Writer Secrets Learned Over 10 Years of Life with Barefoot Writer
Hey, will you sit with me a minute?
This month, I’m celebrating 10 years of working as the Executive Editor of Barefoot Writer.
And I’ve learned some crazy things in those 10 years …
Some good things. Some unexpected.
Today, I want to share those lessons with you as we turn the page toward the New Year.
Hopefully they’ll shorten your learning curve … and give you some insight and peace of mind about this writing career you’re pursuing.
After interviewing over 350 working writers, editing over 530 pieces of editorial, gathering answers to 240 of our members most-pressing questions, connecting with thousands of new writers, and eating 120 pies along the way (it’s what I do on publication day) …
Here’s what I know for sure:
- That talent can be created. I thought I knew a few things about writing when I first started. But I didn’t, really. I’ve learned it all along the way. The same is true for every writer I’ve worked with. We’re all constantly learning, growing, and improving. Nobody’s born with natural copywriting chops.
- That persistence and a positive attitude win the day. This isn’t a me-me-me industry. It’s a try-try-again kind of world, where daily effort and a sunny outlook can get you further than any attempt at short-cutting or fast-tracking.
- That most all freelancing stresses can be resolved with a walk in the sunshine. From missed deadlines to files that won’t download to not knowing which next step to take, most of our writing woes exist in our heads. So give your head a break. Take a walk. Call a friend. And then tackle the problem with renewed perspective.
- That millionaires are normal people. They shop at Target. Have technical trouble on Zoom. And also love writing.
- That best-selling authors are normal people. They struggle with weight issues and temperamental teenagers. They’ve learned how to apply discipline to their professional goals. And also, they love writing.
- That genius gurus and mentors are, you guessed it, just normal people. They just maybe have a knack for speaking to large groups, or coaching, or coaxing. But get them to sit down at a table with you in the back of a coffee shop and you’ll discover that in fact, they still get nervous, still have doubts, and can’t find enough hours in the day to do everything they want.
- That it’s okay to fret that you’ve failed. I’ve gotten countless emails from writers worrying they’ve botched their futures for one reason or another. I’m happy to point out the silver linings, because they’re always there. There’s always a lesson, and most worries aren’t nearly as big as you initially make them out to be. I did this just yesterday and opened up to a client. She listened, showed me what’s going right, then shut down the shame with, “now get back to work.”
- That we are outliers. It’s tragically not normal to have as much freedom as we writers do, coupled with the ability to make as much money as we can, all while actually enjoying the work. Nobody else will ever fully get it, except maybe your spouse when he sees the checks rolling in and knows that on top of that, you rarely work a full day and have a blast on every project. “You’re not normal,” he’ll say, shaking his head in disbelief for the seven-hundredth time. But he’s happy because you’re happy and also, those checks.
- That money doesn’t have to change you. Through the course of my writing career, I’ve gone from holding debts to holding investments. I’ve seen writers I started with go from average to millionaire status. Yet at the core, we’re all the same. Happy to be doing something we love and making a living at it.
- That this world of writing opportunity isn’t going away — it’s getting bigger. I used to jump to report on this type of gig or that, worried that if we didn’t unveil it soon, it might go away. But you know what? No writing opportunity every really goes away. Maybe it evolves. Maybe it’s harder to see because of the dozen new types of writing projects that surface each year. But one thing’s for sure: The paid writing world is an ever-expanding phenomenon. Thank you, internet.
That working with excellent people can make you a better writer and smarter businessperson. Our longtime magazine designer, Mike Klassen, is a font of wisdom and kindness. Copyeditors Nan Hughes and Laurel Robinson have taught me volumes by way of appreciating details, not to mention the occasional corny grammar joke.
But my work with new writers — some in the midst of their very first projects — has also been enlightening. Each of you comes to the table with a unique viewpoint and particular way of telling your tales. You don’t have to be experienced or paid to be a giver in this business. Just be yourself. That’s already enough.
The last decade of working with copywriters and working as a copywriter has, for me, proven to be a long-term, full-satisfaction lifestyle career.
At the beginning, I just wanted to write. What fun! And get paid to boot? Count me in!
Now, though …
It’s become a means to helping the people I care most about to achieve their own dreams.
It’s a door into a world of fantastic colleagues and clients who refuse to settle for a template-lifestyle, who inspire me with their energy, ideas, and actionability.
It’s the guarantee of no regrets on my deathbed. I’ve gone after my dream. I’m doing something I love. I didn’t settle. And nobody is making me trade work time and income for family time and experiences. I call those shots. You can, too.
This writing career is also the reason I don’t speak up at dinner parties when everyone else starts grumping about their jobs and griping about their pay. I advise you to follow my lead. Sit quietly in your seat, nod to show you’re listening, and stick a well-placed “Mm-hmm” into the conversation every now and again.
Then tactfully change the subject to the weather. :)
Do you have any questions about how to get started with your writer’s life? Share with us in the comments so we can point you to more resources.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
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