August 29, 2001
I CREDIT MY FREELANCE WRITING SUCCESS TO...BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN by Mary Dixon Weidler | printable version
Most writers can point with pride to the person who helped advance their career, inspired their confidence, and allowed them to make that leap of faith into writing. Some may acknowledge an interested English teacher, a supportive and loving family member, or a wise and inspiring editor.
Me? Well, I guess I'd have to credit Bruce Springsteen.
The year was 1987. I graduated from college five years earlier, with a degree in English and not much direction. I always wanted to write (and even had my first professional success at age 12!) but in those years following Watergate, there was a flood of would-be Woodwards and Bernsteins, so I felt fortunate to have a steady job in banking. I knew it was not something I would have chosen for myself, but by 1987 I was five years away from any publication credits (and they were just college newspapers). I lacked the confidence to even compete for an opportunity to write.
Clark DeLeon, then the Metro columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote a column about being a so-called "adult" and still falling for the magic that is rock and roll and Bruce Springsteen. He said that, even though colleagues laughed and loved ones watched skeptically, he would continue to do what he had to for Bruce tickets
At that point in my life, I had seen Bruce numerous times. I had seen other things too - the darkness on the edge of town - including an assault that left me hospitalized with head injuries and a car mishap which left me burnt and hurting. And I had seen good times too, including the birth of my daughter. Through all these times, the good and the bad, Bruce Springsteen's music was with me, reminding me that "at the end of every hard-earned day" I still can "find some reason to believe."
In other words, I understood. So I wrote to DeLeon to tell him just that.
I sent the letter, not thinking much of it, and it was forgotten in the weeks following. However, the next time DeLeon wrote about Bruce (one of his favorite subjects, too), my letter constituted the majority of his column. This was my first "real" newspaper exposure, and it gave me the confidence to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep believing.
They say "write what you know", so I started an employee newsletter so that I could write while at the bank. I used the newsletter as my "clip" and landed a job covering meetings for a weekly local paper. After three months, I used those clips to get an interview with the editor at a daily. In 1991, I started writing for the paper regularly, first covering a news beat, then as a feature writer, and - since 1997 - I've been writing a column, which has been syndicated by the paper.
But it doesn't stop there. About five years ago, I ventured into freelancing, using my clips to land assignments from the Philadelphia regional parenting magazine. After working several months with them, I broke into my first national magazine - American Careers (the article was "A Baker's Dozen of Jobs for People Who Like to Cook"!). Since then, I've been published in numerous print magazines, both national and regional, and on a variety of dotcoms, including Oxygen and Office.com. Some months are better than others, of course, but I have watched my assignments - and my invoices - grow bigger and better. I check sites like WritersWeekly.com with regularity, I network with other writers, and I always keep looking for that next market, that newest idea. I guess the most exciting thing about freelancing is what comes next - whatever that may be!
So I guess I do owe my career - or at least its inspiration - to Bruce Springsteen. That seems rather appropriate. After all, a freelancer wouldn't want to deal with any other "Boss".
MARY DIXON WEIDLER is a freelance writer, mom of four, and Springsteen fanatic living in Woodbury, New Jersey (where else?). She writes on a variety of topics, including parenting, career advice, health, education, finance, humor and entertainment. Her work has appeared in a diversity of publications, including WOMAN'S WORLD, AMERICAN PROFILES, PREGNANCY MAGAZINE and BABY YEARS, as well as on JobWise.com, BlueSuitMom.com, and GeoParents.com. Her "slice of life" column appears each Sunday in the Gloucester County Times and its syndicates. Mary can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org