Thursday, September 13, 2007

Do You Have What It Takes?

Many moons ago, I worked in an academic publications office with three full-time people and a new intern every semester. I was the low person in the office and most of my job was grunt work. I didn't mind. I actually enjoyed that job more than any other I've ever had (and then it evolved in a new direction that didn't suit me and, well, that's another story). But what bothered me was the attitude of the person in charge. She often made it clear, without ever coming out and saying the words, that she didn't think I had what it took to be a "professional" writer.

Looking back, at that time I probably didn't. There were too many other things happening in my life that took my attention from pursuing a writing career, not the least of which was a misguided focus on fiction.

But now I must have what it takes because, while I might not be in the 6-figure income category yet, I have fairly steady work and am making more than I ever did in that office job.

So what is that magic formula? Everybody is different, but this is what worked for me:

Discipline That's it in a nutshell, really. There's a great phrase from Everybody Loves Raymond: AIS. Ass in Seat. On the show, that was the rule Frank had for his boys when it was time to go somewhere. AIS or get left behind. It's a good rule for writers. AIS or get nothing done. That often means the laundry, Oprah, grocery shopping and other activities need to be left for later.

Independence I work best when I can create my own work, my own schedule, my own routine. Some people work best when they have someone else giving them the work, the schedule, the routine. This isn't a job for those who need someone else to provide direction.

Loner When I left office life, I thought I'd miss being around people all day. Boy, was I wrong. Even though freelancing can be a stressful job, wondering when the next assignment or paycheck will come, my stress level dropped a million points. I never realized how stressed out I got by being with co-workers 8 hours a day. I like working alone. It has made me a better worker.

Driven I'm a goal-oriented person, and that's what drives me to get myself going each work day. I changed my philosophies on how to approach my career. I network. I listen to the advice of others. I've learned to quit under-estimating my worth, but I've also learned to quit comparing myself and my career to others.

The hard truth is not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer. Or they might not be ready today but could be next year. You have to know yourself and what you are capable of before you make that plunge.

1 comment:

Patti said...

i am wondering if my fiction may be misguided as well...why isn't there a market for blogging on my level? WHY?!