From my personal blog: http://juliandeagreene.com/2015/03/26/learning-to-write-after-a-lifetime-of-writing/
This has been a revolutionary year for me in terms of “writing my way out,” and 2015 will be a banner year. I want to speak to those of you who desperately want to write your way out, but you are so full of feelings of failure, remorse, self-recrimination, comparison to others, etc. that you are terrified that you won’t do it, and even more terrified that you will.
These “little known factors” are actually quite prevalent factors in modern society, but too often go personally unrecognized. We feel justified in our self-recrimination and self-flagellation, so we stay where we are, bound and unable to move forward.
This is NOT A PEP TALK. I’m not going to give you 10 ways to motivate yourself or 14 ways to start over in the New Year, or even how New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. David Cain already did the latter in his Raptitude article, The Myth of New Years:
(P.S. He gives you a better solution than resolutions.)
Nope, this is going to be ripped from today’s headlines of my own life.
I began January 2014 with one desperate goal–to do something about my lifelong depression that had paralyzed me for far too many years. I was so psychologically crippled by it that I even applied for disability. Luckily, I was refused.
I went to my care provider and requested a mental-health appointment. My primary care provider had simply been giving me the same solution for over 20 years, and it just didn’t work for me. It took months–getting appointments, testing, evaluations, but, at last I had found someone who would listen to me. My first discovery was that the medicine I had been on and off of for more than 20 years was exactly the wrong medication, and that it actually exacerbated the problem instead of fixing it.
I have long been an alternative medicine person; I eat right, I take care of myself, but no matter what, or how many herbal alternatives I tried, nothing worked for my depression for very long. I tried so many therapies–positive thinking, positive affirmations, talk therapy. I was adamantly opposed to psychoactive meds, but my doctor finally got through to me and asked me to just try what he prescribed.
The diagnosis was ADHD and atypical bipolar (instead of huge highs and lows that would last for months on end, I cycled between high and low every few days, sometimes even every few hours). It was crippling me to the point where I couldn’t write. I couldn’t take on new clients or contracts because there would be days at a time where I was completely unable to work.
They were able to show evidence of my having had ADHD as a child. Since I grew up in the 60s, doctors weren’t diagnosing kids with ADHD then. Because of the way school was structured, and because I had an innate thirst for knowledge, I did pretty well in school, but there were other telltale signs of my childhood ADHD in my actions and lack thereof. This year they started me out on Wellbutrin which quickly helped concentration issues, but I was still my same irritable, anxious, completely unmotivated person. Well, I shouldn’t say completely unmotivated — I was typically motivated to begin several projects and then immediately would become totally overwhelmed and unable to do anything. That’s not a good thing when one’s livelihood depends on handling multiple projects at once.
By the time I went to the doctor last January, I was nearly in despair. Things got so low that by May I was no longer able to pay rent on my apartment, and I moved out in July, two months in arrears. Luckily, that’s just as the meds were kicking in. By July, the clouds lifted, the cobwebs blew away, and I felt “normal,” for perhaps the first time — well, maybe in my entire adult life.
The happy outcome of the mitigated depression this year was that I was able to fulfill a goal I had created when graduating from high school 40 years earlier — to write my first novel. My concentration and daily motivation soared, and in the last 6 months of 2014, I wrote 13 novellas: two romance trilogies, one five-volume set of mysteries, and two other romance novellas.
My writing goals for 2015 are to try out various genres. I have committed to writing a sci-fi story a week for a year (that’s right–52 stories). I also have some serious novels in my head, one historical, one literary, and one mystical, along with several novella series.
I have garnered better paying contracts as a result of my new-found wave of productivity, and my life circumstances have radically improved. With these contracts, I actually have time to do the paid work for living expenses, etc., yet I also have the time to work on my own stuff which I will market on Amazon.
I feel like I have it all: I’m living the minimalist, location-independent life I desire, following my bliss, and I’m healthy and happy.
