Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Freedom of Freelance Writing: Outdoor Offices

My front yard has been dubbed "The Redneck Internet Cafe" by a neighbor. The title fits. We embrace it.

 My Redneck Internet Cafe

The disreputable shop table often holds three laptops, assorted tiller parts and fishing reel guts. It's a comfy space graced by some of my potted flowers and jovial company. A true testimony to the freedom and portability of being a freelance writer.

An outdoor office space can allow a writer to escape the confines - real and mental - of four unchanging walls. The colors of nature and activity in the street help me feel stimulated and connected to the world in a way that an indoor office never did.

It helps set a relaxed tone for more informal writing, like blogging or opinion pieces. I feel more creative and brainstorm story ideas better outdoors. Maybe it's the fresh air invigorating my brain. 

I don't do well writing structured, in-depth, articles out here. Those require more concentration than listening to chatter or a tiller starting for the 50th time allows. Then I just pick up my laptop and move my office to the backyard or indoors. Ahh...freedom.

 Photos by Tamara McRill

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some Writing Rejections Hurt Less--Thankfully

There it was sitting innocently in my inbox, the reply to my FanHouse NFL pre-season coverage application. Slightly excited, I open the email. Meh. Rejection.

As far as form letter writing rejections go, the note was pleasant. It stated that the site was likely to go with staff writers, instead of through applications. (I read this as the cream of the crop may get the gig.) They will keep my resume on file (I hope they really do) and will use it to evaluate me for other opportunities (again, fingers crossed). I will be updated of further opportunities. (The cynic in me guesses this will be via Seed assignment listings, but I could be wrong.) All-in-all a personable rejection that listed reasons and left a glimmer of hope. LOVE that.

Did this rejection bum me out? Sure. They always do, for about 2.5 minutes. Okay, slightly longer than that. I did receive the news Tuesday morning and waited a couple days to post on it. It's been said time and again, but you need to develop layers of thick skin as a writer.  These layers are often papered with the many rejections you are likely to get. You learn to be slightly thankful for the nice ones.

By nice rejections I don't just mean the polite "we're going in a different direction." I include any rejections that include specifics. No writer is perfect for every gig or assignment they apply for, just as an article won't jive with every publication it's pitched to. When an editor takes the time to point out how you or your article doesn't fit, internalize and learn from that advice.

Listen to any critiques on style or voice. This can help you as a writer and gives you better guidelines to go by, if you choose to query the publication again. If missing the gig is a matter of too little experience, you know where the bar is set and have something to reach for. Nice rejections can be turned into positive lessons in your writing career.

Photo by GoBuggyGo/

Friday, July 9, 2010

Is Junk Spilling Into Your Writing Space?

My Desk Has Been Buried

Every random odd and end seems to find it's way into my writing space. Doesn't matter if it's a corner of  the living room or my temporary office. If it can be stacked, tossed or haphazardly piled above my head, it will be. It's not even just the fiance's fault. I'm guilty too.

That's what stopped my fuming when my temporary office became storage for everything stashed in the rooms we tore off. How can I complain, when I don't respect my own writing space?  Let's face it--I know that the mess will distract me from writing. I'm well aware that unearthing my desk eats into productive writing time.

I have to stop minimizing the place where I write. Yes, it's a super convenient location for switching laundry loads and feeding the dogs on break. That doesn't make my workspace any less designated or money generating than any other business office.

So I will have to respect my writing space and keep it clean, organized and productive.

What's the messiest space you've ever had to write in?

Could You Write in this Mess?

Photos by Tamara McRill

Lazarus Potentially Useful for Online Writers

Firefox Add-On that Resurrects Lost Writing in Article Templates

In tonight's gorge of follow-the-next-link reading, I spotted a post about Lazarus. Lazarus is a form entry data saver add-on for Firefox users. It can recover typing lost in forms due to the server crashing, hitting the wrong button, etc.

I had to immediately check this app out!

I have yet to use an online publishing template that hasn't at some point glitched an article away. The logical advice would be to not type directly into the template. But sometimes as a writer deadline pressures loom and I just open the darned thing and start pecking away.

Installing Lazarus took a couple mouse clicks and a Firefox restart. The add-on is free, but there is an option to donate money.

I headed over to my Associated Content account to see how this bad boy would work. Starting a new article template, I filled in the title, description and article fields. Without saving, I clicked my 'Account' button. Then hitting 'Back,' my now blank publishing template was displayed.

