Taking My Words Back

writingI’ve come to an important conclusion in the last few days–not as huge as an epiphany, but pretty important nonetheless. I want to be done writing for other people. For years now, I’ve relied on my talent as a writer to freelance from home for all sorts of clients. I’ll admit that some of the work has been interesting, but more often than not, it’s been a total snoozefest. (I’ve still got a few clients,so if you’re one of them and you’re reading this, know that I’ve kept you because you fall into the former category and not the latter.)

I’m pretty sure that this is the most creative I’ve been in years, if not in my whole lifetime. My imagination is working overtime, and it’s spawned a new story idea and possible kids’ mystery series for 2nd and 3rd graders in just the last day. My nearly 11 year-old daughter and I have already started planning the series and have ideas for at least the first three books. It’s almost ridiculous how fertile my imagination has become, and it’s awesome to be nurturing hers as well.

Writing for other people is confining. When you take something that’s your passion and you’re forced to fit it to guidelines that are so arbitrary they change from day to day and week to week, it’s totally defeating. It’s soul crushing, really, and I wonder at having done it for a decade now. If it’s something familiar to me, it’s usually not too much heavy lifting to get the words down. If it’s something unfamiliar but interesting, I actually enjoy the research to get to the point where I can write intelligently about the topic. However, if it’s unfamiliar and uninteresting, the hourly rate I earn after I’m done with the procrastination component of the job and finally finish the writing is not nearly enough to make it worthwhile.

Writing for money is an interesting thing in this day and age. So many of the jobs that come across my inbox want a kingly writer for peasant’s pay. Seriously, too many companies aren’t looking for quality writing, but rather writing that drives the masses to websites to make purchases of some sort. Therefore, they take their job postings to countries where people are willing to write for less than a penny a word. Think about that pay rate: Although I write my blog for myself, imagine if somebody put a monetary value of $6 on this blog piece.

Would you work for that pittance? Would you undervalue your art for money? I won’t. I’ve learned over the years that you need to value yourself and keep your valuation commensurate with your skills and experience. Otherwise, you run the very real risk of becoming your own worst enemy. If somebody was thinking of paying you $25/hour but you bid $10/hour for the job, they’re not going to offer you the extra $15/hour out of the goodness of their heart. (Actually, I have a client who is paying me 4x the rate I suggested, but I’ve worked with him for years and he’s obviously a rather generous exception to the rule.)

Lately, I’ve had some clients who had been burned by writers who didn’t have English as their native language, and their writing was too stilted for the work the client needed done. These clients had finally come to the realization stated by the much-used adage: “You get what you pay for.” They were now looking to pay more-than-pittance rates in exchange for getting quality articles written the first time around.

I actually lost an editing gig after only a week because my editing showed the client how bad their writer was. Work that should have taken me 20 minutes to edit was taking me double that amount because there was so much to correct. Obviously, that was costing them more than they wanted to spend, so they decided to go back and reassess their writer. Yes, well. Good luck with that.

I’ve been joking with a dear friend of mine who recently bought a second house that we should go back to the patronage relationships of families like the de’ Medecis in Florence, who supported and commissioned artists such as Botticelli, Donatello, Raphael and da Vinci. I’d be happy to escape to her house in the country and write, uninterrupted, to my heart’s content.

Of course, I’ve still got little things to take care of around here, like schlepping the kids to various activities and walking the dog, so dreams are currently just that: dreams. Are the artist’s inclinations and the callings of life forever to be at odds? I hope and plan to strike a better balance soon, and let somebody else do the writing for others. I’ve got plenty of writing for myself to do these days.

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2 thoughts on “Taking My Words Back

  1. How did you get on lovely lady? I’ve been through a similar process lately and decided to stop writing reviews in exchange for products. I’m still happy to be commissioned, but only if the brand genuinely fits with my blog and they’re willing to pay me a decent amount 🙂

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  2. Well, it turned out to be mostly a bunch of pretentious twiddle-twaddle, though I really meant it at the time. I am more naturally an editor, so I’ve fallen back on that more. But I still do write for other people. And because of that, less for myself. It all needs to come down to discipline on my part…

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