Tell me of your own similar struggles and how you approached them, or how you think you might.
Good grief. It’s been 3 1/2 months since I’ve posted. Well, I, uh, have been writing. But I’m excited to share with you because I have found a new niche and ramped up my earnings to a livable standard. I’ve become a hack writer.
What? You’ve prostituted yourself, you ask. (That’s how several writers reacted today when I told them what I was doing.) But hey, there are no end to the authors in the literary canon who have made their living the same way.
I’m ghostwriting contemporary romances and cozy mysteries. So, my current earnings have just ramped up from $800 a month to $1400 a month, which is a good thing considering my monthly expenses are about $1200.
Several writers sniffed and turned away. But you know what? I got a frightening dose of reality a year ago when I went into a Walmart in an unnamed small town in Northern California. Every-single-store-clerk was about my age. The looks on their faces told the real story–not a single one of them was enjoying what he or she was doing.
I remember having this sick feeling and wondering if I would ever have to do that. But I would guess that the $1400 a month I’m making equals or is more than a single one of them are making at Walmart. And my quality of life has vastly improved.
I wake slowly in the morning, lie in bed for probably an hour before I get up, just feeling the cool breeze and listening to the birds outside my window and other, more distant farm sounds. I slip into my clothes and put on a pot of coffee. Then I go out and feed my goats. I do some weeding, gather the morning’s bounty of purple beans and tomatoes, offer the weeds to the goats. By the time I get back in, the coffee is almost ready. (Yes, my coffee pot is old and slow, like me.) My partner gets up and we spend about an hour talking about our dreams, rehash a movie we might have seen the night before, or discuss the latest headlines. Then we discuss our writing plans for the day and get started.
I love the feel of the day stretching out before me–nowhere to go, no one expecting me, no “job” to dread. I get to spend as many hours as I want that day — sometimes as few as 2 or as many as 12 — writing. The only stricture I put on myself is a strict deadline for my writing. If I don’t have one, I will dawdle terribly. But having had ADHD all my life, I’ve come to enjoy deadlines.
Yes, we’re living in a 5th wheel. No big deal. I’m a minimalist anyway. Once I found out how freeing it was to not have “stuff,” I wanted to downsize even more. Right now, a move takes 2 carloads. Our goal is for it to be a single carload the next time around. (If there is a next time.)
Right now I can’t imagine being here for an entire year, only because I’ve never lived an entire year anywhere in the last 6 years. We keep trying to find our perfect paradise. I think we have at last realized that paradise doesn’t have to be perfect. We are on 4 acres. The owner has told us that the front two acres are ours to do with as we want. That’s why we’re here. The last place we lived was 5 acres, but only about 1/4 acre was usable, and that 1/4 acre was completely bare. Nothing. We were surrounded by saguaros and chaparral and the most gorgeous of Arizona sunsets. But when I tried to imagine becoming self-sustaining there, I was desultory.
I know it is done (I’m familiar with creatio ex nihilo), but it is largely done through modern conveniences and technology. When people first started to settle in Arizona, whether you want to talk about the Native Americans or the early white settlers, they settled along rivers. They didn’t expect to go out into the middle of the waterless 110 degree desert landscape and survive. That’s why there were very few people here before the invention of cooling systems.
But now we live where there is lush grass and 65′ trees. I’m a mile from the San Pedro River. There are already animal shelters on the property to which the owner has told me I could help myself. I want chickens, and milk goats, and permaculture. There are many inconveniences here. I’m finding out just how far my idealism goes. Let me rephrase that: there are many challenges here. But heck. When I was fuming the other day after blowing a fuse, my partner clucked his tongue and said, “What would the pioneers have done?” ‘Nuff said.
Okay. I’m getting WAY off topic. I want to tell you how I came upon my good fortune. We got our feet wet a few months back when we took on the re-writing of an existing published series and the writing of the final book in the trilogy. We discovered that we CAN do more than business writing.
