.  I’m a big boy and I can handle it.  And everyone reading this probably knows why.  Anything worth having is worth working for.

Oh – then there is that family life.  I need and want to spend time with my wife and fur-kids.  Above all, my family is most important to me.  I made a decision about a year and a half ago that my family and my health were more important than killing myself at a job that had become at best mundane.  Even though we don’t live a fancy life, I must say that I am happier now than I was then.  There is no doubt in my mind I made the right choice.

I will make the right choices again.  I am just finding my way – again.  I’ve never been fond of roller-coasters, but this is going to be a fun ride after all.  Anyway – on to Chris Anderson’s great article.

I thought I’d share this article.  I found it to be a worthwhile read as it put a lot of things into perspective for me.  Anyone that knows me well enough knows that half of the shit mentioned in this article is stuff that I do need to get a better grip on.

I want to think that someday I will make a good adult.  I will be 47 in August, so the clock is definitely running.  Adulthood really should have been an accomplishment of mine by now.  The whole “I may get older but I refuse to grow up” adage has been my motto for a long time.  Maybe I need to change things up some.  Or not…..

Anyway – I think any readers I have will find this article to be worthy of the reading time.  If not, oh well – at least I tried.  I know, Yoda – there is no try, just do.  Blah, blah, blah….

WOW – what a profound statement, huh? No one ever thought of that before – I’d bet money on it!

OK – sarcasm outburst is over. Now on to the topic at hand.

I needed advice. Advice of the legal variety. Nothing big, just some advice on a matter that has been going on and needs to come to an end. Something I no longer feel equipped to handle on my own. Something that someone with a juris doctorate could handle with a few phone calls or letters. It would merely be to clean up someone else’s garbage so I don’t have to deal with it anymore.

Today, the first attorney’s office I contact wanted $175 for the inital consult. In full. No payments. Cash in hand (or maybe credit card). One hundred and seventy five bucks. Just to chat. Just to see if they could help me. Without drawing up any documents except maybe a few scribbles on their legal pad.

Now – I only broke into this freelance gig a while back. I’m no Bill Gates (I do dream big, however). That kind of money to me is called “real money.” I can’t just reach in my pocket and whip out hundred dollar bills like they are pocket change. My wife works in social services. Anyone out there aware of the social service salary structure knows that millionaires do not usually come from the rank and file of social services. Plain and simple – WE AIN’T RICH!

In the old days – say, last winter when I needed advice on another matter of enough significance to speak to an attorney – the initial consult was free. You know, nothing. Nada. Zilch. The big goose egg. Zip. I paid nothing as I left. I didn’t hire the guy – I got my advice and ran with it. Thank you very much and Happy New Year to the kind gentleman lawyer that answered my questions. He was no worse off for it and I got the wisdom I needed. I’m sure he is making plenty of money handling cases for bigger fish than me. For me, I cost him a page on a legal pad – he didn’t even have to sweat.

So – to all attorneys out there – let me spell this out for you. We are still in a recession. Money is still pretty hard to come by these days. If all you are going to do is listen to someone to decide if you want to take their case, keep the idea of the free consultation alive. Why should anyone earn a red cent for not even really working for a client until REAL work is done? You could be practicing your ABC’s on that legal pad as far as I know. You might be listening to me and then say at the end of the visit, “sorry, my firm doesn’t take these kinds of cases, please pay as you leave.” I’d love to say “screw you,” but then I’d really need a lawyer to handle the lawsuit for non-payment!

I used to wonder – if I were to become a professional writer, would I still find it fun?  I’ve always enjoyed writing as a hobby, but I worried if I made it my stock and trade that it would lose its luster.  I am slowly learning the answer to this quandary.

The answer is yes and no.  A lot of it depends on the assignment.  If it is a subject that I enjoy, then yes, the writing brings great joy.  If it is a subject I know little about or find flat out dull, then the writing is mundane and to me, useless.  Fortunately, I am figuring this out early enough that I can start weeding through the job boards to find the things that I enjoy.

The problem is sometimes buyers paint their assignments to be more glamorous than they actually are.  Then you’re trapped – you have accepted an assignment about a subject you like, but what the buyer wants you to do with it you hate.  For example, if you accept an assignment covering sports topics, make sure that you understand that the buyer wants you to write about racquetball and not baseball.  I don’t know diddly-squat about racquetball, so unless I’m curious about that subject, I doubt I will enjoy the work.

All of this should be common sense.  But when a freelance writer is starting out, some of us (I’m including myself) are so desperate to prove we can hack it, we accept anything that comes along.  That is a pure, outright boo-boo.  Don’t accept work just for the sake of having work.  Find your niche(s).  Look for what you like to write about or what you are curious to learn.

