Okay, so if you follow me on Medium (which you should), you’ve come across my writing already. But this time is completely different. Congratulations, You’re a Failure! was my first submission to CRY Magazine – and it ended up published! (I won’t lie – I wasn’t expecting to score a hit with my first attempt) It only took me a thousand attempts to get the piece the way I wanted in the first place, so finding they felt it worthy of inclusion? Yeah, I’m over the moon.
After dancing around with this information for a couple months, I have the go-ahead from the PR department to make official announcements. My personal essay, “The Demon Assistant” made it through all the levels of screening and will appear in the newest release from Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Clever, Curious, Caring Cat! The book hits shelves (not to mention Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s online system, and Indie Bound) on September 14th.
As you might guess from the title, it features everyone’s favorite tiny demon, Tonks. And I can’t think of anything more serendipitous than to have my first publication in a book to coincide with a tale of her working alongside me. The symmetry? It’s too perfect. (Admit it – you want to read it)
And, yes, I’ve been dancing around and busting at the seams to share the news for MONTHS.
I admit, when I started submitting my short stories again last year, I had forgotten about the Writers of the Future Contest. (Which is a real shame, as it’s one of the most important contests out there for speculative fiction!) I stumbled across a reminder towards the end of the year, so I submitted “Everapple.” And this week I received an email with the results:
Silver Honorable Mention!
I’ve managed the Honorable Mention mark in the past, and I congratulated myself on that achievement. (And, don’t get me wrong – it IS an achievement!) But to get one step higher this time? I’m ecstatic. That lets me know my writing IS improving. And it gives me a drive to keep refining my craft.
But the big lesson? Never, ever stop. And never give up hope on yourself.
This time last year, I went from sending out proposal after proposal every day to receiving my first interview and my first contract as a freelance writer. (Yes, there was much embarrassing dancing) And once the excitement (and relief) settled down, nerves set in. What if my feeble confidence ended up being misplaced? Maybe the client wouldn’t like my writing, after all. I could screw up the two-article assignment completely and land myself in the Pit of Terrible Writers. Then what? (Obviously, the answer’s you try again and keep going, but that’s difficult to come up with when you’re in the middle of an anxiety spiral) Those worries circled through my brain as I watched my deadline tick closer. And I went over every word at least twenty times and questioned my ability about ten times per word (not an exaggeration). Then I handed them over, precisely on time.
My client loved them.
And within a week I had a new client with another assignment. Followed by another. And the work kept coming. I gained confidence and rewrote every proposal I sent out – tweaking the language to polish my voice and allow my talent to shine. Scouring the job postings, I considered plenty of different angles. If I felt certain in my knowledge, the proposal went out. Slowly, I phased out my sample articles and replaced them with the “real deal.” Before long, I built my Library and removed the samples entirely. My rating spiraled up with every successful job completion. (I’ve never received less than five stars)
And suddenly? Clients came to ME! As a freelancer, having someone approach you for work is one of he biggest highs. They’ve reviewed your profile, skimmed through testimonials of previous clients, and looked over your portfolio. And they LIKED what they saw. Over the sometimes HUNDREDS of people clamoring for the job, they set you aside and asked for your talent.
Talk about an insane rush!
My workload went from one or two articles a week to three to four A DAY! At this point, I spend my entire day writing and researching. (When AK started, most of my time went to marketing myself and searching for work) I have a full-time client I work for, with several other long-term clients. These are goals I never THOUGHT to imagine a year ago when I started! Hell, I figured the occasional bone tossed my way was a lofty enough anticipation for someone starting from nothing. (NEVER doubt your abilities; you don’t know what self-sabotage may block you from) And while I feel bad over my lack of maintaining a social media presence, I’m delighted that my work (REAL work) takes up so much of my life.
But this anniversary has another meaning: financial goals. Because freelance writing IS my career. A year ago, I set a modest, reasonable goal for the end of the year. Prior to setting up a profile, I devoured books three books on freelancing. And that included the 2020 Writer’s Market. I knew the expected rates for a fledgling writer. And while I edged myself out from the bottom (I KNOW how to write and write well), I stuck to the bottom of the range. Guessing at the number of clients I might see by the end of the year, I wrote out a goal for myself.
And beat it within two months.