Then my partner got a contract offer to write a contemporary romance. The money was good and we were in need, so he snatched it up. A moment later he turned to me and said, “What the hell was I thinking? I just agreed to write a 30,000 word novella in 14 days, and a contemporary romance at that! HELLLLLLLP!!!”
At first we were going to collaborate on it, but since he is still finishing the last of the aforementioned trilogy, he didn’t see how he could do both. So I agreed to do it. What was I thinking? I had never written more than a few fiction scenes, other than the unfinished novel I wrote for my MFA (30 years ago), and I’m not a fan of pulp romance.
So, here’s the cold hard truth. Three months ago, I came to the conclusion that I just didn’t have what it took to write a novel. I envied my novel-writing friends, but contented myself with the thought that I was really good at the writing I did, and there seemed to be a demand.
As so many other times in my life, I found that when I completely let go of something, that’s when the thing I really want happens. But it seems it can’t just be a nod toward letting go. I have to come fully to the realization that it’s okay that it’s not going to happen.
Then suddenly, a novel project was dropped in my lap. Well, no time like the present to get to work, and no better motivator than needing to eat and pay rent. (I say “no better” because there certainly are more noble motives, but none quite as insistent.)
And that was it. I wrote the first book, she accepted it and hired me (er, rather, my partner) to write two more books in the series. When I completed that, she hired me/him for a second series, and now she’s hired me for a different type of series.
I have never been happier with what I do in my entire life. Beckett, Faulkner, London, Kerouac and many more besides made their living doing hack work to stay afloat while working on their own works as well. I’m in very good company.
This is my friend, Dr. Tevna Tayler. She and I share similar outlooks on life. Her article that I am posting here is a great segueway to a new aim for my blog — not only to teach you how to make that shift in income when crisis strikes, but to share the wisdom of living an unencumbered life. Words for contemplation.
Dr. Tayler’s words:
The fabulous thing about having no steady job, no savings or assets, no home or car unless the money appears to pay the rent or next month’s payment, no primary relationship or partner to take care of me, no real understanding of my life’s purpose or passion, even, no sense of “community” where I feel that I really belong, and living in a country where I may not have access to basic food, shelter, or health care for me or my children even if it is a matter of life or death – the fabulous thing about “lacking” all of these is that I get the chance to really feel the truth that “security”, if there is such a thing as that in this life really, has nothing to do with any of those.
In the absence of a “safety net”, or even a “purpose”, or solid community, or plan, or goal of any sort, there is still life, hope, happiness, and even joy and a sense of internal security. If you are fortunate enough to lose “everything”, you may discover that “you” are still left, and it is a fabulously unencumbered “you” that is free to move at will towards what draws you, free to welcome into your space what delights you, free to spend the time that makes up your life as you please, free to love in the very specific way that is your creative expression of your unique self here.
It is no wonder that I have not yet won the lottery, because I am still lost in the miracle, the wonder of the miracle of the abundance of all that is–that has nothing to do with whether or not the resources at my disposal are visible to me. Regardless of how things appear, I always end up somehow having what I need, and often what i want, as well. I wonder, if I were currently abundant in the visible and obvious financial sense, or marriage sense, or job sense, etc., would the abounding abundance of the universe still be so visible to me? Would I be able to feel this sense of faith and trust in the great unknown? Would I start to believe in money instead of God? Would the presence of the safety net instill in me a fear of flying?”
For some reason, I can’t “reblog” between my two WordPress Blogs. I’m trying to navigate my writing articles into one place now, since my JulianDeaGreene.com is my personal blog. Here’s the link to the article:
Here’s another writer with a story, not unlike my own, with even more great advice for those of you who want to make a living with your writing talent.
