So I Want To Be A Writer…Do You?

I’m not sure what happened.  One day I woke up and decided it was time to be a writer.  The desire has always been there, lurking but aside from this blog and a few random pieces that nobody but I have read, being a writer – a professional paid writer – seemed a distant dream.  Sometimes we just have to take the leap, especially when we’ve run out of excuses.

I did it.  I woke up.  I took the leap.  I signed up on a freelance writing site and dove…hard.  I’m submitting proposals for every job I’m interested in and for which I’m qualified.  I’ve been at this for about 2 weeks, give or take a day.  I’ve secured 3 contracts.  There have been hiccups as is expected with any new endeavor.  That’s okay.  I call those hiccups “learning experiences.”

I’ve a few suggestions if you’re interested in freelance work.  Tidbits I’ve learned during my so far short career as a freelancer.

1.  Be prepared for rejection.  It will happen.  If it does happen, that’s okay.  Assume that wasn’t the right job for you and move on.

2.  If you choose to sign up on a freelance writing site, read the policies CAREFULLY.  Understand fully the ins and outs of how the site works and what they expect from you and the clients who might hire you.  The terms of the site are set up to protect you so don’t ignore them.

3.  Get organized.  Secret:  I’m not.  Not at all.  I have multiple legal pads with outlines,  I’ve got to make a run to Office Max for more post-it notes, pens are running out of ink, nothing is in one place, my hours are weird, I’m not sleeping well or long, I’m not eating right and in general my organization at the moment can only be described as “WTF?  A bomb went off in here or what?”  That not only applies to my workspace but my brain, as well.  I’m focusing on different projects with different topics and to say my thought process is scrambled is an understatement.  I’ll get it together.  My writing isn’t suffering but my advice to you is to get it together BEFORE you start writing.  Have a plan.

4.  Quiet the little voices in your head.  You know those voices (I call them Little Bitches) who attempt to cause doubt?  The ones that make you question every single word you write telling you they aren’t good enough?  That you aren’t good enough?  Shut those Little Bitches down.  QUICK.  They are evil and they are wrong.

5.  Write for yourself.  The most important thing writers should remember is at the end of the day, we are the ones who need to be happy with our work.  Yes, we may be writing for a company website or composing articles for a publication and yes, we want our clients to be 100% satisfied with our work but really, when it’s all said and done, we must be happy with our work.  We need to feel good about what we’ve written.

6.  Don’t overload yourself.  In other words, don’t be me.  I’m taking on whatever contract I can get.  I’ve got 4 articles that must be written by tomorrow.  I’ve got proposals waiting to grow up to be contracts.  I know me well enough to know I will take on everything I’m offered even if it means I’m working (too) many jobs at once.  I don’t care.  It happens that I’m rather skilled at multi-tasking.  Having multiple jobs doesn’t inhibit my ability to focus on what I’m writing.  But I will become frazzled.  I will get grouchy.  I will not sleep and forget to eat.  I will also love every second of it so unless you thrive in chaos, do yourself a favor and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

7.  When in doubt, ask questions.  If you feel unsure about a client, do not hesitate to investigate on your own.  Check out their website or blog, search Google for reviews of their business, ask the client direct questions and at the end of that if you’re still unsure or don’t feel comfortable with an offer, move on.  Intuition is key.  Listen.

8.  Don’t be afraid to negotiate terms of payment.  Some clients will pay by the hour, some pay by the job, some pay by the word.  Decide how you want to be paid.  Do your homework.  Research what other freelancers charge for their work.  Obviously, if you’re a “newbie” you can’t expect to make the big bucks but you can certainly expect to be paid what you’re worth.  Don’t undersell yourself.

9.  Pay for nothing.  If a client approaches you and says you must pay for a product or pay for the opportunity to write for them, just say no.  Those types of shady folks are out there so beware.

10.  Have a comfortable place to work.  I’m so struggling with this right now.  I am not comfortable in any place I sit so I’m constantly moving and it’s disruptive.  I’m having to use my bedroom as an office space and let me tell you, there is simply no room for both.  The other problem I’m having is I’m hot all the time.  I’m old, there are hot flashes from Hell.  I’m most comfortable sitting directly in front of the window AC but doing that means rearranging…well, rearranging a lot.  It’s a pain in my butt.  I am making it work but it isn’t ideal so set-up your work space before you start taking on jobs.  You’ll be glad you did.