Don’t get stuck in an assignment simply to get paid.  Otherwise, the thing you used to love doing as a hobby will become a job that you hate.  And wasn’t the reason you got into freelancing to start with so you’d be doing something you enjoy?  It was for me – that and to be able to have my own business and establish myself in a new profession.  I was b-u-r-n-e-d  o-u-t in my old line of work.  Writing for a living is a dream come true for me.  And I have the tools I need to do it and be successful at it.  The main tool – a brain.  Add into that common sense and that is a big part of the battle.  Common sense should tell a person that if they aren’t interested in ditch digging, they’re a damned fool for accepting an assignment writing a how-to guide on ditch digging!

Moral of the story: Freelancing doesn’t mean bidding on all the jobs on the job board just to earn some cash.  Be selective or you’ll burn out before you even get started.  And burn-out was what led most of us to this juncture of our lives in the first place.

OK, not talking about my NCAA picks here!  Boy did I get those wrong this year.  All I can say is GO BUTLER!  If not them, then GO West Virginia!  Anyone but DUKE!

OK – got that out of my system.  Now on to tonight’s subject.

I have had a pretty good time of it the past few days.  I have one client that will be a repeat customer this week.  I have two other projects starting and I actually had to turn one customer away because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to meet his needs.  His response?  He gave me a standing invitation to write for him when I do have time.

I’m trying to figure out who I made happy to receive this good fortune.  I’ve never been that lucky (see above re. Final Four for Exhibit A).  I’ll be the first to admit that the past 18 months would be quite forgettable if it weren’t for the lessons I’ve learned.  Maybe that was the point.  Maybe I needed a major kick in the pants to get me on the right track, or at least pointed in the right direction.

I admit that this run of luck may not last and it isn’t exactly like I’ve struck gold.  But I will also admit that I had no idea that I would get work this quickly.  And to have someone tell me that I have an open door to do work for him in the future when I have time just blows my freaking mind!

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  I am very hopeful and when that happens I have a tendency to get ahead of myself.  So pray that I stay grounded, that I take nothing for granted and that I continue to do what I need to do to make this new venture at least a modest success.

And finally – please root for Butler.  I have many friends as well as family in Indiana that would love to see the Bulldogs pull this off!  🙂

I don’t deal with frustration well.  I want to be able to do things when I’m ready to do them.  I know – get over it, be an adult, etc., etc. 😛

I really wanted to do some web site updates over the past couple of days.  However, for some reason, my web host has been doing some kind of extended upgrading and what-not over the past few days.  What that means for the people who have web sites hosted with them is we are not able to get to the files we need to make updates.  Bummer.

I just started my personal web site “On Words” in the past week or ten days.  It is a work in progress.  Except for now – it’s kind of hard to make progress when one can’t get in and make changes.  Makes this whole freelancing thing a bit rough if I can’t update one of my main marketing tools.

Anyway – I can say that more work is starting to trickle in.  I have a few new gigs lined up that show some promise.  I am hoping that these gigs lead to some really good things and will allow me to get my business on firmer ground.  But unless I can keep doing the thing that we freelancers really depend on – self-marketing – then I’m kind of stuck where I am.  At least I am for now.

Which, as the title of this entry infers, is frustrating.

Will today be the day that I am able to create something new?  Will I be able to sit down at the keyboard and bang out the next chapter, the next story, the next article?  Will I be able to break through the barrier that is in front of me?

Anyone that has struggled with writer’s block knows the feeling.  It is horrible.  You sit at the computer and watch the cursor blink at you.  It blinks and blinks until you could almost write a song to its rhythm – that is if you weren’t in the middle of a writer’s block!  Not even a simple rhyme comes to mind that will set you on the path to producing a nice little poem.  You know that’s all it will take.

If you are like me, tracing back to where the block started isn’t always easy.  I’ve been fighting one for a few months now – I haven’t produced an original article or story since November.  I have revised one or two to re-submit to different web sites, but nothing that can be called “brand new.”  Even blog posts have been hard to come by – I’ve had to rely on re-blogs and guest articles a lot on “Stop Workplace Bullies…Now!”  I have two novels in the works and both of them have been in moth balls since Thanksgiving.

I wish it was the case that as quickly as a block hits, it can also go away. Nope – at least not for me!  Mine has lasted a few months, but I am starting to feel it loosen its grip on me and that is a good thing.  I have thought for a while that maybe my next great thing will come from my writing.  I’ve had people tell me I’m pretty good at this stuff.  But when a writer’s block has your brain in a vice-grip, it can be pretty hard to believe that stuff.  Fortunately, whatever was clogging my synapses is starting to break free and I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Stay tuned, folks – I think my masterpiece is on the horizon!