A right click in the title field gave me the option to Recover Text (my title was listed next to this). I chose my title and Lazarus filled in all three missing fields! (Title, description and article.) Pretty sure I heard angels singing.

There was a little bit of a let down when I left the article-again without saving-and went to access it from the content tab. (Article was saved as incomplete.) Lazarus was unable to resurrect any of my writing this way. BUT - if I hit the 'Back' button until arriving at the original template opening, the app was able to fill in my text.

Next time I hit an article-eating glitch I'll post an update on whether Lazarus was able to come to my rescue.

Lazarus   Photo originally uploaded by Art-Visionary/

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Writer's Resumes: Do You Have More Than One?

Having recently spiffed up my sports writer/editor resume to apply for AOL's NFL gig brought to mind all the resumes I've tweaked throughout my writing career. I have crafted separate resumes that concentrate on news reporting, feature writing, newspaper experience, online content, sports, health and more. It's a necessary part of landing many writing gigs - showing each company how well a position fits.

The facts are all the same, it's what I choose to emphasize on each that varies. Does a sports site care that I'm a crafting maven, passionate about fashion, obsessed with politics, versed in geriatric diets or a DIY home renovator? Probably not. My years spent making deadline, covering games and interviewing athletes and coaches? That's the meat they're looking for.

Don't make an editor/client have to wonder if you have any experience or strengths that qualify you for the job. Emphasize that you do. Address in your resume how you meet all the qualifications or risk being filed away for good.

Even if you have periods of employment doing something other than writing, think how that position uses a skill needed for the job you are applying for. Did you meet constant deadlines? In charge of gathering information? An expert on that subject? You never know which bit of employment history will make you stand out and get the gig.

Photo by a curious queen /

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Writing Life

Writing Without Glasses? Not So Much... 

Vanity can be the bane of productivity. In order to be a productive freelance writer, actually seeing what is on the computer screen is vital to submitting any writing. 

Pretty simple, right? Yeah, well, not if you normally wear contacts and abhor eyeglasses. I get excellent points for toddling off periodically and purchasing contacts. The plan always is to buy glasses sometime...later. 

Sooner would have been better. Falling asleep on the couch typically involves taking out my contacts and giving them a good saline rinse. Except when I woke up this morning I discovered the saline was empty. An attempt to put on my trusty taped glasses resulted in a lens falling into the sink drain.  

After a lengthy rescue effort (involving pink straws, electrical tape and a tea spoon) I was able to put them on. And couldn't read a thing. Eight years of violent wear and tear had finally finished them. 

Now that I think about it, I'm fairly sure I was subconsciously trying to annihilate those glasses. I've always hated how they looked and reacted to my sensitive skin. Crimes committed against my eye wear were many. They've been slept on, stepped on, crushed between bed and wall, dropped down many holes, imprisoned in sofa cushions and tortured by my puppy's teeth.

Anyways, back to writing productivity. It was well after 4 p.m. when I managed to secure contact solution. A whole day of writing literally down the drain. As a writer I back up my work, buy duplicate office supplies, have a home phone in case the cell doesn't work and even have a backup computer. None of which matters if I can't see to actually use any of it. 

Photo by mexcast / flickr

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Fire Again: Hot 500 June 2010

My Associated Content profile will be sporting flames for another month! I made the Hot 500 for June 2010. The badge is given out monthly to the site's top 500 writers, based on page views. A separate badge is given to the top 100 contributors.

Since the honor is based on page views, let's see how I did. In May I made the Hot 500 with 30,040 page views and no articles published that month. For June I hauled in about 31,000 views, with two articles published. A negligible difference, but still pretty much passive income.

AC June 2010 Hot 100 writers to check out:

saul relative - frequent News Contributor, with excellent coverage on the progress of the 2010 unemployment extension.
Carol Bengle Gilbert - brings a unique angle to news stories, also interesting travel stories. Featured Local, Travel, Education and Green Contributor.

AC June 2010 Hot 500 writers worth following:

R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen - featured health and wellness contributor who interweaves medical facts with personal experience.Also featured in Local and Education.
Angie Mohr - delicious regional recipes and helpful business tips. Featured A&E, Business &Finance and Food & Wine Contributor.

Photo by nekodoken/


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