A totally unbiased guide to finding revenue, notoriety, and inner peace as a freelance writer. With takeaways!
This should be easy. It will require no odd magic, because you were born to write (even if the mortals around you don’t know it yet). Hell, after the doctor slapped air into your lungs, she handed you a Montblanc and scroll.
Kudos, Chosen One.
Now it’s time to make good on this glorious destiny—to shout it from the mountain tops (we’ll talk about the importance of cliché in a later post). The world doesn’t just want to hear about the pupal stages of your writing career—it needs to hear it. And if you need to saturate a few dinner parties with writerly small talk, get people out of their comfort zones so they understand and revere this righteous path, so be it.
Nevertheless, some people just won’t understand. It’s a special thing, writing; and writers are something akin to the fabled unicorn. If this is you—if your pen drips unicorn tears every time you put it to page—then listen up.
Most of the writers I’ve observed while skimming Twitter and LinkedIn found professional writing in a roundabout way. They studied biology or accounting and barely made passing marks. Some never went to school at all. An English degree is pushing it and creative writing majors never make it.
Unless they follow this listicle with unflinching dedication …
1. At house parties, loosen things up by telling everyone you’re a writer
If people don’t ask what you do, ask first and don’t pay attention to the answer. Writers are terrible listeners. Anyway, you’ll need that time to dream up something catchy that makes you sound distinguished. (If you haven’t figured out how to describe what you do yet, don’t bother trying now. Ever heard of word salad?)
2. Drink alcohol to excess and smoke cigarettes
Image and failing health are everything in this game. Bonus points for owning three suits (one linen) and idolizing Don Draper, Hunter S. Thompson, and Charles Bukowski.
3. Buy an expensive notebook
And a good pen. Hold the latter while staring at the former each and every day. When you do decide to Do the Act, edit as you go—”drafts” are the mark of doomed scribes too wet behind the ears to ever dry out. Leuchtturm1917 and the Zebra F-301 Ballpoint Retractable Pen are two products I (get paid to) recommend. Just kidding.
4. Neatly stack classic writing references on your desk
Strunk & White. Chicago Manual of Style. Bonus points for a synonym finder and a functional typewriter you never use. Digital resources are fair-weather crutches, by the way.
5. Break all the rules
Do it early and often. Fragments. Noun stack. The way you think semicolons and em dashes should be used. Flouting established and widely recognized writing standards is a great way to draw attention to your personal brand. (And it’s never too early to megaphone your opinions about the serial comma.)
6. Don’t take no for an answer
As a wise, value-driven person once said, Snowflakes don’t win clients and build audience. Cold-calling and snarky emails are your new best friends.
Six things! All you have to do is these seven measly things and you’ll become a profitable and happy writer. Strange alchemy, I agree, like a caterpillar cannibalizing itself to become a mariposa.
But if you were born for this, dammit, the wings are already yours—all you have to do is move those mandibles. Chomp chomp.
P.S. I’d like to dedicate these words to Mrs. Tampa, my eighth grade typing teacher. Without you, Madam, I’d still be staring down at the keyboard, slowly punching away with index fingers decrepit from overuse. Sorry we printed stuff all the time just to bug you.
I know who it was, but you don’t become a writer by snitching.