Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Writing for a Living - Entry-Level

Enough about Twitter! I’m actually here to share some of what I’ve learned during the past 17 years I’ve been writing professionally.

I started my career after graduating college... OK, that’s leaving a lot out. First, I held a series of jobs I found seriously unrewarding (telemarketer, secretary/receptionist, front desk clerk, and house reinspector among them—no offense to anyone who holds these positions. They just weren’t for me.).

To escape the madness of my career-going-nowhere, I enrolled in a Master’s degree program in literature. Not being all that interested in literature, I was unmotivated to actually earn the degree and realized by the end of the first semester that I had to change my situation. After class one day, I went downtown to the newspaper office and asked if they were hiring. The answer was yes—
and I got the job.

I had no real interest in news, newspapers, or newspaper writing either. But I did want to write and this was a way to write and earn a living at the same time. For a year, I wrote to nightly deadlines five or six days a week. I wrote on all sorts of topics: zebra mussels, school board meetings, house fires, fashion, criminal cases, politics, etc. Not all of these topics spoke to me personally, but it was one of the best jobs I ever had, for both personal and professional development.

What can you learn from my meandering experience? Hopefully this:

•    Writing every day and sticking to deadlines is good practice for a writer. It doesn’t really matter what you choose to write or what you get paid to write.

•    Learning about writing doesn’t have to cost money. With the right entry-level job, you can hone skills while earning money instead. (Too bad I didn’t learn this one before investing in that degree I never got.)

•    People are always saying, “Write what you know.” Writing what you don’t know can be rewarding, interesting and lucrative, too. You just have to research. And learning new things makes writing much more exciting than typing on a computer has any right to be.

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