Originally posted on Persuasive & Engaging Copy Tailored to Your Audience:
I’m going to be honest with you. I never thought that I would be successful as a writer. I bought into the whole “starting artist” thing. I’ve always loved writing. I went to college and got my degree in writing, screenwriting that is. But looking back, I realized that I never actually believed that I could be success as a writer. After graduation, I never applied for a single writing jobs. I didn’t prospect my scripts, or submit any LOI’s. I simple started looking for “real work”, half-hardheartedly dreaming that I might someday publish something, you know… down the road, one day. Even when I did land a freelance job writing for a very well known magazine on a regular basis and making $2,000 an article, I still didn’t think I could be successful. I thought my bubble would come crashing down soon enough, so I better hold on to…
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Our purple mountain majesty, where we spent 6 months healing and getting back on our feet. See the previous post for the story.
If you are in need of income right away, here are a few suggestions via the short version of our story.
In 2010 I lost my teaching job. We had no reserves, nothing but my last paycheck.
Caretaking (Ranches, etc.)
We took a few caretaking jobs. These jobs can be really rewarding if you can move. If you want to stay local, use Craigslist.org. Look in “jobs,” particularly in the “et cetera” category. You can also search using the term “caretaker”; however, be aware that a lot of people confuse the terms caregiver and caretaker. A caregiver is one who looks after the physical and/or companionship needs of, usually, either a disabled or elderly person. A caretaker is one who looks after property and performs various duties in exchange for free rent, and sometimes for a salary and/or stipend as well. These types of positions work best for someone who has handyman and/or maintenance skills. Some will involve animal skills. We found our first caretaker job using Craigslist, and our second one from Caretakerjobs.com. We primarily used these two resources over a couple of years to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a bit of money in our pockets.
U-Haul Customer Service
We decided after a while that we wanted to be more independent. My partner found work with UHaul, as a customer care representative, working from home. All he needed was a computer with a high-speed internet connection (we found out that cable was really the only thing fast enough), and a headset with a mic. He stayed with that for a year and a half, while I concentrated on other business possibilities. You don’t have to be a sales pro to do UHaul; an even-tempered personality, some smarts, and the ability to learn and adapt quickly is what it really takes. Their busy season generally starts in May, and runs anywhere from November to January. In the slower season, you’ll likely have to have something else to supplement. If you’re reading this in March, they will begin taking applications and gearing up for training soon.
A Setback & oDesk
When I broke my foot in 2012 and was laid up for several weeks, I finally decided that was the best time to figure out what I could do from home as well. Thanks to my long background of writing for publications as well as teaching, I knew that was one skill I could definitely market from my bed. Thus my freelance writing explorations began.
I struggled with oDesk.com, learning the ropes, with no how to’s other than their own contractor publications. I wasn’t making enough, so I tried some network marketing besides, but no matter how easy someone made network marketing for me, I couldn’t make a dime from it. After I had spent upwards of $500 without a single dollar in return, I decided I needed to find another way to supplement oDesk.
When UHaul’s busy season slacked off nearly two months earlier than we expected near the end of 2012 (it had lasted well into January the previous year), we were a bit panicked. We had had a short stint (3 months) as interim managers for a self-storage facility and found we liked it.
The Self-Storage Venture
We pored over every ad for self-storage we could find and applied for as many as we felt would suit us. The last one we applied for was still in Arizona. They interviewed us, and told us they had a position in Oregon, if we were willing to take it. That was a big decision for us. It meant leaving my son and his family behind.
We made the big trek. We were excited. We knew we liked the industry, and we thought it would stand us in good stead until retirement. Apparently, the Universe had different plans for us, because my partner had an accident on the job, and at the 90 day point, they bid us goodbye.
A Fortunate Setback & Landing in Paradise
They gave us three-week’s notice, so we started scouring the ads again. This time we would have our final check and a bit of a nest egg we had put back. We looked all the way to Western Washington, as far south as Bakersfield, CA and east to Reno, NV.
