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——– UPDATE!!! Do not fret, the Arty Runnerchick is still alive and kicking. I’ve been working on quite a few exciting projects which I will be sharing with you soon!
While that means I haven’t been able to update the blog as frequently as I’d like, I AM updating my INSTAGRAM page daily…so be sure to follow me there to catch everything there first! I’m also on Twitter
In case you’ve not checked it out, I’ve got new articles published on the WRITING page, particularly a lot under the RunBlogRun section.
To learn what I think. To preserve beautiful moments or images. To understand. To discover truths. To make children laugh inwardly. To give children somewhere to go. For the pleasure of arranging words as precisely as musical notes. To feel as though I'm discovering the story that pre-exists. To feel I'm receiving communications from something bigger. To remember. To go on an adventure. To make something that reflects my self. To contribute something positive. Because when I was eight I was told I did it well. To make something that goes beyond me. To make something that lasts after me.
Within every runner live the Yin Yang twins…the grinder and the ice-cream loving, sloth who lives to watch cartoons. We’ll call the latter the ‘recovery champ’.
While I jest, because it’s not just ice cream they love but pizza, donuts, burritos, french toast [insert runger fantasies here], there is truth to it.
In order to run hard you’ve got to allow your body to recover just as ‘hard.’ It often takes runners awhile to learn this, often the hard way. Typically everyone goes through the stage where they race every run, a run doesn’t count unless you’ve maxed out, right?! While this usually leads to improvement in the short term, eventually going hard every day will lead down the road of an injured, over-trained, mess.
Without adequate recovery you’ll be too tired to actually run fast. Easy days are important, as are other ways to speed up your recovery. In order to NAIL the days that count, your hard workouts and races, you’ve got to ensure your muscles are able to rebuild and repair themselves between hard sessions.
So there IS an excuse to laze around in your sweats and hit up a Netflix marathon. Recovery is more than just an easy day too, for most mortal runners of the world running isn’t your job so lifestyle choices and how you spend the non-running hours of your day will play a big role in your ability to recover.
Even for the elite runners, they are continually looking for ways to improve their recovery…because chances are there is ALWAYS room for improvement somewhere.
Take a look at your own habits and look for areas you know you could be better at. I’ve made a handy little checklist to give you some ideas of where to start:
* Make sure your easy days COUNT: rely on effort, don’t wear a watch if you have to, you should be able to hold a conversation between breathes on these runs. * Proper Workout Scheduling: every runner needs to learn their body and how many hard workouts they can handle in a week. As we age we need to learn how to adjust, that may mean turning your ‘week’ into a 10 day cycle. * Cross Training: I did a whole post HERE about how to maximize training if you know your body can’t handle too many running miles. Cross training on your easy days or as a ‘second run’ can help keep you healthy and allow for an ‘easier’ workout for recovery purposes. * 30 Minute Refuel: eat a combo of protein and carbs IMMEDIATELY after your runs…especially your hard workouts. Miss this window and recovery rates drop upwards of 60%. * Nutrition:eating to perform means opting for quality foods, timing them around when you run, and ensuring you get enough nutrients. This means protein, carbs, healthy fats, and overall enough calories to fuel your training demands. Eating to perform also means LIVING, if you’re training hard enough and want a freaking donut, you’ve earned it. Balance comes into play, so I’ll use the analogy of a silo. Fill your body with all the quality nutrients first, then any extra ‘energy demands’ needed to fill the rest of the silo should be up to you. A world without french toast is a dark one. * Self massage: whole post on that HERE, flush out that lactic acid, keep your body knot-free. * Hydrate: this is incredibly important regardless of the season, obviously hotter weather requires you to hydrate more and with electrolytes but even in a snow storm you’re losing moisture. Drinking after massage is also important to flush out all that ‘junk’ worked out of your muscles. * Stretching: tied into self-massage, stay loose, limber, and avoid injuries. * Time on Your Feet: it’s draining on your legs and energy-zapping, if your job requires you to do lots of ‘work’ know that you may need to adjust your training or learn how it affects you. * Time on your butt: yea it’s important to rest, BUT office jobs can lead to problems too…too much sitting leads to weak glutes, tight hamstrings, and reduced blood flow. Not good for recovery, so be sure to move around and at least walk around a bit between Netflix marathons. * Sleep: while I may leave this one for last, this is HUGE!! Sleep is when the body REALLY restores and repairs itself. Skimping on sleep will hamper your recovery, professional runners guard their sleep time and usually take naps too. Make sleep a priority. For those with sleeping problems and insomnia (ugh, join the party!) look for ways to improve the situation or figures out what can sometimes help. Restless nights add up to tired legs and eyebags.
I think that’s a solid list of ways to improve your recovery habits. Start cracking! To let that grinder perform at it’s best, that recovery-er needs to be doing it’s job right too!
New ART is listed and available for prints on my page there…restructured to make things a little easier. As always, anything not shown, email me a request and I’ll get you a print.
1) What are some ways you make recovery a priority?
Last week may have been New York Fashion Week, but the 2014 track season was Maggie Vessey’s Fashion statement.
No need to say more.
Vessey took the opportunity of being a ‘free agent’ to prove she’s got the creative talents to match her performance prowess on the track.
“I do want to draw attention to the sport and maybe give people who aren’t necessarily interested in track and field a reason to be interested,” Vessey told Runner’s World. “But it is a very authentic expression of who I am, and I now have this opportunity to be able to put that out there, be bold, and take a risk.”
To all those eating her fashionably savvy dust, heed the words: look good, feel good.
Many of my email mentoring clients have so many ideas and projects that when they try to decide what steps to take next, they feel stuck. There are so many actions they could be taking at any one time that they freak out — and do nothing.
I have the same problem, and one day Renegade Writer co-author Diana Burrell said to me, “Pick one thing and do it. It doesn’t matter what you pick — just pick something.”
I created a list of 50 action items that will move your freelance career forward, whether you have 5 minutes…30 minutes…an hour…or a whole day free. I then hired the graphic designer Azita Houshiar to create custom illustrations and design the checklist, so it is a pleasure to look at and use.
To use the checklist: Print it out, or keep it on your computer’s desktop. When you have some time, just go to the section that corresponds with how much time you have, randomly pick an item, and do it.
You’ll be one more step towards your freelance writing goals, and you’ll build forward momentum to help you get the next step done, and the next.
To get your free checklist, fill out the form on this page…it will take about six seconds:
Note: If you are already a member of my mailing list — the one where you get Monday Motivations for Writers emails — I’ll be sending you a copy of the checklist, so you won’t need to fill out the form.
I love what Sally Bergesen, founder of Oiselle, recently posted HERE. Fashion is chasing us. Atfter all the original leggings were running tights I’m sure.
Run. Life. Fashion
I couldn’t be more on-board with this, at last the fashion mavens and my world intersect. Would it too brazen to say that my runnerchick friends and I helped cause this shift with our #SweatsintheCity movement? Possibly, probably, but who cares?
