Why recycling rocks

There! I can *finally* cross “hand-sew Barbie underpants” off my bucket list

My dad has always been an advocate for reusing, reducing and recycling.

He crushes cans and cartons before throwing them away, pops the bubble wrap, and breaks down cardboard boxes.

The man uses the backs of old receipts, old envelopes, and other scraps of paper to write notes and reminders on before recycling them.

He reuses boxes and plastic bags and even recently started a compost pile in the back yard.

It’s no surprise that I, his progeny, am also recycle-obsessed.

I reuse old clothes as fabric for crafting projects and hold onto the rest for use as costumes for my musical theater company. Like my father, I write all over scraps of paper before recycling them and break things down before throwing them away.

My husband and I recycle plastic, batteries, glass, paper, and compost. We borrow, acquire and buy used.

So, you can only imagine how thrilled I was when I realized that I could also recycle my writing.

How does that work? you ask.

When you write an article, you spend time interviewing and researching on a specific topic and then turn it into a piece to be used for a particular publication.

Instead of starting from scratch for the next writing assignment, take what you have and re-structure it to fit the needs of another publication.

For instance, I recently wrote an article on the use of the English language in the business world here in the Netherlands for an expat newspeper. I interviewed language specialists, language purists, and business people. The article earned me €50.

But I still had interview snippets and information that didn’t fit into the 700-word article. So, I rewrote the piece including new information and presenting the old information in a new way with new wording and sold it to an expat magazine for €160.

It took me perhaps 30 minutes to restructure, proofread, and edit that second article.

Instead of earning just €50 with the piece, I earned €210. Much better.

There are also a lot of pieces I wrote for non-paying sites and publications. Rather than letting them languish, making nothing, I can go back and re-write them for possible sale to other publications.

The same goes for my old blog posts. And any other article I’ve written in the past, am working on now, or may be writing in the future.

At the moment, I’m trying to resell an article on a fascinating topic that recently fell on my lap. A WWII bomber pilot shot down over Nazi occupied Holland was just reunited with the Jewish girl who lived with him in hiding 67 years later. All because the pilot’s son decided to record his father’s story in novel form.

I conducted the interviews, read the book, and did some research. The story has already been written up and published in one publication, but why leave it at that? I’ve done the work and the story deserves to be told in as many ways and for as many audiences as possible.

So, now the trick is to find other publications that might be interested and pitching the piece to them. Then I take a little time to tweak the information to make the story more specific to each publication and its audience and, voila, the article earns me more!

You take something old, re-work it and make it into something new that can be used again.

Yes, no matter how you look at it, recycling rocks.

Do you recycle your written work? How do you feel about recycling?

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Double Your Writing Income: Learn How

How I went from Demand Studios to better paying clients

This scene is a lot more satisfying when you’re making more than $15 an article

Hi, my name is Tiffany and I used to write for content mills. I know, I know. I should be ashamed of myself.

However, while content mills have a dirtied reputation, I don’t regret my time spent writing for them. I learned a lot, and I would recommend that any beginning writer struggling to gather the nerve to get started hit content mills first.

Demand Studios was my first paying job, and though I see now that the pay was terrible, back then, it was such an ego boost to see my wallet fattening up on account of my writing. Through DS, I also learned about SEO, writing with a specific word count to set guidelines under a deadline, working with an editor, and matching relevant photos to my articles.

It also showed me that my writing was good enough to earn an income. With this new-found confidence, I began pitching other publications. And, thanks to DS, I had clips to pitch with.

I mixed my DS efforts with free writing for non-profits and eventually made my way to publication in magazines and newspapers, all of which pay more than three times what I got from DS. Then I discovered paid blogging and creating web content. Soon it became clear that I was wasting my time on content mills.

My main reason for holding onto my “job” at DS was because of my position. I’m an American living in the Netherlands. With that being the case, I run into a few problems most freelancers don’t have.

For one, my Dutch is not good enough that I can get work writing for Dutch companies. This means I’m stuck with English language publications, and there aren’t too many of those. I write for almost all of them and it’s simply not enough to make a living.

