We had a wonderful and very long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I only got online to check for emergencies each evening. And, boy oh boy, did I pay for that on Monday when I had a flood of emails to answer. The time we spent with the children made it well worth it. We feasted on Thursday, shopped and wrapped presents on Friday, bought our tree on Saturday, and decorated it on Sunday.
Sometimes, writers are given the opportunity to research and write about something that could pay off big in the end. However, it can also lead to a great deal of pain for the people involved in the actual story. Writers must then weigh the consequences of their actions with the possible good (or bad) that may come from exposing old wounds.
I wanted to comment on last week’s letter to the editor from Kevin Murphy. I want to tell Mr. Murphy that he has hit the nail on the head, to use a cliche, because that attitude of “anyone can write” is one I’ve encountered over and over during the last 20 years that I’ve been a professional writer/reporter. It’s so infuriating because, as the astute Mr. Murphy states, plumbers, doctors and lawyers don’t have to put up with that kind of ridiculous attitude when plying their trades.
Many writers have daily word quotas or weekly query goals to help keep the writing assignments rolling in, but what can be even more profitable is selling multiple assignments by establishing and keeping a great reputation. Early on, I learned that editors love to see several clips from the same magazine. The thought is anyone can land one assignment, but only the proven get hired again. Well, the reverse is also true: establish yourself as a reliable, professional writer who is easy to work with, and you will land multiple assignments from editors. With that in mind, here are a few tips I have learned along the way to garner a great reputation and land multiple assignments from editors.
I’m in the process of writing a non-fiction book that will also contain some very critical evaluations and personal stories.
I’ve changed the names of the people in the stories (or not mentioned their name at all), but to people who know them, they’re still recognizable. Many of the stories are anything but flattering, so getting permission from them is completely out of the question.
Ah, I always get that Fiddler on the Roof song stuck in my head around this time of the year.
Matt and Aubri are home again, but this time for the entire week. So, the house is quite full and very festive!
Good job with your response to that email! I totally agree with you. Dawn wasn’t being selfish – she is just being smart by not letting her friends run all over her, and by recognizing that friends who would take advantage of her aren’t real friends at all.
Katharine S. Leppert
I loved your response to Lisa in the Freelancing for Friends debate in your November 15 newsletter. You made perfect sense to me — as you said, “friends” who continually impose on your time and talents are not really friends. You don’t owe them anything for free — occasionally is fine, but constantly never.
Thanks for a great newsletter. I look forward to it every week, and always get so much “free” inspiration from it. 🙂
Hugs to you and all the family, John
I tuned in on the ‘Freelance Favors Debate’ this week–a bit late, perhaps, but still worthy of additional comment. I believe that the entire discussion highlights a subtle problem that bedevils all writers–the ‘Anyone can write, but not anyone can be a plumber [doctor, lawyer, astronaut, etc.] syndrome. I first encountered it eons ago, in a different skill area. In undergraduate school, I majored in Speech (with a theater emphasis). People–mostly lay people who may or may not have finished high school–generally spoke mockingly of that fact when it was revealed (only under their interrogation) that I was majoring in that esoteric field: ‘We’re born able to speak–you have to go to college to learn that?!?’
I believe that writing as a profession is seen in the same light — unless we happen to be Tom Clancy, Stephen King, or some equivalent big name (‘big’ usually being measured, of course, in megabucks). Journeyman writers who have no big name visibility are like speech majors–anyone can do that, so what’s the big deal? I’m just asking you to write my resume (thesis, job proposal, publicity release, whatever) because you do stuff like that all the time, so it’ll be faster for you. Of course I could do it, but I have real work to do…’
My experience, too, has been that it’s never friends who ask me to do such things but, rather, acquaintances who have just recently met me and see a sap to be used to cover their own weaknesses. The last time I had such an experience, I simply told the person my estimate of the cost of that work, because I AM a professional writer. Never heard from her again.
There are times when I will work for free. I’ll do it for community projects that my wife and I undertake within our own neighborhood, where there is no organization, and no budget, but a good cause. And, of course, I will work for a family member–which usually involves editing a reasonably well-written work just to ensure that no obvious errors have been overlooked (and I can always count on them to do the same for me). But I will not work for exploiters. My plumber (and it is a good company) charges me to come out, whether there is a serious problem or not.
Kevin Murphy Author:
Degrees of Murder:
Something Bright and Alien:
Unfriendly Fire: based on the “1937 Memorial Day Massacre” at Republic Steel Company, Chicago–available from author Web Archive: http://homepage.mac.com/kevinmurphy1532/iblog/index.html
It happened again. A former client rushed off and delivered his book to the printer, not because he knew it was ready, but in order to meet his personal deadline. He sent me a copy of the completed, bound book and my heart sank when I opened it.
This week’s issue is abbreviated due to the holiday. WHISPERS AND WARNINGS will return next week.