But outside of comfort, may I tell you that for me, running clothes represent much more than a fashion statement. The love runs much deeper.
Running makes me feel special. It’s not the only thing, but it sure does make me feel special. No matter what happens in a day, if I’ve gotten my run on I feel accomplished. Most ‘regular’ people flee from discomfort, I run towards it, embrace it because it’s a test.
I wear my running shorts in public and they are a token reminder that I worked that day.
Running has introduced me to my best friends, opened me up to an entire community of people that, without even knowing them or needing to say a word to them…we GET each other.
The running shirt I’m wearing feels especially fashionable after a hard workout. I want to eke out every second of the feeling that comes with pushing my body.
Running gives me focus. Creativity. The best ideas always come to me on my run, or the loose thoughts finally connect.
My running shoes are more comfortable than heels.
#SweatsintheCity may have moved to the bona-fide runway, but unlike the thin legged models, fashion moguls, or masses of those donning these duds purely because it’s now ‘cool’ to do so…I, WE, are not posers.
My fashion is legit. Because within these running shirts, tanks, shoes, beat the hearts of real runners. With legs that could crush a runway.
This begins my venture into adding more performance-based designs to the line. You already love the cozy, uber-soft Ezzere shirts that are great at wicking moisture…these sleek new shirts kick it up a notch. These babies are meant to REALLY do work…get you all the way to race day, toeing the line looking fierce and strong, motivate you to dig to the finish…then in true #SweatsintheCity style rock them the whole day after.
I know what you want: To get more freelance writing jobs. And to earn good money doing what you love. And to enjoy the freedom that comes with controlling your own career.
That’s nice — but guess what? Editors don’t care what you want.
All editors care about is that you make their jobs — and their lives — as easy as possible. And for you, that means going beyond turning in great work on time. (Turning in great work on time is the bare minimum requirement.)
If you want to keep raking in the freelance writing gigs, you need to be freaking epic. You need to go waaaaaay beyond what the hordes of other freelance writers are doing.
Here’s how to level it up – and get more work:
Give Without Getting
Everyone loves a surprise freebie. What little extra can you offer your editor clients, without going broke yourself?
How about this: When you come across some news tidbit or research study you think would be perfect for a particular publication, but don’t want to pitch it yourself, send it to the editor anyway. Tell him, “I found this study I thought you’d be interested in. Hope you find it useful for X magazine!”
Or maybe you’re working on an article and come across some information that is important, but doesn’t quite fit in the piece. Write it up as a quick sidebar, and tell the editor, “I had some extra information, so I wrote up a sidebar you can use if you have room. Hope you like it!”
With some creativity, you’ll find many easy, painless ways to offer little extras to your clients. That puts you ahead of all those writers who turn in an article and call it a day.
Get the Best (Not the Easiest!) Interview Sources
Too many writers pick the first expert sources that come to mind: They go for people they already happen to know, like local professionals. “I need to interview a podiatrist? Hey, there’s one on my street!” Or they send out a HARO request and choose from among the people who respond.
When I recently wrote an article for a national health magazine on pet health, I needed to find two expert sources. Of course, I have a local vet who is great. But instead of going the easy route, I called a national veterinary organization and gave the PR rep my exact specifications: I wanted one male and one female vet from different areas of the country — and they needed to have a published book through a traditional publisher or work at a well-known veterinary hospital.
I got exactly what I wanted.
My editor did not ask for these requirements; I just knew these would be the very best sources and would impress the heck out of her.
When you’re on the search for sources for your articles, think of who would be the absolute best person to interview. You may think they’re out of your league, but you won’t know until you ask — and often, you’ll be surprised.
Push Your Style
If you can write in a clear, readable style, that probably puts you in the top 25% of freelance writers out there. But where you really create value and become epic is in bringing an amazing style to everything you write.
When I write an article, in my final edit, I go over every sentence and ask myself, “Is this the best possible way to express this idea? Is there any way I can make it more concise/interesting/entertaining?”
Writing for magazines (and copywriting, by the way) is about more than conveying ideas to readers in grammatically correct sentences. You need to do it in a way that entertains and keeps them interested as well. The perfect turn of phrase, the (truly) humorous aside, the killer lede — these are the things that keep readers — and editors — coming back.
So the next time you write an article, or a query, go over it one last time and make sure every sentence is as tight and compelling as it can be.
Don’t be one of the many writers who say, “I turned in an article on time. My sentences are grammatically correct. The end. Next!” Push yourself to be freaking epic and you’ll be rewarded with epic assignments in turn.
How about you: What do YOU do to level it up in your writing and business? What have editors’ responses been? Let us know in the Comments below!
Being patient sucks. Waiting for what we want isn’t fun, but the reality is that often times we are forced to wait. Even more often is it that rushing things will ultimately leave us more frustrated in the long term.
As runners, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could just lace up and make our next race/workout/run a PR? If only, right?! The natural tendency to want those faster times and better fitness TODAY is the breeding ground for injuries, overtraining, and slowed progress. Beautiful irony there, right?
Every runner has been guilty of it, and hey, some things you just have to learn yourself the hard way. (Sometimes a few times to really NAIL that lesson home.) Being patient sucks…but we need to learn to embrace it.
Yikes. Where’s the spoonful of sugar to wash that down? Well that comes when you actually ARE patient and watch your goals materialize…eventually.
The sweetest victories only come after enough struggle and work, after all.
Convincing yourself to wait it out and be patient is tough and often an on-going battle. Incidentally a large part of being able to stay patient comes from confidence. How so?
Being patient means BELIEVING in yourself, what you’re doing, and the process. A runner who lacks confidence is the one who tends to rush things, an example of that is going out way too fast in a race. It takes MORE confidence and patience to go out controlled and then pick up the pace, and close fast. A runner who tries to ‘make a buffer’ by going out too fast is subconsciously affirming they are going to slow down. See how that’s not a good way to think? It takes more confidence to be patience, wait, and then respond to your competitors (or go faster) as the race progresses.
New runners can be a little less than confident in their abilities as they venture into a new sport. That’s natural, but it’s dangerous to go into information overload and want to do EVERYTHING and anything they read about training and incorporate it right away. This usually leaves them injured or too sore/tired that they lose any desire to continue running.
Even if you’ve been a runner for years and years, it’s quite easy to fall into the same trap of wanting to add in XYZ all at the same time…to rush the process. You know what, the same road leads to the same place.
Avoiding injuries and reaching your best takes time. Waiting is hard and it can suck at times, but if you try and rush things too fast it will, in the end, it will suck even more. (nightmares of time off or on the cross trainer missing your race should help keep you patient. )
There really ARE tons of training elements to keep you improving and progressing through the years. This should be exciting news, it’s just imperative not to rush things.
I will say that the BEST way to stay patient and keep yourself honest on the right track (in the moment it can be REALLY hard sometimes to know you need to be patient) is to a have a coach. If not a coach then at least an educated source or training group to bounce things off of. Today it’s important to recognize the source of the training advice you’re getting and if it’s actually got merit.
