I’m 81, Still Writing, and Still Getting Paid for It! By Marv Gisser

I’m 81, Still Writing, and Still Getting Paid for It! By Marv Gisser

A decade ago , I wrote in WritersWeekly that my biggest success was my wife. As I write this at the end of February, we recently celebrated our 58th anniversary, so I will reiterate she is the biggest success in my life.

But, that’s not why you read this publication. And not why you read it 10 years ago. You read it so you can make money as a freelance writer.

I’m not qualified to define “success,” but last October I turned 81 and I’m still writing, still enjoying it, and still getting paid for it. In my mind – and that of all my paid-up creditors – that means success.

When I began working six decades ago in what was then known as “public relations” (not “crisis communications” or “media relations”), I did some freelance magazine writing and continued to do so while working for a major educational institution, a Fortune 500 company, and several non-profits.

When I went on my own, literally declaring my freedom on July 4, 1973, I was fortunate enough to have two major ongoing assignments. One was for a national cola company in Atlanta that shall remain nameless, but which allowed me to travel the country, and interview local bottlers as large bottles became the new rage.

The other client was a national magazine for the pest control industry. Its main claim to fame each issue was a full page photo of some sort of bug, ergo “Bugmate of the Month,” a takeoff on a somewhat dissimilar publication. The idea was that pest control technicians could show the pictures to customers who would quickly point out the pest that was inhabiting their home or office and the technician would know how to handle it.

Anyway, that was the start of it, long before desktop or laptop computers, fax machines, cell phones and certainly 3-D printers.

So, as much as technology has changed over more than four decades, one thing that hasn’t changed is something that shouldn’t affect a writer. That is WORDS, their correct use, and the knowledge as to how to edit your writing to make it comprehensible.

Remember that Mark Twain wrote “the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

There are arguments today that people don’t have the time to read, don’t care about the right or wrong word, don’t worry about misspellings (if they even notice) and good editing may have gone the way of the typewriter (which I collect but don’t use).

I have been fortunate over the years to have had some very good clients and some of the other kind. I have only had to go to small claims court once in more than four decades to collect a few dollars “way back when,” and the client showed up with the money.

Obviously, I have cut back on my work load and now have one client – a client I have had for more than 30 years working on its monthly publication. I am paid promptly and the organization believes me when I suggest something. Well, at least usually.

I will admit after the initial “high” with my original two clients, there were some down times but, in order to provide for four children, it was necessary to stick to it and do a lot of door knocking.

Fortunately, enough of those doors opened and I was able to make a successful entry often enough that I was able to live up to Mark Twain’s comment by choosing the right word for more than four decades to make my clients happy.


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Marv Gisser received his first payment for writing – $5.00 – from a local newspaper for an interview with his high school coach. After graduating with a BA in Journalism from Kent State University , he spent two years in the army. Upon completion of his army duty and collecting $35 a week unemployment during a major recession he finally found full time work. While working for a major corporation, he freelanced for a couple of clients,. one of whom hired him as an independent contractor to work on the bottling company account. As mentioned he has four children – and 10 grandchildren. Freelancing has given him and his wife the freedom and ability to travel abroad and visit more than a dozen countries.

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5 Responses to "I’m 81, Still Writing, and Still Getting Paid for It! By Marv Gisser"

  1. Pingback: Letters And Comments For 06/11/2016 – Michiko Katsu

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  3. Chris Hogg  June 6, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Good for you! And good to hear good words about Kent State. I got my MA in Public Relations and Journalism there in ’77, and while I have never made a living writing, I have (and am) written in every job I’ve had. Again, good for you!

  4. pamelaallegretto  June 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I second that, Trishafaye!

  5. trishafaye  June 3, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    I love this success story! Here’s to many more years of writing success for all of us.