My Dutch is good enough for Dutch-to-English translations, though, so my next step was to try to captialize that skill.

Freelance powerhouse Carol Tice often recommends cold-calling small businesses to get work writing for them. But the majority of small businesses here are Dutch-speaking and don’t need or want English content. The larger companies hire professional translators and expat entrepreneurs don’t typically have the budget to pay writers for content, so my opportunities are slim.

As a result, I’ve found a market writing for magazines. I freelance for publications in the Netherlands, the UK, and the US.

When you’re a writer living overseas, you need to really market yourself and exhaust all your resources. My first step is to use my connections from publications I already write for. I always ask fellow contributors about their writing careers and they’ve been more than willing to share the other markets they dabbled in. Editors have been extremely helpful in passing along names of other editors and publications, often recommending me to them as a writer.

I also subscribe to newsletters like Funds for Writers, Writers Weekly, and European Writer, and do frequent job searches on MediaBistro. The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, published annually, also covers agents and publications in Australia, the UK, and the US.

Most of my work comes from interest generated via LinkedIn, Twitter, and my blogs. Social media networking is by far the best way to find writing opportunities no matter where you are based. A strong social media presence has gotten me and my writing noticed and I’ve forged very valuable relationships via each of those outlets.

The most valuable lesson I learned from Demand Studios is that I can get paid more for my writing than $15 per article. Much more.

These days, I don’t write for less than $50/€50. Have I been offered less? Sure. Lots less.

When those offers come, I make sure to be very clear as to what my rates are and that I will not settle for less. Typically, the inquirer will agree to my rates. And, if not, I move on to someone who does.

Because if I’m going to settle for low pay, I might as well go back to the content mills. But with so many markets paying such excellent money, why on earth would I do that?

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Step-by-Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success

How I met Chuck Palahniuk

Yup, it’s a book too.

Years ago, I saw the movie Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Normally that’s not my type of movie, but I really enjoyed it. I had no idea it was a book.

A few years later, a guy I was dating was deep into reading this book by an author I’d never heard of before. When I asked if it was any good, he said “Oh yeah! It was written by the guy who wrote Fight Club.” Well, I’ll be danged – you learn something new everyday!

I caught a glimpse of the author’s last name and, though I couldn’t even begin to guess how to pronounce it, the spelling of it seared itself in my brain.

Fast-forward 8 years and I’m at a Pub Quiz here in Utrecht. The question was “What book by Chuck Palahniuk was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton?” Of our 10-member team, I was the only one who knew the answer.

A few weeks after that, my husband and I were enjoying our weekend stroll through the city center of Utrecht when we passed the bookstore Selexyz. Selexyz often has author signings and I’ve made it a habit of checking the announcements to see if there are any I recognize. There never are.

This particular day, however, there was one name I did: Chuck Palahniuk. I pointed the notice out to my husband telling him it was the guy who wrote Fight Club. “I didn’t know that was a book,” my husband said. Nevertheless, we both agreed that we would do our best to make it to the book signing.

When we got home, I went to go write it on our calendar only to find out that we would be in the US that day for my 10-year high school reunion. Bummer.

As the time for our vacation drew nearer, we found ourselves with a buyer who wanted to move into our apartment by October 1st and no place to live once we’d moved out. We had our eye on a house and, when our bid was accepted, it was cutting it super close to departure day.

At the suggestion of friends and in-laws, we decided to have a technical inspection done on the house before signing a contract. Which meant that contract signing would have to be postponed until the technical report had been done and we’d gotten the results.

The technical report was scheduled at the earliest possible time: seven days before we were supposed to head State-side. Needless to say, we had to push our trip back by a week.

But this meant we could attend the birthday party of one of my husband’s dearest friends. This friend has a thing for books. Doesn’t matter what kind of book it is, he’ll buy it and read it. My kind of guy. So, the obvious place to shop for a birthday gift was a bookstore. And that’s exactly what we did.

We stepped over the threshold into Selexyz and stumbled right into a long line. People were waiting with books in hand for a nerdy guy in glasses standing at the other end of the store. A book signing of some sort. We walked right by and found the perfect book: the book of Genesis in graphic novel form.