Being patient can suck in the moment, but eventually it is oh so sweet.
1) How do you remind yourself to stay patient when you really don’t want to wait?
2) What keeps you honest/patient when it comes to your training?
3) When is an instance where NOT being patient made things much worse for you?
A non-runner complains about a stomach ache, a runner doesn’t start complaining until they are projectile vomiting. But the reason that runner’s complaining is probably because it’s in the middle of a long run and they NEED to keep that gel/drink down because they need the energy, not because it hurts.
Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone is the only way to keep growing as a person, as an athlete, as a runner. In FORCING yourself to push, you’re setting yourself up to achieve more. The beautiful thing is that whether you wind up hitting XXX goal or not (if there’s not the danger of failing then you’re not setting high enough goals!) you’ll no doubt have improved in some way. You’ll have made progress.
The journey to progress is just as important as the end results.
Now I said it was a beautiful thing, fancy that, discomfort being beautiful. It may yield beauty but living through it is hard, painful, grueling at times.
Discomfort tests us. But when you open yourself UP to that feeling of discomfort you’ll discover that it DOES get easier. And you’ll be inching your threshold to withstand discomfort ever forward.
Running teaches us so much about life, and one of the strongest lessons is that, yes, we are much more resilient and tough than our minds want us to believe.
It’s a coping mechanism, our brains don’t really like feeling uncomfortable. So we have to just trick it, PUSH, and force it to keep going.
Pushing yourself to step outside your comfort level in running can be achieve in a myriad of ways outside of hard workouts. Test your range and set your sights on a short and fast 5k instead of a marathon. Improve your flexibility and REALLY start stretching, build your neuromuscular system to be more responsive and reactive with drills. All of the above may leave you feeling awkward, out of place, frustrated even…but that’s good. Stick with it and eventually things will get less uncomfortable.
You’ll wind up getting faster and becoming a more balance, performance-driven runner.
Apply that to life. Learn a new skill, be prepared to feel like a total idiot at first and BE OKAY with it. A runner’s natural tendency is to want to be the best, but you have to start somewhere. Be CONFIDENT enough to accept you very well may suck, and be SECURE enough to ask for help. Ask others to teach you. Then learn.
Finally, life and running will test you in ways you didn’t actively seek out. You’ll be pushED rather than be the one pushing. That’s scarier because you feel out of control on top of it. But you know what, discomfort is discomfort and the same rules apply.
Know that you are stronger than you are wont to believe. Embrace the discomfort and keep moving forward. You will survive, progress will come.
And at the end of the day you have the peace of mind in knowing, “I can handle it, I’m a runner for crying out loud!”
I challenge you: How will you step out of your comfort level?
In my current WIP, I want to up the action and make this a physically exciting story. So, I bought a great ebook, Action! Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques by Ian Thomas Healy. It’s great, as I said, and breaks down the actions into easy components that can be easily mastered. Even for me, it’s easy.
Healy says that great action scenes put characters into motion and the “effective description of that motion is what makes the difference. . .”
I get that part. But here’s what stumps me: “At its most basic level, an action scene is an expression of plot or character development through violence.”
Violence. As in people hitting each other, shooting at each other, killing each other. Yep. That kind of physical violence.
It’s been a long, long time since I was in a knock-down drag-out fight. That was with my younger brother when I was about 15, and we were fighting about whether the overhead light was on or off while we watched TV. I never had the chance to play football, which is a pure Show-Don’t-Tell version of testosterone. When my daughters played soccer, I cringed when they played tea party on the field: Oh, you have the ball? Well, take your turn and when you are finished, I’ll take my turn. Teaching aggression (much less violence) to young ladies is hard.
Our society trains women to avoid violence. We teach our daughters aggression now on a soccer field, but step off the field and it’s tea party time again. Women writers are at a disadvantage in writing action scenes.
Because Healy says that a great action scene needs violence.
Heck, I can’t even work up a good case of Road Rage.
Motivation. The hardest thing for me is to motivate the characters. I can block out the action and get the characters fighting. I’ve seen enough action movies to be able to do it. (Go watch The Transformers latest movie if you want non-stop violence. Wow. It must take up 75% of that movie.)
But WHY are these characters resorting to violence? (See, even our language makes it hard to use violence: “resort” implies that violence is a last option and the choice to use it is not easy.) Why would the characters use fists, swords, guns or other weapons against someone else? Healy helps with blocking out the sequences of actions and building them into longer sequences. But he says little about the character motivations.
In one sense, this is an escalating of tensions. Almost any motivation would work: revenge, for example, could easily escalate into violence. Two rivals for a fortune in gold could escalate an argument into violence and death. For violence to take place, there’s a line that needs to be crossed. Polite society demands that people restrain themselves, and that self-control must break for your characters, shoving them into a no-holds-barred action. Violence. It’s an escalation and it’s a letting go of social restraints. It’s a willingness to take action and a determination to get something done—no matter what.
Sounds like a good way to increase the tension and stakes in a story. Yes, often action stories are physical stories, without much in the way of characterization. You’ve heard it said that you either write an action story or you write a character story. A cross-pollination though, could create an intriguing mix. This time, I’m shooting for a story with better balance between action and character.
Cinematic. In some ways, this mix will be more cinematic. The sights and sounds of the action are crucial to the success of the scene. And yes, as I am writing, I am trying to visualize the actions in my head; I’m trying to see it as if it is on the big screen. Healy’s title is right on, violence—action scenes—are cinematic.
Thanks to Healy’s advice, I am making lists of what he calls “stunts,” or isolated pieces of actions, that will build into “engagements,” or movement across a setting, which will ultimately build toward some climactic “resolution.” I am taking baby steps in building a chapter with interesting action, um, violence.
Look out. I’m strapping on my boxing gloves, er, getting ready to type the next chapter of this new action-adventure story.
Nothing unites complete strangers more than discovering they are both, in fact, injured runners. Because let’s be honest, no one REALLY understands the agony us runners go through when we’re deprived of our ‘fix’. Miles give us endorphins, take those out of the equation and you do the math. It sucks.
Run long enough and you’ll get injured. It’s a fact. Darn these humanoid bodies not quite engineered to put up with everything we want them to do in training and racing. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of ways we can limit our injuries, and yes, us runners can be quite stupid sometimes in getting ourselves injured, but at a certain point you will get injured despite doing everything you can do right.
But don’t think of that last line as a free pass to just go willy nilly, throw all caution to the wind then, when you do wind up hurt, pretend you have no clue why. Let’s start with the stupid:
• Denial: Oh we’re the queens and kings of denial, us runners. “It’s not really that bad, it doesn’t hurt that much” thought as we hobble around the house in search of more ice. • Grimace Face: We know running hurts, but when every stride sends a shooting pain (which you’re of course denying exists) your face gets twisted into a grimace that would make Frankenstein look beautiful. • Random Prayers: You go to bed praying you’ll wake up and magically everything will just go away. No other logic there but a runner clinging to any shred of hope. • Eff It, I Can Finish: Said during any run or workout, you’ve denied the shooting pains for as long as possible, somehow still believing that if you just muster on through this run, get done, things will still be peachy keen.
