Freelance Writing

5 Ways to Cope When Your 2016 is Already on Some Serious BS

If 2015 was Cliff Huxtable, then 2016 is my Bill Cosby.

Before I could find a moment to create a vision board to fix my future life, this shiny new year wasted no time shoving a Shaquille O’Neal-sized foot up my ass — and twisting it for good measure.

Since the leap year began about two weeks ago, I’ve struggled to keep my sanity in the midst of a series of unfortunate events that include (but aren’t limited to): losing my bread-and-butter freelance writing gig at the stroke of midnight; shelling out $300 several hours later to a towing company that sneakily hauled my vehicle away from my sister’s apartment complex, taking my NYE buzz with it; and the ultimate show of the New Year’s attitude toward my entire life: discovering a mold infestation in my house that has already cost me dearly (and counting).

Under more pleasant circumstances, hotel-hopping my way through the first week of the year might’ve been a fun adventure, but not when I’m on the run from an insanely expensive, allergy-inducing house guest.

I only wake up to eat, curse my existence, engage in a little self-pity (OK, a lot) and stress over my quickly diminishing coins and lack of gainful employment.

Joblessness and a moldy house makes it a little difficult to digest all of the upbeat resolutions. Yes, I hear you, this is your year (again).

I’ve been inundated with positive updates from fellow entrepreneurs and glamorous travel plans from family and friends who are all obviously going to get what they want in 2016. It all only highlights the hole where my usual start-of-the-year giddy anticipation used to reside.

In short, sappy optimism be damned, because 2016 is on some serious bullshit.

When your new year starts out like a scaled-down version of the 10 biblical plagues, it feels impossible to not lose your shit. But take it from someone who’s spent the bulk of 2016 bemoaning a week’s worth of fails and getting drunk off home-brewed haterade: There are more effective ways to cope with being bombarded by stereotypical displays of new year-fueled optimism.

Don’t believe the social media hype.

This should be a standard rule of practice for social media engagement, but it’s especially pertinent at the start of a new year. If you obsess over every single positive tweet, Instagram post or Facebook status, it won’t be long before you’re convinced a thick mist of goal-achieving repellent is blocking you from success.

Since you can’t mute all those peppy #NewYearNewYou hashtags, put the pause on social media immersion so the glare from everyone else’s shine doesn’t obscure the path to your future wins. And, frankly, annoy the sh*t out of you.

Don’t panic — we’re only a week in.

“But it’s barely the New Year. You’re OK,” reads a text from my mother after I wrote her freaking out over this year’s calamities.

Such a simple dose of get-yourself-together realness couldn’t have come at a better time. While I was knee-deep in the bowels of distress, I had totally overlooked the fact that 2016 is a newborn baby (a cranky, colicky one, but still), and there are an entire 51 weeks plus an extra day remaining in which wonderful things can and will happen.

Realize that progress isn’t a race.

So what if my only brush with productivity in the New Year happened when I whizzed through four seasons of “Cooking Dash”? While I was fully engulfed in whipping up and serving virtual meals on my smartphone, it felt like everyone else was out there #winning.

But just as you and I both know those coins don’t count for sh*t in real life, the strides someone else makes won’t add to or detract from your own. Work at a pace that suits you and keep in mind that the goals you set have everything to do with personal fulfillment. Conjuring up imaginary competition only puts you that much further from an achievement.

Read the rest of this post over at Elite Daily.

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poise passion

When Your Writing Has Poise But Not Enough Passion

My words don’t sang – they just sing… or so I’ve been told.

