On Becoming a Freelance Writer
""Eleven hours I spent to write it over"
- King Richard III"
So I finally did what Christine has been on at me to do. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't do it all off my own bat, I had a little encouragement from my old employers, who decided, in a great fit of euphemism to "let me go". Feelings are mixed at a time like that, and suffice to say that it was with a heightened sense of self-awareness that I toddled home to my family to break the news to them.
We won't starve. The bears will not eat us as we trudge through the snow to break up the ice of the stream in the backwoods. We won't even run out of tea, as the wolf isn't that close to the door. We are tightening our belts somewhat as I slowly set out my stall to sell my wares, setting up a website to advertise my skills, wonder about getting business cards printed, and begin the process of writing query letters. There's the rub, because no matter how good a writer I may (or may not) be, no-one beats a path to the freelancer's door. There's a long-standing tradition of getting dozens of rejection letters for each paying job, and in order to get even a rejection letter, one must send out query letters to begin with.
Now writing itself is not the problem. Many people think that success in writing is just the luck of the draw, but as (I think) Jack Nicklaus once said "the more I practice, the luckier I get". And so it is - the more letters I write, the luckier I will be, for one day, there will be an editor who will see my letter and froth at the mouth with excitement at the thought of having me pen a couple of hundred words, a dime at time.
I've been writing at E2 for nearly nine years, on my blog for three, and my beer blog for one. I know I am capable of churning out many hundreds, and even a couple of thousand words a day when writing articles, but to get a single query letter out takes several good cups of tea, at least an hour of pacing around the office, maybe a spell in the hot tub and perhaps even a walk around the block. I think that I'm up to five now, and I have been out of work for a little over two weeks. I need to improve, because the writer's lot depends on getting letters out to newspapers, magazines and whatnot.
I'm lacking something - confidence in my skills or reluctance to advertise myself. In short, I can't write a simple letter to say "Hey! I can write stuff, how can I write for you?"
The Blood Pact
It was with this in mind that I spoke to another freelancer, who suggested a Death Pact or somesuch thing, a contract drawn up by one of Hell's own lawyers, signed in blood to the effect that each of us must write two letters a day, presumably on pain of death. I suspect that to be a little harsh, and have proposed that perhaps a denial of tea would suffice as punishment. She even proposed that a reward for achieving this simple goal would be of greater benefit, on the basis that it's better to reward behaviour one wants to see repeated.
Meantime, I'm going to aim to trot out a couple of queries a day, at least three or four times a week, whilst planning what Christine refers to as the Great Anglo-American Novel, a Beer Tourism Guide or the Bluffer's Guide to Freelance Writing. Pray for my soul, good readers, for it is seemingly easier to write six hundred words on my beer blog than it is to pen a mere couple of hundred to an editor. Were I gifted with great courage and self-confidence, this chore would be a delight; there'd be no need of either threats nor the spoonful of sugar, for the medicine itself would suffice to please the palate.
So far I've created a web presence advertising my writing skills, but for now I sit in front of my computer electronically penning these words while opportunities are growing cold somewhere. Like the scrivener in the quotation above, it's taking hours to write each missive. Sooner or later I will get up the courage to churn out those vital few sentences by the dozen, with full confidence. Pray for my soul. Film at 11.