Clearly we all have to learn from our stupid mistakes. We’ve all been there, hopefully the older we get the wiser we get. Because let’s be honest, denial doesn’t change the situation.
Over the stupid, here are the proactive: • Self-massage: Runners if you’re not in a love/hate relationship with your foam roller, I urge you to get cozy with it. Give him or her a name even. • Stretch: Static and dynamic stretching post run. • Core and Strength:Strengthening your core and WHOLE body to limit the compensation issues resulting from weak muscle groups. • Ice, Smart, Recovery, Etc: You know the drill there. • Form Work: Ties right into strength, run more efficiently and you’ll be doing less wear and tear on your body.
I’d like to take a minute to emphasize that if you’re not doing some kind of core or strengthening routine you’re not addressing issues that WILL eventually get you injured. Not a single runner in the world pops out perfectly balanced and with perfect biomechanics. Most runners have tight hips and weak glutes, just two major issues that cause many a runner heartache come injury time. What’s more is there tends to be a little too much emphasis on stretching alone. YES you need to stretch, but save some of that time for core work because you can’t stretch away a weak muscle group if you get my gist. I’m not talking about hitting the weight room like a Jersey Shore’r (a little dated reference but I was watching a comedy earlier that did a bit on that so it’s on my mind), and in fact many of the most effective exercises for runners can be done with bodyweight or with a swiss ball. I did some posts HERE with some of those.
Crash Course: Mentally Surviving an Injury
Back on topic. So you do your preventative but like I said injuries will occur. When you’re laid up you’ll most likely experience a few emotions. • Rage: Like wanting to literally rip off your leg just so you can smash it against a wall, infuriated that ‘it’ let you down. • Remorse: I abstain from the word depression, but it’s like a hair away. • Anxiety: Is this going to EVER end? Will I EVER be able to run without pain, ever? Getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and you sorta ‘test’ jog down the hall, “Crap! Still hurts!” • Envy: Oh that lovely runner envy. Daydreaming about hopping out of your car and slapping in the face the person you see running down the street. It’s not something to be proud of, but every injured runner thinks it. • Rage: Yea, you circle on back to rage.
I blame it on the lack of ‘proper’ endorphins for our crazy train ride of emotions and THESE are the things that our family and friends tend to have a hard time grappling with. To every runner who’s gotten, “But it’s just running” and you have to literally hold your arm down from punching that person in the face…yea, that’s a normal runner reaction.
The thing is, while I like to joke and jest and be comedic about Runner Rage (it’s totally legit and an excuse that I think should hold up in court, “Sorry, I’m not fully in control of my actions, I’m a runner who’s not able to run at the moment”) I’m also the first person to say this:
“Force that positivity down. Choke it down and keep it there. Fake it.”
Yup! That’s the only way to get through an injury. You keep yourself OUT of that depressive and overly-anxious mindset because if you don’t you’ll stay right there…stuck.
How I deal with Runner Rage is making fun of myself and being sarcastic. Rather be laughing than wallowing in sadness. What also helps is to feel proactive during your recovery meaning: cross train, core, massage, find out where your weaknesses are and target them. Come up with a recovery plan and start the execution. The other really important thing is:
Take it ONE day at a time.
Think only through the day. Because thinking of weeks and weeks of the elliptical or bike is, well, depressing, right? So just get through the day.
And there is always this: you’re not alone. There are other injured runners out there. And there are non-injured runners who know EXACTLY how you feel and what you’re going through and they sympathize and are sending you heal up fast vibes!
Last spring a writer (let’s call her Jill) emailed me that she was pitching a profile of me to a UK writing magazine — and would I be available for an interview?
Here’s how the conversation went:
I’m interested in interviewing you for [magazine]. If you are agreeable, I’d need to ask you a few questions in order to prepare my pitch.
Hi, Jill! Did you want to ask your questions via email or phone?
I live in Australia, Linda, and find email is simplest because of the different time zones.
Will just ask a few questions to start with. If my editor at [magazine] likes the proposal, I’ll be in touch again. If he’s already accepted something similar, I’d like to pitch the interview to [two other magazines] if you’re happy with that.
Here goes -
* You list Redbook, Woman’s Day, Family Circle and Writers’ Digest as magazines you’ve sold to. I’m wondering how many you’ve sold to each. What’s the most number of commissions you’ve had from any one magazine that you’ve broken into by initially breaking rules?
* Are there any rules you definitely wouldn’t break?
* What’s the most daring way you’ve broken a rule and gained a commission?
How many magazines have you broken into by breaking rules?
[I answer all the questions, which takes about 300 words.]
My editor at [Magazine] is interested in the interview. I’ll need to slant it to UK writers subbing internationally, and also point out if any of the advice is wrong for the UK market. [Following are 11 questions, many of which are actually composed of two or three separate questions.]
Hi, Jill! That’s good news!
This is a LOT of writing. Can we do a phone interview? I’m available outside of business hours since we’re in opposite time zones.
I’ve been thinking what the best way to proceed might be, Linda. I didn’t mean to swamp you with questions.
One thing I’m wondering is whether you’ve already written pieces that I could read and draw on, that might cover some of this.
Then perhaps we could Skype?
What are your thoughts?
I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to write or research for you on this project. I think you will be better off finding someone else to profile.
Okay, so what went wrong in this process?
Let me start off by saying that unless you are just looking for bare facts — data mining, basically — email interviews are less than ideal. I do them for a column where I’m asking for dates, prices, and workshop names for events, but in all other cases I rely on the phone.
But to be fair, I did give Jill the option, thinking there would be just a few questions. Instead she slammed me with 15+ questions (which actually ended up being more like 20 questions). I spent 300 words on the first set, and estimate it would have taken me another 1,200 words at the very least to answer the second set.
Hmm, does that sound to you like I’m writing an entire article?
Then, when I offered to make myself available at some weird time of the day to make it easy for this writer to do a phone interview, she responded by asking if I had ever written anything she could basically lift for her article. Because God forbid a writer should have to do an interview outside the 9-5, right? Much better to ask your source to spend a couple hours writing and researching your article for you.
It reminds me of the writer who interviewed me, and when I asked her to send me a link to the article when it went online, replied, “Oh, just Google your name and the name of the magazine and it should come up.” Um, no. I just took half an hour out of my workday talking to you for no benefit to myself so YOU can earn a few hundred bucks — you can spend 10 seconds emailing me a freaking link.
As a freelance writer, I have done interviews after my normal bedtime and before my usual wake time with people in opposite time zones. I have paid for a Skype phone number and added funds to be able to call overseas to people who don’t have Skype. And I ALWAYS let my sources know when an article I interviewed them for has been published, and try to get them a copy if it’s not available on the newsstands.
In short, I never put the onus on my sources to make it easier for me to do my job.