So I set a new goal. And then I crushed that one three months later. When the third goal hit the rearview mirror in under a month, I realized I’d underestimated myself. (Please don’t do that. You KNOW you have talent, and you need to invest in YOURSELF) It was time to knuckle down and set a financial goal with WEIGHT behind it. Something that matched the worth I was seeing. I wanted to pay off my credit card. That bill had bent my shoulders for years, and even the certain, regular paychecks of my previous job failed to make a dent in it. If I could eliminate the credit card, then I’d feel satisfied. It felt like a fair challenge.
This weekend? I did it. That boulder around my neck is GONE. This crazy, insane dream I was so afraid to chase after eliminated a “negative” goal from my list. Tell me how ridiculous that sounds! I exhaled the biggest sigh of relief, but I also cheered. My work, my writing accomplished that – in one year. There’s no better anniversary gift than that! (Although the Dinosaur Deadpool my husband got me for the occasion is pretty awesome)
Am I excited with how far my writing’s taken me? Yes, but this post is more than that. I want to inspire you to follow that “irrational” dream you’ve buried. I wasted SO many years making excuses as to why I couldn’t be a writer (yet). I piled dust on top of everything I wanted, turning away from something that made me insanely happy. And in just one year? I kick myself for doing that. Because the drive, ambition, and ability was THERE the entire time. All I needed to do was stand up and declare, “This is what I’m going to do.”
Your dreams? They’re worth it.
For those that may not know, I’ve been working as a freelance writer (officially) since April 2020. That translates to around only five months. In that time, I’ve had to change my yearly budgetary goal twice. Something I never anticipated happening. (Not that I’m complaining or anything)
Earlier this month, I receieved Top Rated status on the Upwork job platform. Essentially, it reflects the fact that I have 100% job satisfaction from my clients – something I pride myself on and tout in my proposals. It’s also something I work extremely hard at. (My perfectionist streak comes in handy)
None of that holds a candle to getting a video call from a client and getting told they’re bumping my hourly rate. OR hearing the praise that my work is so well structured and written, it beats some of the full-time writers they’ve worked with over the past FIVE YEARS. (Honestly, that was the bigger compliment for me as I sometimes still wonder if I’m any good)
Now, if you want to know how I feel about something, you can read it on my face. I have no idea how I managed to keep my composure to finish the call before jumping up and dancing around the office. They didn’t retract the offer or statements, though, so I think I did okay. (And then immediately regretted the fact I was wearing a t-shirt and hoodie – that “wear anything” idea can bite you in the ass sometimes)
So, yeah, I’m beginning to believe this crazy ride was worth getting in line. And today feels really damn good.
Being a freelance writer involves a TON of work, most of which people don’t really get to know about since it isn’t glamorous and never makes it print anywhere:
- Marketing yourself (I personally HATE this task and have to constantly work at selling myself and my skills)
- Adapting your writing to fit into templates requested by clients
- Adjusting your style/tone to fit requests of clients (not always – sometimes you get to keep true to your tone)
- Waiting to find out if a new client is going to like what you submitted
So when a client comes back with high praise and tells you they love what you did (or extend you a contract), your little writer heart does the happy dance, and you feel like you scaled a mountain. Maybe not Mount Everest or Mount Kilimanjaro, but a mountain all the same.
Today, I got to scale a mountain, and my writer’s heart is happy and grinning a big, sappy smile.
Submitting your work is the acid test for any writer, as is the collection of rejections (fact of life – if you’re not prepared for that, writing is not for you). Well, one of my short stories – “Glissando” – graduated from receiving the standard rejection form letter to receiving a rejection with an added note!
Even better, the note rejected the story not for the writing, but for subjective reasons! Which boils down to turning around and sending it out to the next market without a need to make any edits.
These are the kind of moments a writer lives for…well, you know, and those moments when your work gets accepted.
You hear veteran writers tell you the same thing a lot of times, “Keep trying.”
Well, they say that for a reason: because it WORKS! I have been submitting pitches for freelance work for about three weeks now, carefully making sure I followed the advice I was given and not letting the silence on the other end discourage me.
And I now have two contracts for three articles under my belt as a result of my continuing work! It feels awesome!
So, yes – KEEP TRYING!
In the past week, I’ve actually accomplished a lot, for which I’m really proud of myself (hence this little post):
- I started submitting my short stories again
- I sent out my first proposals on Upwork
- I sent out my first article query to a “local” magazine (it’s in the state, so I count that as local)
These bat wings may be a little creaky, but they’re flexed and ready to fly again!