According to my partner in Un-edited crime, Andrea, my writing should read less Beyoncé and more Fantasia. (That’s one hell of a metaphor, right?) I should be flattered at the suggestion that someone believes I share stylistic similarities with (almighty) Queen Bey, but before anyone gets the idea that I’m feelin’ myself waaay too much, lemme explain – what she means is my writing mirrors the cool, calm and palpably controlled composure of your expected Beyoncé performance, but lacks the wild, shoe-flinging, damn near reckless abandon that takes place during a typical Fantasia show.  Even though my heart may be caught in a fan, à la Bey’s bountiful Brazilian weave, my words always manage to hold it together so as to not truly expose the emotions brewing beneath the surface.

bey

Bottom line is fancy designer prose, subject-verb agreement and generous use of metaphors may provoke a reader to nod in agreement or have a tempered two-step of a reaction, but they won’t make anyone jump up, shout or come anywhere close to sweating out their fresh perm.  Writing is cathartic, but I don’t think there’s an author out there who doesn’t want to create work that makes a reader feel emotion.

So, why would a writer (or any other creative individual) hold back when expressing themselves?

Fear:

This one’s self-explanatory and could range from being afraid to reveal personal truths, fear of being judged, fear of facing one’s true emotions, fear of not being able to fully execute an idea, fear of Beyoncé giving you a public side-eye for daring to compare yourself to her in a somewhat unflattering manner, and the list goes on…

Concern about offending others:

For example, I have a heartfelt rant in me about the recent rash of women who are hellbent on oversharing about their periods, but I’ve held back because I don’t want to offend anyone who might think I’m being oppressive or anti-feminist when I comment on the ludicrousness of free-bleeding for a cause or posting period blood on Instagram, not to mention how utterly disgusting it is to cook with your own vaginal yeast. (There, I said it.)

Oversharing:

The impact of oversharing feels like a hangover that can strike at any given moment and ain’t no Alka-Seltzer-time machine combo that can ease the symptoms. It passes when it’s good and damn ready. Honestly, a lot of my personal essay pitches are collecting dust in a mental file because of a prior experience with sharing too many personal details in print (I’m still cringing, ugh). I considered this heavily when I wrote about my complicated relationship with my father because obviously I’m not the only one impacted by those words, but I wrote it out of emotional necessity. Fantasia’s father sued her for writing about him, so if my father happens to stumble upon what I’ve written and doesn’t like it, I guess I’ll prepare myself to hear the words, “You’ve been served.”

Not thinking your voice, thoughts or opinions matter:

I say this to myself as much as I say it to anyone else – your voice exists, therefore it matters, even if you’re the only one who believes that.

People can be mean and intentionally harsh towards those who willingly expose themselves with the world.  That said, a part of me doesn’t blame Beyoncé one fucking bit for keeping her shoes on her feet. But constant self-censorship only keeps me stagnant and it also makes me feel a bit fraudulent being one-half of a site that promotes the loose and free usage of words, unfiltered thoughts and raw feelings. 

I am certainly committed to being more transparent and true to my emotions when writing, but unlike Fantasia, I can’t promise I’ll let you see my feet.

fantasia 2

 

 

 

 

 

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struggle

When the Struggle Becomes an Addiction

Growing up, several disappointments caused me to construct a wall around myself to dull the impact of any future letdowns. For a long time, that wall was my Employee of the Year, never calling in sick or sleeping on the job. I programmed myself to believe that happy times were earned by bad experiences and if something good was to happen, then impending disaster waited around the corner for me, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. But what I thought was a stealthy source of protection actually dismantled my ability to embrace blessings and happy moments in my life. This may sound insane, but I’ve come to realize that I’m addicted to struggling. Yep, the support group, 12-step program type of addiction.

After I finally had my first paid piece published (a goal that had been set years prior), I barely acknowledged the fact that I’d finally accomplished my goal because I was worrying about hypothetical backlash from my family and inconsequential opinions of complete strangers. I couldn’t resist manufacturing a struggle-filled worry session instead of simply enjoying my moment.

scared

Me, too afraid to celebrate good news

Before I quit my 9-5 to pursue writing full-time, I envisioned my last day on the job as a par-tayyyy filled with celebratory Tuaca shots that would leave me doing carpet angels in the middle of my living room floor. Instead, my struggle mentality lured me into stressing over whether I’d be able to make a living writing and wondering to myself how long my husband would  support me before this idealistic “chasing my dream” notion got old.