Too many would-be writers have the impression that freelance writing is a cakewalk — and when they find out to their horror that they have to do actual work, and that it (gasp!) may not be 100% convenient for them, they look for shortcuts.
I’ve earned up to $85,000 per year writing (and yes, this was before I started earning income from my classes) because, well, I worked my ass off. Freelance writing is a job. It’s not all sitting at cafes with a laptop and a cup of joe, typing away as the muse strikes. I really can’t fathom why any person would think that this is the world’s only job where you can put in little effort and reap great returns.
As a freelance writer, you need to put in the hours and shoe leather to get gigs, do great work, keep your clients happy, and deal with sources in a way that they’ll want to help you again in the future. In other words, it’s work.
Enough of the vent. How about you: Can you tell us about a time you went above and beyond in your freelance writing career? Or how about describing a time you dealt with a lazy writer? Let us know in the Comments below! [lf]
Long runs and long workouts tend to scare people. It can feel intimidating looking down the barrel of a double digit run or mulit-mile repeats. We’re distance runners, we love this stuff, but large quantities of miles (especially faster miles) still intimidate us.
Running and that mental component, can’t escape the mind games. Our bodies are apt to surprise us and prove our limit-setting minds wrong…BUT it’s a matter of pushing past the mind crap (doubts/fears/discomfort) before we can be ‘pleasantly’ surprised.
The best thing about running into new territory, be it your longest run, the most number of long intervals, or the most volume of hard running, they’re all scariest before you do them. Once you’ve conquered the best you’ve proven you’re capable of it and you get a new frame of reference.
Example: You’re afraid of running 10 miles because you’ve never run that far. You then run 10 miles and flash forward a few weeks and 10 miles doesn’t scare you at all. But 14 miles does…sooo, you run 14 miles and the cycle continues.
See how DOING something takes the fear out of it. Let’s up the ante.
You can run 10 miles but now you’re supposed to run them hard. EEK!!! New challenge. Time to fight through it:
4 Steps to Get Through the Grind
the first part is you gotta stop building the run or workout up into epic proportions. Say with me, “it’s just a workout (or race), all I can is my best, so that’s the goal.” Deflate some of that pressure and take the power away from the workout…give yourself the power by realizing that you’re going to give it your all and THAT is all that can be expected. Times are there for guidance and motivation to push…but you can’t let them put so much pressure on you that you implode.
2) Start: easy peasy, right? Funny how fear sort of get muted the second the gun sounds and you just START freaking running. It has a way of shutting your brain down for a bit or at least taking it down a few notches.
3) Segments: your runner-brain gets overloaded thinking about the WHOLE run (26.2 miles…holy crap!!!) so you break everything down into smaller segments. Think of it like a meal with a zillion courses if you have to. Get through the plate, the miles, the quarter mile, the repeat.
4) Fight and Lie: running isn’t easy and training is painful. You break it down into itty bitty ‘plates’ but even each bite is still hard. (can I push this metaphor any further?) You need to just cycle through the above three steps on repeat…relax, roll, be confident, be smooth…start, click the watch on that next interval and go, make it until you hear the magic Garmin beep of another mile and keep going…segment, make it 100 meters more, run until you pass that guy, stick like GLUE behind the person in front of you and don’t think how far the finish line is in front of you.
Doing all of the above is really a series of lies. The good lies that you use to ‘trick’ your limit-setting brain into proving itself wrong. Your body CAN keep going, you just have to fight like h*ll long enough to show yourself you can do it.
The cool thing is once you get through the grind you’ve just re-calibrated what’s ‘suuuper scary’. Whatever you just did won’t scare you so much next time…
The last few days my Adobe was acting up, legit like a two year old heck bent on crippling me. I couldn’t finish work that NEEDED to be done, I cursed the computer and slammed some fists. It had turned ME into a toddler. Hot mess.
Stress. Frustration. Anxiety. We can’t avoid it in life and we can’t avoid it in running either. There are ALWAYS going to be things totally out of our control. My tantrum wasn’t going to solve the computer issues, and neither is the wildest of fits going to cure a stress fracture. Sometimes sh*t just sucks but you NEED to deal.
In the moment that can feel impossible but our fast-paced lives have gotten to a point where the stress, anxiety, and frustrations churning through us are destroying us. Making us sick. Clearly even if you’re not on the verge of a stress induced heart-attack or breakdown, I dare say everyone and anyone has some sh*t going on that they would do well to unburden themselves with.
What do I mean by unburdening? You most likely can’t take away or change every situation, you can’t make money float down upon you or force so-and-so to get back to you with a quote that you NEED because your article deadline is hours away.
Unburdening can be more like shifting how YOU are dealing with the situation. Adjust and learn to let go. I’m sum it up:
Do EVERY single thing you can to control the situation and make it work how you’d like it to…from there, heed to the ‘que sera, sera’.
You get hurt, injuries come with the territory in running. Do what you can to reduce your risk but you can’t avoid them. Here are your three steps: 1) Throw your dang tantrum. You deserve it. But put a time limit on your baby breakdown. Ten minutes, a day max. 2) Get proactive. Shift to problem-solver mode (logic and reason side of the brain, move out of emotional/reactive side). Come up with a cross training and rehab routine. 3) Do it. Move through that routine and ONLY take it a day at a time. Don’t dwell on XXX weeks or months. Look at your rehab like taking your medicine…spoon full of sugar that crap down.
Bad Race or Workout
Also comes with the territory in running. Ironically the steps are eerily the same as above: 1) Mild upset is allowed. You deserve to be disappointed and that’s the same feeling that will motivate you to work harder next time. But don’t be a pouter, don’t be one of those jerks who ruins everyone else’s workout/race/day/etc. Cry on the inside like a champ. Haha. 2) Get proactive.Learn anything you can from the experience, is there a reason it was bad? Reassess your training if need be. 3) Move on. Keep on trucking. Some days your legs just don’t show up for whatever reason. Learn what you can the move forward.
Never let a bad workout or race turn you into a pessimist. That kind of perspective is what kills peoples’ passion and could ruin your love of running. No one wants that.
All that stress and anxiety [psst...don't get too nervous before races either, here's my post on that.] only makes things more of an uphill battle for you. So don’t make things worse on yourself. Unburden that sh*t.
Ironically, the more balanced and less stress you put on yourself in running the better you end up performing. There’s a little thing called over-thinking, My Friends.
Back to life because 99.9% of us aren’t running for our jobs. Which means our jobs and life events are brining us the most stress. [that extra stress will effect our running too...so if you're also wanting to run better you'll do well to unburden some life stress...logic holds there. Haha] But far too many of us let things that shouldn’t stress us out THAT much, well, stress us out THAT much.
I challenge you to let go of some little things. Lots of those things include wondering what someone else thinks about you OR complaining about someone else. A tip there, years ago I adopted the thing of not saying anything about someone else that I wouldn’t just say right to them. I’m a straight-shooter so rather than complain, isn’t it better to just go to the source and [strategically] say whatever you need to? Problem solved there.
