Will Write for Pretzel Chips

10:00 AM

I bring home the bacon (or the hummus) with a day job that involves writing. It also involves organizing Dropbox folders, running errands to the tech support lab, and watching "Man on a Buffalo" with the coolest office mates ever. But I've mostly been writing. I've got a stack of articles shuffling between my boss and me, edited, re-edited, re-typed, recirculated, and none of them published yet.

Here's what I'm learning with writing for a living:

Revoke your sense of ownership.

Sometimes I get particularly attached to my writing or topic. I want to leave in certain phrases just so or excise unnecessary commas. It helps to remember that I'm not writing for myself, and I'm not writing the next bestseller (not that that's an indication of greatness, anyway). I'm writing for my company. I write the best I can within the parameters they set up. If a teensy bit of my writing style gets cramped, it's not the end of the world. I'm not going to become famous off my marketing writing. At least, I hope not. 

This makes a world a difference to my ego when my article comes back slashed up and crossed out and scribbled over. It's 85% my article, 15% theirs. I don't need to take edits as personally because I only own part of the finished product.

Let other people be brilliant for you.

It irked my conscience to insert my boss's edits verbatim into my article and then get my byline published with it. It also irked my pride that someone else came up with a cleaner wording for something I struggled to articulate. Then I got over it. It's absolutely NOT OKAY to borrow someone else's edits for an academic paper...but it's totally okay and totally necessary to include an editor's edits for work publication. 

It rocks, actually. I understand co-authoring books now. It's relieving to brainstorm with somebody else, to pick through the wording and the grammar together. Working with an editor so closely helps me write better too.

Don't rush the writing process.

Right now I'm writing a faculty spotlight piece. I vividly see the professor's story playing out in my mind, and I'm not a good enough writer to put that story into words. I've been working on a couple paragraphs a day until I get stuck. Then I just let it simmer in the back of my mind for the rest of the day.

This slow pace of writing made me feel guilty at first. I get paid by the hour to do something -- not to spin around in my twirly chair until inspiration hits. I felt lazy for hitting a wall every other sentence and feeling no motivation to continue that piece for the day. 

Here's what I'm learning: Just because I'm getting paid to write doesn't turn writing into a typical 9-to-5 desk job. It still requires creativity, time, and thinking space -- none of which abounds in an office. 

So I declutter Dropbox while waiting for inspiration to hit. And it does hit, in that magical, logical way that good ideas always do.

And that's how I earn money to buy pretzel chips.   

Have you earned money by writing?

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2 impressions

  1. Pretzel chips rock.

    I have to agree with "Don't rush the writing process". (And I can't help thinking of Mom's Night Out when the tattoo place's desk guy says, "You can't rush art.") I hate being forced to be creative. It's painful. (All poetry assignments I ever had to write, I'm looking at you!)

    1. Hahaha! I loved "Mom's Night Out." I don't know if I've ever been forced to write poetry, so I don't know how painful that would be. I do know my poetry is painful to read.....


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