As some of you may know, I was a home health aide until this past July when I suffered an injury. Since then, I have been able to move writing to the top of my to do list. Although I do have medical problems that I still need to contend against, I am trying to look at the events of the past few months as an opportunity given to me so I can focus on what I love most – writing.
Although I have been writing since I could hold a pencil, I had never considered freelance writing as a career. While I have been out of work, I have time to read all those articles about freelancing in Writer’s Digest and The Writer as well as online. Suddenly my brain lit up and it dawned on me that I should take the chance and make writing my new career.
Naturally, this got me thinking about opportunities for writers. The number of paths to a writing career are infinite. I have also discovered how important it is to be ready to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Even more important is to go looking for opportunities. Recently, I looked at the overstuffed manila folder full of short stories in lengths from 500-word flash fiction to 40-page novellas and wondered why I haven’t done anything with them. Next step: researching short story contests. Then the harder step – actually sending my work out into the world to be judged by others.
The 3 biggest lessons I learned from this are:
Record your ideas – That means they will be available when you need them. Develop each idea to the best of your abilities. If you are like me, you will have more ideas than time, and that’s great. You don’t need to develop every single idea as it occurs to you, but you should keep a file of ideas for the future. The ideas you do develop into stories, essays, articles, and you name it are building your body of work.
Take advantage of opportunities that come your way – Don’t lock yourself into one project to the exclusion of everything else. You can write a number of articles or do corporate writing at the same time you are working on a novel. I’m not advising you to throw your dreams aside, but there are many, many ways to earn money as a writer. For example, although I have never considered being a writing coach, I have recently been asked to coach a friend of a friend who is beginning her first novel. My first instinct was to say no, because I am in the middle of NaNoWriMo and a course on copywriting but I thought, why not? I enjoy helping other writers and the process nearly always teaches me something about writing. Work on the things that are nearest and dearest to your heart, but if you want a writing career, be open to other projects.
You have nothing to lose – It’s normal to be nervous or even terrified when you submit your work. I put a lot more of my soul into an article about coupons for a local magazine than I put in to helping customers when I sold window treatments at J.C. Penney. It hurts to be told that your writing needs more work. But many times a rejection just means that your work is not right for that editor at that publication. Move on, revise your work as needed, and submit somewhere else.