Now for the curveballs and bigger things life will deal you often, we’ll circle back to what I suggested we do in running. Hey, like I say EVERYTHING circles back to running, right?! 1) Baby tantrums. You can be entitled to a fist pound on the laptop but put a time limit on yourself. 2) Proactive mode. Do EVERYTHING you can to set yourself for the best outcome. 3) Move the heck on. You can’t control lots of things in life, namely other people. So…”let it go.”
Stress makes you unhappy, it will also make your running harder. All the more reason to unburden some of that crap!
1) What is one little thing you’re going to unburden yourself with TODAY?
2) How do you handle BIG life stress?
3) Do you consider yourself a highly stressed and anxious person?
I had a fun dialogue with a friend and editor the other day:
“‘How to Train for a Marathon in 5 Minutes a Week’ and ‘Eat 20 Apples a Day to PR’ (clear exaggeration but you get the point). I know a lot of people like those types of articles but over the years I’ve have my fill.”
“Thank goodness you hate the ‘fluff crap’ kinda articles too. I die a little inside every time I’m asked to do one, writing that stuff makes my brain numb.”
There were more little barbs in there and witticisms but you get the picture. The ‘fluff’ crap; it’s all over the web and even in the magazines and websites ‘we’ us ‘real runners’ read and subscribe to. We can’t escape it and let’s be honest the masses are looking for a kind of ‘quick fix’. So, the headlines screaming BIG rewards LITTLE work draws people in. It sells. Websites and magazines are businesses after all, so even though I’m sure it kills a few editors and writers every.single.time they must do a ‘fluff crap’ article, they do it. Gotta put food on that table.
The thing is though, which ‘we’ ‘real runners’ know is:
* there’s no magic bullet
* no super secret way to getting better and stay fit
* eating an apple at 3:19pm to drop 30 seconds off your 5k PR aint gonna do it
The sufferfest that is training and racing…that probably wouldn’t be a magazine the general public would just LOVE reading about. Better to think that a protein smoothie with chia seeds is all that’s required and will do the trick. Training and all that stuff, well…that’s second tier, right?
The ‘training fluff crap’ I think actually parallels what writer, coach, sports nutritionist, and athlete Matt Fitzgerald, writes about in his latest book DIET CULTS. I literally devoured that read in two days so do check it out, I think most fitness minded folks will relate to a lot of what he’s saying and laugh because as athletes we’re able to ‘sniff out’ lots of the ‘diet fluff crap’ mainstream media and individuals try to get us to buy into. I will revisit this book later because I’ve got both an article on RunBlogRun coming out and after that is published do a review on this blog. So hold tight, but in the mean time check out DIET CULTS.
Getting back to the fitness and running ‘fluff’, I find that it really is only doing a disservice to the individuals who really are motivated or the ones just starting out in the sport. Coming to the realization that it’s hard work over really anything else is a learning curve all runners go through. Experience teaches us that.
Every single runner has their own journey, the progression of getting crazier and crazier more experienced and for lack of a better term ‘hardcore into’ our sport. That journey makes each runner who they are and it’s important to learn lots of those lessons yourself. At the same time, it’s a shame that falling into the misconception that certain foods or cramming 4 months of training into 2 weeks doing a run only every other Tuesday WILL make you a better runner. Because by hiding the truth you’re only stunting the progress of the runner who really does want to be their best.
Certainly the ‘fluff’ sells and the driven, self-motivated folks who are ‘real’ runners [I only define 'real' runners not based on speed at all, but in spirit and how motivated they are...if you're a runner you know it in your bones.] are the minority. But the numbers of runners are growing and it proves there are eager, motivated people looking to embark on their running journey.
Welcome to crazy town.
So here’s some straight shooting for you:
* It’s going to hurt.
* There’s no ‘secret’ to getting faster and staying fit.
* Motivation is your weapon, consistency reigns supreme.
* Patience sucks but it’s required.
* Learn that unnecessary suffering isn’t going to make you better. Oh running, filled with all those fine lines we must tread.
But here’s the BEST part: * There’s a sick sort of high and remarkable afterglow to that hurt when you’ve pushed through it.
* Nothing is more rewarding than watching yourself get faster and more fit.
* Realizing your body can DO things you never dreamed possible is far more satisfying than any pack of abs or what your vehicle of performance looks like.
* Running will effect, and improve you in all areas of life.
* Runners are tough as s*t.
It’s important to realize that clearly certain foods and a healthy diet will help your training, lifestyle adjustments (hello more sleep!) will too. But even a healthy diet with 10 hours a sleep at night is useless sans training. Take your ‘fluff’ and shove it. #run
Our minds are experts in construction. They will build up fences quicker than nobody’s business. It’s actually a survival method, the brain ‘thinks’ it’s looking after our best interest, keeping us safe by setting limits.
The problem is that this survival method is archaic and antiquated, most of the fence-building is stopping us from pushing ourselves in work or running rather than stopping us from trekking too far from our caves, getting lost, and gobbled up by a dinosaur.
In breaking down your fences you are freeing yourself. Because on the other side, THAT is where you can push yourself to your best. The other problem with fences is that they stop you from even dreaming, or imaging that something epic is ‘out there’ that YOU could possible accomplish THAT! Fences keep you safe, in a comfort zone, they also suck because they rob you of really feeling and experiencing.
We can easily relate this to running in a few ways:
1) Goals: if your goals aren’t big enough to scare you a bit, they should be bigger. That said, you should know that working towards something BIG is HARD. That’s the point, that’s what makes an accomplishment fulfilling though. Just don’t be fooled into thinking there won’t be times where you want to stop…that’s where true self-motivation and dedication is tested.
2) Going in over your head: everyone needs to be in the position of going in over their head, a few times, and get comfortable with the fact that, “Yea, I might bonk” because, “Yea, I might not bonk and break through to a new level.” There are times in races where you need to not look at the clock/watch/split and just race, get swept up in the faster group…this can be in workouts too.
Confidence is a funny thing for a runner, and the watch can do wonders for it but it can also sabotage you if you ‘think’ about it too much. Example: “Holy crap!!! We’re running XXX pace, I can’t hold this…what am I doing running with these people, I don’t belong here?!!” This runner can either be intimidated by the splits or check in with themselves and realize they were actually feeling fine until they freaked themselves out. They might blow up later, but they may not, they may have their best workout yet. Either way though, sometimes you need to just stick your neck out there, break the fence.
Important to note that, duh, you shouldn’t always go on some kamikaze mission in workouts and races. I mean, a 7 minute miler shouldn’t go workout with the 4 minute miler group…let’s be sane here. The point is that for the most part, runners DO need a little push every now and again to break through to the next level. Surrounding yourself by some faster people is a great way to do that. 3) Mental ‘fences’ pain signals: for runners the vast majority of fence building is stationed around hard workouts and races. Your brain wants to STOP pretty much the second you start…haha. Steve Magness wrote a really great post all about the brain, willpower, emotions, and how that relates to a runner’s mental toughness. It’s a long read but incredibly interesting, worth it, and touches on quite a few different points, tackling it from multiple angles.