Ever since I can recall, I dreamed of traveling to Hawaii. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to visit two islands during my honeymoon. One day, between winding around curves on Maui’s beautiful Road to Hana, and snapping pictures of waterfalls and seaside cliffs, I became overwhelmed with a feeling of not belonging, like I didn’t deserve to be there.

My husband looked confused and told me, “Our money spends just like everyone else here. You wanted to see Hawaii, didn’t you? Just take it in and enjoy it,” he said, reminding me that this was something I’d been blabbing his ears off about since we met.

I look back on the beautiful photos from my visit and regret not embracing what should have been a moment of pure joy! Sure, some pretty effed up stuff happened in the past. But today my increased level of self-understanding tells me that not every moment has to involve a struggle.

Meanwhile, I’m working on de-programming my debilitating train of thought by celebrating victories, big and small.  The end goal is to learn to fully relax and let the sunshine from happy moments flood my insides. Doing just that has been–you guessed it–yet another struggle, but I refuse to settle. Truth is, I’ve been about that struggling life for far too long and I’m finally ready to sober up.

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freelance

How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 2

Last week, I compiled a list of ways freelance writers can avoid playing themselves, and before I knew it, I had enough tips for two blog posts. As it turns out, there are more freelancing pitfalls to look out for than becoming an envy-fueled, byline-blocking spammer who doesn’t have an accountability partner (yikes). So without further ado, here are some additional tips on what not to as a freelance writer if you want to flourish instead of flounder, because it takes way more than a mean pen game.

Trying to do too much: Earlier this year, I was working six days a week, which meant bylines on bylines on bylines, but after a while, I had to ask myself for why? I am by no means rich, wealthy or anywhere near it — I needs my checks — but running myself into the ground trying to keep up with every scandal, news item or hashtag simply isn’t worth it.

Thinking that writing skills = automatic flow of work:

Your words sing, dance and twerk their way off the page, but when it comes to landing a byline, there are more politics involved, like timing, connections, persistence and the list goes on. This is precisely why you shouldn’t (but probably still will) bemoan that writer who lands bylines at that pub you’ve pitched a zillion times, despite the fact that we both know you could’ve written that article 10 times better.

Underestimating the power of your blog:

Not only is a personal blog  a great way to hone skills and work through insecurities about writing, it can also serve as a point of contact for potential clients. Also, prospective freelancers who are looking to write for money can use their posts to pitch paying publications. Trust me — it works, and you’d be surprised at who’s reading your seemingly random musings about home life or your fave polish of the week.

Allowing fear to stop you from pitching:

Honestly, pitching still scares the beejezus out of me, depending on the publication. But most of the rejection that beginning freelance writers dread doesn’t actually happen the way they envision it. Instead of nasty responses telling me I needn’t quit my day job (too late for that), the rejections I’ve received have all come in the form of silence. Writers I know who have received responses are usually told that their idea isn’t a good fit for the publication, and in some cases, they’ve been invited to pitch again. Which brings me to…

Not following up on rejected pitches:

If an editor asks you to pitch them again, do it, and soon. They receive a ton of pitches, so yours must’ve been pretty special to elicit a personal invitation to try again.

Don’t give away too much info for free:

There’s no coincidence why this little gem is last on my list. While I am an advocate of helping other freelance writers and sharing information with pretty much anyone who asks, there’s a limit to how many details I’m willing to part with for free 99. I could write a separate blog post on all the ways I have completely played myself by doing what basically amounted to consulting work because I genuinely enjoy helping others and I thought (wrongly) that I was forging a reciprocal relationship with people who would eventually help me in return. Now that I know better (and have sworn off dealing with leeches), I am making plans to package the info and monetize it in the future.

With that, fellow writers, let’s stop playing ourselves and start with progressing.

Happy freelancing!

