As a freelance writer, I often feel like a contestant on my favorite reality show: Survivor. With the publishing industry changing at warp speed, creative flexibility is essential for long-term survival. Utilizing the Survivor mindset – “outwit, outplay, outlast” – I’ve accrued more than 200 published credits, and kept those paychecks coming.
OUTWIT: Just days after I’d snail-mailed a new mini-mystery to Woman’s World Weekly, the magazine published another mystery with the same major clue as mine. Although the plots were totally different, I knew from experience that the common clue (poison ivy) would render my submission “too similar to work recently published.” Immediately – literally months before my official rejection arrived – I took action and changed my plant to poison oak. Six months later, I resubmitted the tweaked story. This time, it sold.
OUTPLAY: ‘Is she sloshed?’ I wondered when a newspaper reporter with slurred speech interviewed me via telephone about one of my Highlights for Children articles. After hearing that she’d just spent the afternoon at the racetrack, I hoped for the best – to no avail. Inaccurate from start to finish, her piece was appalling. She even misspelled my last name. I wanted to lambaste the woman. Instead, I wrote a spoof of her ridiculous story and submitted it to a writing magazine. Revenge was sweet: I earned a byline and a paycheck.
OUTLAST: After receiving a hand-written rejection with a scathing critique of my submission, I tried to see the editor’s POV but, ultimately, disagreed with him. Problem was, I still wanted to see my story appear in that publication. For three years, I kept checking the mag’s masthead. When a new editor’s name appeared, I resubmitted the piece – and victory was mine.
To survive as a freelance writer, creative flexibility is essential. Play the game, keep it fun, and remember: no doesn’t always mean no. Sometimes it just means not yet.
Wendy Hobday Haugh’s articles and short stories have appeared in more than three dozen national magazines, including Woman’s World, Mature Years, American Profile, ByLine, Highlights for Children, Hopscotch, Boys’ Quest, and Children’s Digest. In 2013-14, her personal stories were featured in 4 Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Her profiles of fascinating local people and businesses have appeared in many regional magazines, including Saratoga Living, Hudson Valley Mature Life, Hudson Valley Parent, Capital District Life, and Capital District Grandparent.