He talks a lot about willpower and how fatigue is actually an emotional response rather than a physical one. Really interesting because when you think you’re ‘tired’ it’s really only your brain reacting, worrying that you’re GOING to be too tired later to finish and shouldn’t continue. He goes on with lots of ways a runner’s willpower and mental toughness to combat the pain signals from the brain are affected. Things that make us more easily swayed to stop rather than push.
Proper recovery like nutrition and sleep are two factors…another reason to think of your training in the big picture sense. But another big mental toughness inhibitor is stress. He phrases it more as using your willpower reserves up on less important matters, but the explanation is that your brain can really only handle so much. The more taxed your brain is going into a workout or race, the less it will perform. Read as: the weaker it goes into the race, the more likely you are to cave to its complaints to relent, slow down, or stop.
Go read his full article HERE because really, there’s so many interesting points that make you think. A runner’s mental toughness is something most all of us are fixated on because it’s not finite, it’s kind of like an intangible that’s hard to explain with science. But Magness is actually able to show how science is closing in on giving us some cool explanations and theories.
The bottom line is: Runners, scr*w those fences. Start breaking them down and in doing so you’ll find that’s where the truly epic sh*t lies.
The 2014 World Cup has begun!! Now here’s a fun fact, soccer was my first sport. Gosh how I loved it, I played for seven years and looked forward to every Saturday’s game (confession: the after-game snack a LOT too!) like nobody’s business. Why did I stop after seven years?? Enter exhibit A:
I sucked. Like I REALLY sucked. I can vividly remember scoring my first goal…mostly because it was my first and last. I don’t even have an excuse for one goal in seven years, like I played goalie or defense…nope, I was a forward and mid-fielder. Right where one with any iota of coordination would be set RIGHT up to score a goal.
Hey, at least I can own my suckiness. I know I can handle turning left and running in a straight line. So I stopped soccer when, totally honest here, the only team I could still make was the rec team. The qualifications for making the rec team is having your mom or dad write the $35 check to the community rec league. I was in junior high at the time, meaning my rec team would be all the 4th and 5th graders still too young for the Comp and Select teams.
That’s when my mommy-o suggested I try cross country. I thought it was a traveling team, “Cool!! I get to go touring around…I’ll bet I’ll find lots of fun new foods to try!” I though. Yea, even at that age it all comes back to foods and treats, right? I was in for a shock. No traveling done unless you run there. I got tripped pretty bad my first practice and later had to pick gravel out of scars I still have today.
i run…do the math.
My first race I spent hovering over a bush for about 15 minutes certain I’d barf. I didn’t, but my dad still has a picture of me hovering over the bush. The thing is though, I kinda liked it. I sucked at anything with ‘real’ coordination skills but I kinda liked that I could grimace in pain and pass some girl up a hill. I would like to also mention I sucked at running too. That girl I passed up the hill, maybe was the only girl I passed. Like I was slow, but in my mind I didn’t fully grasp 1) how slow I was 2) how HORRENDOUS my form was!! Gosh, even my mom in later years admitted, “Yea, I’ll never forget trying not to laugh the first time your little club coach saw you run and remarked that you looked crazy.”
I owned my crazy then and I own it now though! But hey, I stuck with this whole running thing. I do promise I kinda really hated it the first couple weeks, but I swear there was like this insane shift after you get past the ‘hump’ I call the hazing weeks. Basically once you become consistent enough to where your body and muscles don’t go into the shock of thinking, “Wait, she’s running…that must mean there’s a bear chasing her!!” resulting in unwalkable sorenesses the next day. Get past that and you’re golden.
Look at running, turning into about my favorite thing to do. Shall we just be thankful that I actually DID have a little too much pride to out-age my rec teammates by four years? Best $35 my mommy-o didn’t have to spend.
My latest on RunBlogRun: Phoebe Wright Can’t Be Stopped! <--- this is actually one h*ll of an inspiring story and she's HILARIOUS!! Read the story then check her blog and twitter feed!!
Talk about one cute chicker from the weekend!! This super fast runnerchick was the top female and 5th overall in just her first 5k!! Can you say natural born runnerchick?! At least her Ezzere Get Chicking Tee gave them a warning…keep on smoking those runnerboys.
1) What’s usually one of the last things you do RIGHT before the gun goes off?
Trail running makes you strong. It can also make you faster. “But wait,” you think, “I look down at my watch Garmin afterwards and the times are slower!” Ahhh…it all comes back to effort, My Dears, effort.
Hills take a LOAD more effort running up than running on the flats. #lessonfromcommonsense Haha. Force those legs of yours to put in the extra effort needed to get up those inclines thought and you’ll build power. Now a lesson in running mathematics:
Power = Strength = Speed
Blast up those hills and the second you take it to the track or flats, you’ll be thinking how much ‘easier’ it feels. This summer, take it to the trails (the right way) and you’ll come out stronger, faster, and ready to kick butt. It’s not just about ‘base building’ it’s about ‘power building’.
5 Ways to Do Your Power Building Trail Running RIGHT
1) Get Efficient:
You’re not doing hills right if you’re hunched over like Quasimodo. Hills make it even more important you hold proper form. Check out my post on form HERE and when taking it to the hills remember:
* Stand Up TALL: Keep that torso straight!
* Don’t Lean: Don’t lean too far into the hill, keep your center of gravity above your hips; your hips will naturally be SLIGHTLY leaning into the hill, but you should think in your mind about standing up straight because quite honestly you’ll probably ‘feel’ like you’re leaning WAY back behind you but in reality are where you need to be. Focus on staying upright.
* Shorten Stride: Keep the same effort running up the hill but shorten your stride. Focus on the faster turn-over and power up that hill!
2) Eyes Ahead: Keep your eyes focused on the top of the hill, you want to power all the way UP and THROUGH the crest. Too many runners make the mistake of powering up and stopping juuuuust short of the crest which means they lose all that momentum they worked SO hard for getting up. Run THROUGH the hill so you can use that momentum to power down it.
3) Blasts vs. Endurance: Just like track and flat speedwork, hill running workouts should be tailored to match the goal for the day’s workout. Short 10-30 second hill blasts can be thought of like plyometric work. It will REALLY build that base speed, it’s all fast twitch; so remember to take FULL recovery for short blasts, as is the law of the sprinters and taxing the anaerobic energy system. Longer hill repeats and doing tempo workouts on a hilly course will further build that endurance and strength so when you take it to the flats the same EFFORT will yield much faster times. It’s always cool to step from the hills to the track, look at the watch and surprise yourself, no?
4) Rolling and Exploring: Even doing your easy days on the trails will build power. Over time the ups and downs make you stronger; it’s important to keep your easy day EFFORT easy though so you’re still actually recovering. So again, ignore what the watch says and run for effort.
