With All Due Respect, My Critics Can Bite MeWell it doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that I'm feeling a little bit more combative than usual with this blog post. There are a few causes to this, and unlike most of my freelance writing blog posts, I don't even have a basic outline to this one, so this might turn into one of the all time classic ramblers. If that's the case, so be it. No one who's known me since college is likely to accuse me of being too quiet or keeping to myself too often :) As a quick warning - I generally try to refrain from swearing and crudeness, so if you're sensitive to this type of thing, might just want to skim parts of this lightly.
The first basis of this post is simple: I am not, and will NEVER be, embarrassed about being a freelance writer. To me writing is not some some type of dick measuring contest. If you think you're better than me, great. It really isn't my concern. If you've been published in one more magazine or in Chattanooga State Literary Magazine as opposed to the Chattanooga A&M Literary Magazine (I assumed these are made up - so no slight against Chattanooga State if they happen to exist - but maybe against A&M. I'll have to get back to you on that one), great. I'm happy for you. That's not being facetious.
Maybe it's having been around graduate school tool long and academics and creative writing programs, but I've never understood why so often it seems like people believe that individual success has to go hand in hand with tearing others down. I'm not saying all grad schools or creative writing programs are like this, nor all writers. But it does sadden me how often I've run into this, and that every close friend I have who has been through writing and writing programs has been through the same thing.
So recently I've heard from a couple people from my grad school past whom I hadn't heard from in years, and really didn't care to. This wasn't the sole catalyst of my rant, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I have no idea how they got a hold of my e-mail address, or why everyone was in a fighting mood, but there are a lot of things in my life people can trash and I just don't care. It's not worth my time to be angry or upset or to lose piece of mind over the bitterness of other people.
That been said, I've wanted to be a writer since I was three years old, when I could first read and write. Yes, you read that right, I was three when I could read and start writing. I've always loved the written word in ALL of its forms, and I refuse to accept any criticism saying what I do is inferior to what anyone else is doing.
I'm not ashamed of being a writer, or having wrote simple articles for online websites. I get paid for my words. People find value in what I write. Even beyond this, I make a living as a freelance writer. A living. I don't make a penny because I have the "right politics" and I don't make a penny because I "know the right people." No one's butt gets kissed, I don't have to sell out my values (I get to turn down any job I simply don't want to do) and above all I get paid for writing. Not teaching.
IMPORTANT POINT: I am in no way, shape, or form bashing teaching. Teaching is one of the most important jobs anyone can do, and a good teacher changes the world - as does a bad one. That said, if you're trashing my writing while making a living teaching (and not writing), then yes, I'm going to take that shot at you because the subject is writing. Do you make a living writing? If not, then be very careful taking a shot at my words, because I MAKE A LIVING WRITING. So you better be able to back up the accusations before trashing my words. This is not a dig on teaching, but at writing teachers who feel privileged to look down on us "lowly" freelancers.
Aside from making a living from my words by freelance writing, there are several reasons why I find being an online freelance writer rewarding. For one, my words aren't read by 20 random people who may or may not pick up a copy of an obscure literary journal. My "views" count from just one website I write on is over one million. That's right, in two years ONE MILLION PEOPLE have read my work online. This isn't including the stuff I've wrote that was ghost written. It may not be Stephen King, but my writing has been read by over a million people. No matter how you try to explain that down, it doesn't change the fact that my words have apparently been seen as pretty useful or worthy by a whole hell of a lot more people than those who still trash me to this day.
Another reason I'm proud to be a freelance writer is simple: it's hard. Yes, given the choice I'd rather write fiction, screen plays, poetry, and other creative writing and get paid full time. That said, being as good a writer as I know I am, I wouldn't give up on freelancing and I would never give up writing online. There's a deep satisfaction from actually being able to talk to my readers through comments, help others get started writing online, and help to change other lives for the better. In addition to this, I've helped shape the online world of the Internet. I find this to be cool. There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of phrases you can type on Google that will bring back an article I either wrote or ghost wrote on page one of the search results.
Beyond this, I don't buy the argument that creative writing is somehow "higher" than freelance writing, or that basic Internet writing is beneath any "good writer." To give my belief on this opinion, I'll quote Homer Simpson: "Bull Plop."
This is crap. If you want to believe that creative writing is a higher form of art, then fine. I have no problem with that very specific statement and description: because the majority of time it will be true. That said, a good creative writer isn't necessarily better than a freelance writer. So I don't buy the crap about that writing being inherently better. I've been paid for my fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and freelance writing. Creative writing is different than freelance writing - but it's not inherently any better.
Case in point: it's hard for even good creative writers to get published BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM! There are many great fiction writers out there, many great poets, many great screen writers. Very few of them can actually make a living writing. If there weren't many great writers, it wouldn't be hard for creative writers to get published. Good creative writers are not a rare breed.