We were only about 25 miles from the California border, so we took a day trip to look at some rentals in the Mt. Shasta area. We found a place we felt would bring us some peace. I needed to heal from the shocking jolt of leaving my family behind only to find us adrift again such a short time later. We paid three months’ rent in advance in Northern CA and settled in.
That’s where we were able to get enough breathing room to decide to tackle the freelance biz together. This time, I created an agency on oDesk, and signed up for Elance as well. From this we built up to where we are today. Six months after moving to a scenic mountain village, we decided we had accomplished what we needed to, and we returned to Arizona to be near family.
Less is More!
I only make 2/3 of what I was making when I left my teaching job in 2010, but I have cut my living expenses in half, so what I make now goes farther than the larger salary did.
In summary, if you lose your income with no reserves, it need not be the end of the world. It can give you an opportunity to downsize, and to reassess what you really want to do. Flexibility is the key to making it work. Even though we floundered around a bit until we hit our stride, we don’t regret the experiences. We are using them to help others get on their feet and to navigate the world of freelance.
I live a location-independent lifestyle in the U.S. and I make my living solely from oDesk and Elance. Apparently it’s pretty rare to make one’s living from these two sites alone. I know why, and it has nothing to do with your capabilities as a writer. So don’t roll your eyes when the first thing I tell you to do in order to make money this week is to create a profile on Elance.com. Stick with this article, and you’ll understand how to quickly overcome the problems thousands of others are having and why they never get far enough to make a dime.
Elance vs oDesk. For the purposes of this article, I choose Elance over oDesk for three basic reasons: 1) Elance releases your money to you the second your client releases it; oDesk holds your money for 6 days after your client releases it. If you want to make money this very week, you have to use Elance. 2) Elance is more oriented toward professionals. If you know your writing is good, here is where you deserve to start, and 3) Elance offers you better protection for getting paid. I’ve been ripped off on oDesk, but never on Elance (you’ll have to read other posts and/or my upcoming book which is launching on April 11 to hear that story and find out how to avoid getting ripped off by a client.)
Elance/oDesk merger. Now that oDesk and Elance have merged, and are sister sites, oDesk is quickly bringing its policies and quality up, but for the moment, Elance is still the better of the two. It draws more professional clients and professional-style writers. A lot of what I say here applies to oDesk as well, so you can also do oDesk, but remember that it will take you 10 days to 2 weeks to get paid instead of having it in your pocket this week.
Let me quit kibitzing and get to it. Here are your steps to making money this very week with your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.
Go to Elance.com. There are 12 categories of different kinds of work available on Elance. For our purposes, click on Writers and then click on View Jobs. Look down the left side under Writing & Translation, and you can see how to start narrowing down the field. However, you might just want to peruse it all at the moment to get a feel for it. At the moment I started this article, Elance indicated there were 3,595 writing jobs available.
Right here, at this point in the process, is where we start separating the people who truly want to make money right away from freelancing from the wannabes. Don’t get discouraged at this point. There are hundreds of low bidding jobbers, and hundreds of job offers for pay that might seem insulting. Get over it. You just have to plow through those to find the gems. In my household, these ads have become a source of humor for us. Learn to refine your search skills, and learn to refine the skills you are offering so that you get the types of offers that you want.
Register and create your profile. When the site says, “Complete your profile,” complete your profile. I mean really complete it. The first time I did so, it took me a full day, but I was rewarded for that almost immediately with contracts. Your profile is the core of your marketing—it tells who you are and what you can do for your prospective client.
Create your payment method. It will take up to three days to get this approved, so do it when you first register. Having the money sent directly to your bank costs nothing. It costs $1 to have it sent to PayPal. One problem with sending it to PayPal is that you will lose 10% to Elance (that’s the standard Elance fee), then you will pay $1 for the transfer, and then PayPal takes 4% of it unless you have a PayPal debit card.