5) Downhill Running: It’s important to remember that everything that goes up, goes down. #duh Running downhill puts a lot of stress on the body and as any Boston Marathon runner can tell you downhills can REALLY do a number on those quads. Downhill running isn’t ‘easy peasy’ on the body. So if you’re training for a race with lots of downhills it’s smart to practice running downhill. If you’re prone to injury beware, because the extra pounding can cause knees and ankles to get cranky. Final tip on running downhill: don’t FIGHT it. Relax, let gravity help you, and don’t try to fight it…roll with it, Runner Babes.
So if you’re not sold on hills and exploring trails, and that they will make you faster, yet…just go to Instagram and check out some of those nature pix those avid trail runners are posting! The miles will fly by. Go out…explore, adventure, LOVE the run!
I am hard at work on an outline/synopsis sort of thingy for a new trilogy. I wish I could say it’s a true outline or synopsis, but I’m not an outliner. However, I’m not a panster either, to just start writing and write by the seat of my pants. I am a plan-ster, a person who halfway plans and then writes a while, and then plans again from the new and improved position halfway through the story.
While I’m outlining (term used loosely, as just explained), I am finding places where I am stuck. What happens next?
One word is changing things: Because.
My character argues with another BECAUSE. . .
By forcing myself to answer the BECAUSE question, I wind up going deeper into backstory, motivations and emotional depth. Why are they doing such and so? BECAUSE. . .
Backstory. Some of the because has to do with inventing backstory. This week, I found a villain that way. I knew Character V was acting up, but when I added the BECAUSE and started delving into V’s psychology and backstory, suddenly V took on a new–and much more interesting–role in the story. He became the antagonist, which I knew I needed, but I had been avoiding the work needed to figure it out. So, the BECAUSE work became a shortcut to finding out about a villain.
Motivations. For all the characters, the BECAUSE work meant I had to delve into the reasons for actions, the motivations. This deepened the story in important ways, even at this outline level. Partly, I am trying to find connections among characters and how they approach life at interesting tangents. As I worked on the BECAUSE answers, I made sure the answers weren’t clones, but held the possibility of interesting clashes.
Emotional Depth. This is saying the same thing as motivations in a different way, but it’s an important variation. Emotion is hard for me to pull into a story and planning for it up front is essential–or else my stories will be flat and revisions will be deadly. One question that helps here is, “Who hurts the most? X hurts the most BECAUSE. . .”
Fiction is about emotional conflict and how that conflict is resolved (or not). Generally, the person who hurts the most should be the main character. It’s not unusual to have to change the MC to a different character as you uncover and create the characters’ inner lives.
I am still stumbling around inside the ideas for this story. But one word is lighting a path toward actually writing a first draft: BECAUSE.
It can be scary to put yourself out there as a freelance writer.
“What if I screw up?” You ask yourself. “What if I make a mistake that ends my freelance career before it even starts?”
I have news for you: You will screw up. Royally.
But I promise you, it won’t be the end of your career.
Any (truthful) freelance writer will tell you that she’s made mistakes and lived to tell the tale. Some writing gurus like to put forth an image of utter perfection, but even the most published writer — if you gave him enough wine — has stories to spill about the times he’s messed up.
To show you how even massive goofs quickly become yesterday’s news, here are the top four mistakes I’ve made in my freelance writing career.
1. The Egregious Spelling Error
When I was starting out as a copywriter in the late 1990s, I wrote a sales letter to that proudly stated:
“I can spell zyzzygy, onomatopoeia, and Weltanschauung, and am one of the few people who knows the difference between it’s and its, you’re and your.”
I sent this out to oh, maybe 100 or 200 prospects via snail mail. And one day, I got an email from one of these prospects to let me know that the word is actually spelled syzygy.
* facepalm *
Man, did I turn red. I may have even tried to cover for myself in my return email. But the fact is, I bragged that I could spell a word that I couldn’t spell. I wasn’t even close.
And guess what? No one else seemed to notice. I went on to do copywriting for companies like Pizzeria Uno, Sprint, OnStar, Bay State Gas, Sarnafil Roofing, and Wainwright Bank.
2. The Worst Article Idea Ever
Way back when I first started pitching the national women’s magazines, I sent an idea to Family Circle and a few other publications called “Quik Dri Cheez: Why Advertisers Can’t Spell.” I promised to answer the pressing question of why advertisers and product creators routinely spelled product names in odd ways.
If you can’t see why this is a terrible idea for a women’s magazine, you need to stop reading now and sign up for my email list to get a free packet of 10 really good query letters — to see how much more spot on every one of those ideas is.
You’d think a doozy like that would inspire an editor to say “Please lose my email address.” But the more I pitched the better my ideas and queries got, and I ended up writing for Family Circle a dozen times.
3. The Embarrassing Query Subject Line
Once I read a great tip on how to format email subject lines for a query letter: Include the title of your query, the fact that you’re a freelance writer, and your name. That way, editors would be grabbed by your headline, understand you’re not a PR person, and be able to quickly find the query if it got lost by searching on your name.
What a great idea! I wanted to pitch an article on how to combat unpleasant body odors like bad breath and stinky feet, so I sent out a query with this headline:
Query from Freelance Writer: What’s That Smell? Linda Formichelli
As the email zapped off the screen I realized — too late — that it sounded like I, personally, was the thing making people wrinkle their noses in disgust.
Guess what? The article sold to Women’s Health.
4. The Time I Was Banned By a Magazine
Years ago, I read that if you wanted to write two articles about the same topic, in order for the pieces to legally be considered new, they had to be 10% different. That means when you rewrite an article, you have to make sure at least 10% f the copy was changed.
So when I wrote an article for a money magazine about the financial benefits of being healthy, and then reslanted it for a health magazine, I changed up the copy as much as I could and thought I was in the clear.
The first editor thought otherwise. Somehow he discovered that I had written a similar article for the health magazine, and accused me of sending him a “warmed over” version of a story I had already sold to someone else. He also made it clear I was no longer welcome to write for that magazine.
I was humiliated. How had that handy rule served me wrong? I lost a great client that day.
Now I know that when you write on a similar topic for two different magazines, every word of it needs to be different; you can’t reuse even a single phrase or quote.
I never did pitch that financial magazine again, but my career hasn’t suffered in the slightest. I felt embarrassed, apologized, and moved on. And here I am, still standing.
If you’re worried that you’ll make a mistake that will end your career, I hope these stories put your fears to rest. As long as you do your best, learn as you go along, and act like a professional, you can enjoy a long and lucrative freelance writing career. I made some scary-bad screw-ups and
How about you: What major mess-ups have you made in your freelance writing life, and how did they affect your career? Let us know in the comments below!
P.S. The Freelance Den — the learning and support community that helps freelance writers move up and earn more — is celebrating its 3rd anniversary this week! We’ll be opening to new members, and Carol Tice and I are offering a free Ask the Den Mothers Anything live call on Thursday at 3 pm EDT. We’ll be on the line as long as it takes to answer everyone’s questions. To be the first to know when the Den opens, and to get dial-in info for this call, join the Den waitlist now!