Truly good freelance writers are. Only 16% of writers make enough money from writing alone to be above the poverty line (roughly $10,000). I've never fallen below this amount, and beat it by several thousand even in my first year writing, when I had no idea what I was doing, no money to invest in my burgeoning writing business, no writing portfolio, no references, and no mentors to help me. In addition to this fact, the competition for writing jobs has never been fiercer, never been filled with more wannabe mediocre writers, and never filled with more just plain average writers. Even worse: when measured in "real dollars," comparing the value of rates from then to now, rates have dropped OVER 50% since the 1960s.
So if you're in the top 16% of freelance writers in the world, you're doing damn well. I've been there now for four years and counting, and have made as much as $45,000 in a year. I could have made a lot more, but I enjoy freedom of time more than income, and spent my days and weeks accordingly.
Not bad for a "talentless hack," is it?
Most of the writers I've met through college and grad school simply could not do what I do. At least not as well. This might seem like a strange thing to say on a freelance writing blog trying to help others out on the same road, but it's true.
In some ways it's because certain parts of a college, and especially a graduate school, education get in the way. They teach you writing skills, but not the skills that translate into making a living as a freelance writer. What I've said in other blog posts is true: if you work, work, work, and then work some more, you can learn to be a decent enough freelance writer to make a living at it. This is especially true if you learn how to pursue passive and residual income.
That said, since the criticism is coming from former people who I met in grad school, that's where I'm shooting back. And I'll be perfectly freaking blunt to the two who managed to get my goat:
You can't do what I do when it comes to freelance writing.
That's all there is to it. Deal with it. Or read my blog and use it to prove me wrong. Whatever. The second part of my argument with these two is pretty simple:
One of you has nearly thirty years on me as far as publishing creative writing. I'll catch up. The other hasn't published that much more than me. If your book gets published, congrats. I mean that. Getting a book published is really difficult. My novel, "My Brother's Keeper" has twelve rejection letters with detailed hand written comments. Which also begs the question, at what point does the pile become more impressive than getting published?
But this also brings up another reason why I won't be ashamed of being a freelance writer: because this job has proved to me that I can be a published creative writer.
Well two of my favorite freelancing jobs of all time included ghost writing two fictional novels from two outlines and getting them into "publishable shape." Because of the NDA I signed, I can never reveal the titles of these two novels. But I can tell you that both were published, and I smiled widely when I can go to the book store, pick one up, and see my words in print. Yeah, it's not the same as getting my own published, but two books I've authored have been published.
And my graduate school thesis is getting mighty freaking close.
I'm a creative writer and I'm a freelance writer. I can say by income alone that I'm in the top 10% of pure freelance writers in the world. I'm also one of the most flexible freelance writers out there. I've been told by one client I'm the best press release writer they ever had. Another loved my sales letter. Several have told me my content articles are as good as any they've ever received from freelance writers. I have over 20 ghost written e-books that continue to be sold online. There isn't a lot of writing I haven't done at one point or another.
And things are going to continue to get better. There's always a demand for good writing, and as my learning and polishing of my craft continues, I'm only going to get better. Why should I be satisfied with being in the top 10% of freelance writers in the world when I can be in the top 1%? The pursuit continues.
But I will not be ashamed of being a freelance writer. This has opened doors for me as a radio guest on several shows, sharing expertise on topics that include Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, the American education system, Fascism, dystopias, and the Coen Brothers. I've had lunch with millionaires, traveled all over North America, and even received a personal thank you note from a King. Yes, as in a royal title. Probably the best amazing story I have to tell.
What do I have to be ashamed of?
I'm one of the best in the world at what I do, and I'm getting better. So in the end, those who want to trash my writing can say what they want - but let me Bible thump with "Wisdom is proven right by her children." I have plenty of creative writing (fiction, poetry, & non-fiction) published, and I've been paid for all three. Ghost written novels are in print that have my words on shelves in different bookstores across the country. I've even been published in an International arts magazine.
Oh, and as for my creative writing being that of a talentless hack: my 3rd year in grad school, who was the grad student who won the Alaska short story competition and was the only grad student to even place in the poetry contest (3rd)? Oh, yeah, it was the talentless hack who makes a living as the freelance writer and has this blog.
Last shot across the bow: Amazing how in the first year of blind judging I went from never being mentioned to rocking the world, isn't it?
The one other reason for this rant: ignore comment trolls who leave comments talking about everyone writing for less than $20-$25 an hour being losers or hacks. They're idiots and liars who amazingly never have a website to link back to in order to check their back story. I've almost always found that writers who do make full time livings writing aren't egotistical self serving jack asses, they tend to be good people who want to help out beginners.
So I should probably wrap up with something helpful. The number one rule to freelance writing is still the same: get started now. The second rule to freelance writing is this: ignore the trolls, ignore the naysayers, and ignore all the jerks who want to tear you down and destroy you. Unfortunately, there are many people like that in the world. Ignore them.
Or write a blog post destroying their pitiful rhetorical arguments.
Both are good :)
Next time my blog post will be more helpful with freelance writing tips. That I promise...although maybe not quite as entertaining. Everyone take care, take a deep breath, and do one thing today to get you closer to your goals and dreams. Always do one actionable thing to get one step closer to your goals and dreams.