 

 

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freelance writer

How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 1

Here’s a confession: I don’t have enough writing friends. Believe it or not, pals with whom I can lament over the joys and stresses of freelance writing are a rarity in my life, which leaves me partaking in way too many one-sided conversations with the hubs about bylines, pitches and how I should handle my latest #BBHMM moment when yet another janky client decides they can’t be bothered with paying me.

Since I feel guilty about constantly bombarding him with information he couldn’t care less about and because my constant social media lurking tells me that there are other writers who could actually benefit from this info, I’ve compiled a list of ways that freelance writers can avoid playing themselves. This list comes from some of my mistakes as well as some that I’ve observed from fellow professional scribes, so if you feel slightly embarrassed while reading,  realize that you’re not the only writer who’s engaged in some of this face-palmy behavior.

Refusing to help other writers:

When I first got into freelancing, a businessman referred me to the editor of a small local newspaper who refused to help me. She dismissed me because she was too busy, plus she didn’t already know me from the work she’d done on my college campus as a part of the National Association of Black Journalists. I didn’t get a chance to tell her that while in school, I worked full-time and had a magazine internship, which didn’t leave me much time for NABJ or anything else, but it’s all good because clearly, I dodged a bullet.

Since then, I’ve heard numerous stories about established writers who flatly refuse to help other writers with simple information such as sharing contact info or answering a question about their experience writing for a particular publication. I do realize there are some instances where sharing an editor’s contact info may not be appropriate, but I’m referring to blatant byline blocking, wherein the writer ain’t trying to help because they fear that assisting someone else will hinder their progress. But guess what: Helping another writer get a leg up isn’t going to take away from your opportunities. With all the paid writing jobs I see every single day, there’s enough room for everyone to get a piece of the pie and to be quite honest, one writer’s byline ain’t gon’ stop my hustle.

Spamming other writers on social media:

In my humble opinion, I’m not even on the freelance writer who warrants spamming level (not that any writer does, but lil’ ole me?). Still, that doesn’t stop random bloggers/writers who haven’t even bothered to say hello to me online from sending me links to their work or DMing me to share their posts. It’s pushy, annoying and most importantly ignored by me.  Why not introduce yourself and engage in authentic conversation with folk and develop a relationship first, then naturally work your writing in?

Also, that tit-for-tat business doesn’t work very well either, at least not for me.  I tried that “you share mine, I share yours” arrangement, but that grew old really quick, and it just doesn’t feel genuine. Like, why am I sharing your piece on the horticultural interests of 17th century Spanish aristocracy when that topic doesn’t interest me, the piece is not well-written and/or I only did it because you retweeted my article on Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt” video?

Repeatedly doing business with people or publications that have burned you:

OK, so opinions may vary on whether writers should permanently sever ties with a publication that wronged them, but I’m of the “Oh, hell no, not again,” mindset. In my experience, when given the opportunity to redeem themselves, my list (yes, list) of repeat offender pubs failed miserably. Bottom line is I’ve been there, done that, got multiple burns to prove it and I’m done.

Not having an accountability partner:

God bless Andrea, my writing partner and the other half of Un-Edited. She’s dope as hell, has helped me minimize my writing-related backsliding and holds me to my words (even when I forget them). Honestly, if it wasn’t for her, I would’ve probably beat a hasty, yet regret-filled retreat back to cubicle life by now. If you don’t have a writing accountability partner in your life, I suggest you get one ASAP.

Underestimating the value of your time: So, now it’s my turn to face-palm. I once spent several hours writing and sourcing photos for an article that I earned $15 for just because I thought writing for so-and-so would put me on the map, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. By the time I submitted the story, I was in the hole. You’ve been warned…

Writing strictly for pay: I believe in dabbling in a little bit of everything because you may find that you’re interested in previously unexplored topics that a publication asks you to cover. But don’t let writing to pay the bills become your sole motivation for pitching or targeting certain clients because that’s the fastest route to burn out.

Welp, by now you’re either cringing with embarrassment or feeling aptly prepped to go forth into freelancing.

In between licking your wounds or penning the next greatest pitch, make sure to stop by for How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 2, coming next week. (Yes, there is more.)

 

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