Create your portfolio. Clients have to have some way of knowing that you can do what you say you can. If you have other published work online, whether paid or unpaid, link these to your Elance profile. If you have writing samples on your hard drive, upload them to Elance (with caution, be sure to see the caveats below on using unpublished work). If you have NO samples, create some. Generally, the prospective client only needs to see a couple of things to make up his or her mind. If you have top-notch writing skills, whether or not you have ever demonstrated that before anywhere online, as long as you can create something that shows your ability to spell, use proper grammar, and write compelling copy, you’ll get hired because you’re already in the top 10% of writing contractors out there.
Use specific writing samples. Obviously, the more versatile a writer you are, the broader range of clients you have from which to choose. Don’t know what you can or want to write about? Start perusing the categories under Writing & Translation, pick a category that sounds like it could work for you, and start looking at some of the ads. Once you have in mind what you could write about, create a couple of compelling pieces in that category.
Are you a fiction writer? Write a couple of pieces of throwaway flash fiction (by throwaway, I mean something you don’t care whether it ever gets published or not). If you already have short stories, etc. never send whole works. It’s best to choose an excerpt that shows your ability to write. Don’t give away characters or plots if they are works you want to publish. An excerpt is all they need to see that you can write.
Non-fiction writer? If you want to excerpt or create a sample for non-fiction, if you have a niche, be sure to have samples of writing from your particular niche. In using works in progress that you plan on submitting elsewhere, please follow the excerpt guidelines I’ve given to the fiction writers above.
Become an Elance member. If you possibly can, pay the $10 for Elance Membership. Everything works with tokens. You pay tokens to submit your proposals. The higher paying jobs will require more tokens, but also remember that you are new at this. Unless you find something specifically in your niche and have solid and specific (read: prior published) works to show them, unless you really sell yourself, chances are you’re not going to get the big bucks right out of the start gate. If you become an Elance member, you have some specific perks, but two of which will help you right away: 1) you get more tokens with which to apply, and 2) you can see what everyone else is bidding. That helps you to be able to bid. Having said all that, oDesk does not use the token system, and there is no membership level. But, you will still only be able to apply for 20 jobs until you jump through more hoops.
Find an ad that sounds good. Find an ad that sounds like something you can really do. If you want to get paid this week, find something that you can do in a 1 – 3 day turnaround.
Create your proposal and bid. Create a proposal addressing the specific points in the ad and how you can meet those needs. Attach a sample from your portfolio, or something you’ve created from your hard drive. Remember that your proposal is your chance to set yourself apart. When it comes to bidding, this is one place your Elance membership is really helpful because it allows you to see a range of bids already placed. It shows you the lowest bid placed, the highest bid placed and the average of all bids thus far. For tips on bidding, see my trade secrets article here.
Get hired. Be responsive. Respond to everything your client says, and ask good, clarifying questions to make sure this is the right contract for you.
Perform the work. Note: make sure the funds for the job have been put into escrow before you start work on the project. Sometimes you’ll get a new client who doesn’t quite know the ropes, and you’ll have to remind them (to avoid this, see my trade secrets article). Do a top-notch job. Go the extra mile. When you submit it, be sure to let your client know that if they find something that needs to be reworked, you’ll be glad to do it.
Submit your work. Once you’ve submitted your work, go to the Terms & Milestones page and indicate in the drop-down menu that your work is complete, and click on the button that says, “Request release of milestone.”
Get paid. If you’ve done a short job with a short turnaround time, your client will likely review it and get back to you immediately, and will release your pay shortly thereafter. If they don’t get back to you right away (within 48 hours), remind them with a polite message. If for any reason they don’t get back to you after you’ve submitted your work, Elance will automatically release the funds to you in 14 days. I’ve only had a couple of clients whom I had to remind, and NO ONE has ever made me wait longer than 3 days.
Success begets success. Once you’ve been successful with your first contract, it will bolster you for more success. Repeat steps 7 – 12.