11.  Take classes.  Update yourself on the latest Internet jargon.  Understand SEO.  Get a feel for basic marketing techniques.  Brush up on your grammar skills.  Free courses online are available.  Tons of them.  Take the time to educate yourself.  Learning should be a lifelong pursuit so take advantage of the freebies.  Alison is a great place to start but remember – Google is your friend.

12.  Don’t forget to write for yourself.  Don’t allow your own ideas and goals to get lost while writing for others.  Make time to continue writing for yourself.

13.  Build a portfolio.  Another secret:  I’ve not yet done this.  I need to work on it.  How does one build a portfolio, you ask?  Hard work.  Approach businesses you have some knowledge of or interest in and offer to write a blog post or maybe a newsletter for them, place an add on Fivver stating you’ll write an article or blog post in exchange for a good reference, maybe consider an add on Craigslist.  Don’t get sucked into huge projects.  You want a relatively small writing project to showcase your skills.  Make your expectations clear.  Write a letter to sell yourself, state your reasons for needing to build a portfolio and offer your services for free.  You really only need a few written pieces in your portfolio to begin your freelance career.  Once you establish yourself you then build your portfolio allowing you to seek out higher paying jobs.

Being a writer is about passion.  Passion for words, passion for seeing ideas come together to create a story, article or blog and passion for the very act of writing. Believe in what you’re doing.  Believe in yourself.  Make the committment and remember to own it – I AM A WRITER!  YOU ARE A WRITER!  We must claim it to be it.

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Comfort Zones…

You are reading a blog by the world’s worst Leaver of the Comfort Zone.  I am Queen of the Comfort Zone and I rule all that is comfortable and safe…for me.  Anything outside of my Comfort Zone is simply evil and must never be allowed in. 

What is a Comfort Zone?  Well to clarify, it’s simply a mental boundary we each set for ourselves.  It’s a place where we feel safe and secure.  It’s habit, it’s rut.  It’s sticking with relationships or circumstances that, while they may have lost purpose or real meaning (or so we’re told they have), we find comfort in them.  It’s that place where if we don’t leave it, people tell us we’ll never realize our full potential or make great things happen.  This may be true.  I don’t know.  I’ve not ventured out of mine long enough to find out.  Hell, just starting this blog and throwing myself out there for the world to see is enough stepping out to last me quite a while.  I mean, what you read is what you get when you know me.  I don’t hold back here and allowing my personal self to connect with the world is a giant leap out of my Comfort Zone, to be sure. 

I’m writing this particular blog because after yesterday’s rant over FJ and The Speech I began to think, really think about why I stay in this relationship.  I do love him.  That isn’t in question.  But lots of other things are and it hit me…I stay because I’m comfortable with him.  There is something in my brain that tells me I’m just too old to start over in a new relationship.  I’m not THAT old.  No reason to start digging a grave yet.  But I’m oldER and the idea of starting over with a new man, a new life seems quite taxing.  When I was younger that idea used to excite me and I had no qualms about throwing Dating Lisa out there and just going for it.  Now?  Eh.  I don’t want to have to “relearn” another man’s habits or quirks or speeches.  I don’t want to have to reteach mine either.  I can be difficult and bitchy and I’ve got some odd habits, a hard pill to swallow if you will, and the fact that I’ve a man in my life who didn’t run screaming is a big plus for me.   FJ and I fight something fierce sometimes but in the end we always work it out.  Always.  We’re good with compromise.  Once things settle we’re good at talking things out.  We’re honest with each other.  I value the hell out of honesty as I spent 11 years married to a man who could not tell the truth if his life depended on it.  Seriously…he could NOT do it.  His head may have wanted to but once his mouth opened, out spewed the most colorful and inventive stories I’ve ever heard.  So, I’ll give him credit for that…he wasn’t Uncle Remus but he could spin an intriguing tale like nobody’s business.  ANYWAY, as I was saying…FJ and I are comfortable with each other.  With that comfort comes happiness and safety, which I’ve not had in many years so why would I want to screw that up? 

My job…I love my job.  Both of them actually, but I do not strive to be a director or CIO or any of those high-powered titled people.  Why?  Because I’m comfortable with what I’m doing.  I’m comfortable with how my jobs fit into the life I have now.  I like the flexibility.  There could always be more money (I’m not going to stick in my current Poor Comfort  Zone if I don’t have to –  I’m not stupid or if I am stupid I’d rather be stupid on a nice vacation) but overall, I feel safe and secure with my work.  Why would I want to screw this up by stepping outside of my Zone? 

I keep asking “why would I want to screw this up?” because I’m not so sure that stepping out of our Zones is absolutely necessary to achieving happiness or realizing our full potential (I can say that because I’m happy and tucked away in my Zone right now).  But, those big giant leaps out of our Zones to bring on the major anxiety and discomfort?  Not necessary.  Life hands us opportunities to have to step outside our Zone almost every single day.  Does it not?  We get up each morning, we begin our routine, things go smoothly then BAM!  There is some unexpected Universe Out to Get Us Snafu that we have to cope with – outside our Zone.  So we deal with them and then continue on in our Zone.  Is it not more about our attitude and how we handle these snafus than it is about taking steps to disrupt or change what we’re already comfortable with? 

The truth is, and this may sound arrogant on my part although I don’t mean for it to be that way, I know my full potential and I know what I am capable of.  I can be or do anything I want (although a job as a contortionist circus freak is out – my body can’t bend that way anymore).  I know this about myself.  I’m confident enough to know if I set my mind to something I can do it.  Just because I don’t choose to go out and conquer the world doesn’t make me less of a person.  I’m happy where I am…I’m a Mom, a writer, a consultant for a major university, a part of management at Ghost Walk, a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister…I’m all of these things and more, and I’m perfectly okay with it.  None of this has lost meaning or purpose and none of this is in danger of doing so.  If we’re truly happy, why bring on upheaval and discomfort…ON PURPOSE?  I just see no reason for it.

Now lately, I’ve been going through this THING where I’ve felt the need to get out more and ” party.”  I seldom go out just for fun anymore, just to do things for me.  So it’s been bugging me a lot lately.  Last night, I marinated on that, as well and it hit me that I’d convinced myself I needed to “fit in” with others who seem to be constantly out and busy.  But the truth here I don’t really want that whole party thing and I’m busy enough.  What I do want and need is to just start doing things for myself that have value and will add value to my already Comfy Zone.  I need to be spending more quality time with my daughter, seeing my Daddy more, reading more (bookaholic here), writing more, taking myself out to breakfast every now and then before work for some alone time, drawing (I SUCK at it but nonetheless I find it relaxing).  It’s these kinds of things I’m missing and need to be doing, not the whole partying and hanging out with a bunch of people.  Uh…that was SO 20 years ago!  So, let’s face it…I’m going against the grain here, bucking every psychiatrist theory that stepping out of the Zone is necessary and I’ll just add to my already existing Happy Place.  God, I’m such a rebel!

Personal Opinion:  It’s okay to stay within your Comfort Zone.  It really is.  Expect those Universal Snafus I mentioned earlier and remain calm when they happen.  Use those as a way to better yourself and let them be learning experiences for yourself.  Don’t feel you must leave your Zone to change things just because someone else tells you to.  If you’re happy then just BE HAPPY.  Isn’t this world tough enough already without making it harder on ourselves?  I think it is!  So to all of you who are happy in your Comfort Zone and see no reason to rock the boat…KUDOS!  This blog is dedicated to all of you who are comfortable being comfortable! 

State of Denial – It’s a Great Place to Visit, But…

Good morning friends!

I’ve been slack in my blogging the past few days.  No real reason other than I’ve been so focused on my work with Ghost Walk’s magazine, Haunted Path, that I’ve left myself time for little else.  Notice how I’m throwing in links to this stuff?  Pretty sneaky huh?  Hope you all check ’em out – Ghost Walk does good work!  Oh, and just FYI – I am the Acting Editor-in-Chief of our magazine so if you have a good ghost story you’d like to share & possibly have published, hit me up!  You can send me an email to lsummerlin@ghostwalkproductions.com.

Ok, enough of that.  Let’s get down to the reason for this blog…

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs how I often find inspiration when reading the White Bison Elder’s Meditation emails I get daily.  Today is no different.  Here it is…

“If people are going to get back into balance, one of the things they have to do is seek the truth. They have to start really speaking the truth themselves, and that’s a difficult thing to do. The way it is now in the world, we don’t mind lying.” ~John Peters (Slow Turtle), WAMPANOAG

Oh wait…this is actually yesterday’s Meditation, but the date is insignificant.  It’s the message I want to talk about.

How many of us do this?  I could not be more guilty of it if my name were Guilty Guilterson.  Seriously.  To clarify, I don’t spend my time lying to others because it is a trait I despise, but I do lie to myself.  Which leads me to wonder – why is it wrong to lie to others but okay to lie to ourselves?  It’s not.  Not even a little.  If we’re going to live our lives being honest we might as well go whole hog with it and face up to it when we’re dishonest with ourselves.

There are things about me, about my life, about my habits that I don’t like.  And to be REALLY honest, I’m horrible about living in that great state of Denial.  I spend ridiculous amounts of time there and I think it’s because I just expect, somewhere in the back of my brain, that things will just fix themselves by some miraculous Divine Intervention and then I have to do nothing at all.  WRONG.  See, we can pray all day and night for our Higher Power to fix things for us but if we’re not willing to do the work and we’re not prepared to go through what it takes to get us to what we’ve prayed for then we can’t really expect a damn thing and part of that means telling ourselves the truth.

For example:  one of the things I do not like about myself is my lack of time management.  It’s a simple thing really and could technically be easily changed.  I’ve found myself so busy these days and I’m just going through life, whistlin’ a little tune (not really – I can’t whistle), thinking “Oh, it’ll all work out.  I’ll get done what I can.  Tomorrow is a new day. I’ve got lots of time.”  BIG FAT LIE.  We have no idea how much time we actually do have and since I’m no “Seer of the Future” what the hell do I know?  The answer to that is nothing.  So when I have those lucid moments of realizing I am lying to myself about being gripped, I go through this long mental debate about what I need to do to make the change and balance my time more wisely.  See, I’m a terrible procrastinator.  I’ve turned it into an art form, seriously.  If there were a degree for it, I’d  have a Master’s.  Probably even a Doctorate.  Lisa Summerlin, PhD of Procrastination.  That’s me.  What does all of this mean?  It means I need to STOP lying to myself about things magically getting done on time and I need to GET A GRIP.  I can sit here and look all kickass in this blog about how I’m facing the truth about myself right here, right now, but the actual act of not lying to myself about my terrible habit on a daily basis?  That’s the real kicker. 

My point in all of this is if there is something you don’t love about yourself or your situation, wouldn’t it be easier if we all just faced it, dealt with it, and moved on?  It’s not fun to live life not being honest with ourselves.  It’s a tremendous stressor, at least it is for me, so I wonder if it gets to everyone else the same way.  I’ve got heavy duty issues I’m dealing with right now as well that I am not facing up to like my divorce and this one is killing me. 

My husband left my daughter and me about three years ago.  No warning and no reason.  Just left.  I spent a long time convincing myself he would come back home.  He’d had a heart attack and he was just going through some of his own personal crap and when he felt better, he’d be back.  The truth of that is I still, to this day, have no idea why he really left.  I never will.  Only he knows that and because he’s a compulsive liar, I’ll likely never really know what went on in his head.  He and I talk often and he says he regrets it, but I’m looking around and I don’t see him here so…he must not regret it too damn much.  Yet, I am STILL struggling to make myself file the divorce.  Part of it is a money issue in the sense that I don’t have any and attorneys don’t work for free.  But then I find excuses like I’ll wait just a bit longer because he might come home for our daughter, or he still loves me because he says it so I’ll try and hang on to that.  LIES, LIES, LIES.  The hardest part of all of this is admitting to myself that I just don’t love him anymore.  I’m not sure when I came to that realization and it wasn’t some kind of mind-blowing, stop me in my tracks moment, but I know now that I don’t love him.  I know I can never trust him again and if we want to go a step further, I know now I could never really trust him to begin with.  So see, I’m facing up to some of it.  I’m being honest with myself about parts of this, but not all of it.  That’s what I mean about going “whole hog” with this honesty thing.  Trust me when I say I have NO trouble at all being honest with him about how I feel and what I think.  I’ve got a mouth on me that won’t quit, but when it comes to being honest with myself, I don’t quite have it all together.  Anyway, this year is my year.  I’ll figure out someway to get the divorce done and I’ll FINALLY move on with that part of my life.  No doubt when it is over and done with, I’ll feel a huge burden has been lifted off of me.

So, that’s my biggy.  What’s yours?  What is one thing you have been lying to yourself about that requires your immediate attention?  To be a tad cliche’, it’s a new year so it’s a time for new beginnings right?  Let’s all make a deal that we’ll figure out the one thing we’ve spent the most time lying to ourselves about and let’s just stop doing it.  Let’s face that Monster in our Mental Closet, unleash that beast and let him go!  Or her…you could be a dude and your Closet Monster could be a her.  Whichever – let’s conquer that thing!

Today is a new day so take a bit of time to reflect on whatever it is you’ve not been honest to yourself about and decide to face up to it.  We’ve all got something we must deal with so let’s buck up and deal with it!

Have a great Tuesday!