On our way to the checkout, I decided to be nosey and see who this writer was. Wouldn’t you know it, we’d ended up at Chuck Palahniuk’s book signing!

My husband and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and grab a Chuck Palahniuk book for Hubs’ friend as well as a copy of Fight Club for ourselves and stand in line.

And that’s how I met Chuck Palahniuk. Not only can I now pronounce his last name, but we finally have a copy of that book we never knew existed with Palahniuk’s chicken scratch on the title page saying:

“Enjoy your fights.”

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On writing for free

I’ve heard valid arguments from both the Write-for-free and Don’t-write-for-free camps.

One side says that writing for free is good because it gives you exposure. You gain a wider audience, get more Google search results on your name, spread the word about your products and services, make connections and gain valuable experience.

Then, you have the people saying that writing for free is a waste of time. That no amount of exposure is worth the money you’re turning down by choosing a free assignment over a paying assignment. If you want to be taken seriously by clients, agents, publishers, and potential employers, writing for pay is the only way to go.

Having written for both free and paying markets, I see and understand the benefits of both and don’t necessarily think you should choose one over the other.

When I started out, it was with expat interviews and my own blog. Eventually I met more people and found out about more expat sites that don’t pay for content. Expatriatism was (and still is) something very close to me — something I enjoy writing about and hope that my writing can help and inspire others like me. I remember how much the expat blogs, websites, and magazines helped me and how grateful I was for them. It felt nice to do the same for others.

Not long after, I discovered Demand Studios. I applied, taking the process extremely seriously. I was elated when I was accepted as a writer and put far too much effort into writing my first article. But I got paid and that felt great. My name showed up on a popular site (eHow), I was proud of my efforts, and, best of all, I got paid. For the first time I realized that I could make money off of my writing.

Without the clips from articles for all those non-paying expat sites, I never would have been able to get the Demand Studios gig. And once I saw how easy it was with Demand Studios, I began to branch out.

My next move was print publications, and the first one I started with was a magazine for a non-profit organization. They didn’t pay, but they have a very professional looking product and a wide circulation. I worked my buns off for the piece and, even two years later it remains one of the articles I am most proud of.

Using a clip from that magazine, I got a gig writing for XM Magazine. Guess what? This one paid. I got €75 per article. Realizing that I could get way more than the measly $15 per article Demand Studios pays, I began seeking out other paying publications.

It was in this way, still using the clips from my free work, that I found The Holland Times. I now write for them once a month at €0.20 per word. That helped me get my foot in the door at Transitions Abroad, which pays even more per word.

Eventually I also got gigs with Insego Smart Expats and Amsterdam City Tours Blog. Both are paying — somewhere between the Demand Studios and The Holland Times pay, so it’s not much, but it adds to my income.

When I’m hard-pressed for quick cash, I’ll turn to Demand Studios, but for the most part, I’ve left that door closed.

I do still write for free though. Guest posts, interviews and articles. Writing for free has still done too much for me. As a rule, I only do free writing if I can link to my blogs either within the content or in a byline, and doing that has really given me a lot of traffic. Those people read my articles, buy items through my affiliate links, and click on the ads.

I don’t get much money, but I get some and most importantly, I gain loyal fans and readers. Those free articles also link back to my blogs, giving them better search engine results and more credibility. They’ve brought me Twitter followers and Facebook fans.

And writing for free is a great asset to getting word out about your book and driving sales.

For instance, with my Mary books, I can write articles on Twelfth Night, Henry VIII, children in the Renaissance, phrases and sayings we’ve borrowed from the Renaissance and Middle Ages, the castles Mary grew up in, and Renaissance education, art(ists), games, toys, clothing, food, etc.

I can find blogs as well as paying and non-paying publications interested in such information. Then it’s just a matter of writing the content and including information about myself and the book either within the article or in the byline.

Readers of these sites and publications are interested in the topic and are more likely to buy the book, increasing my sales. Those articles will be circulated to a much wider audience than I could reach on my own. They’ll pop up in search engines and link back to my site and my book.

And if you’re a writer in a certain niche, you want to have lots of experience writing in that niche in order to show your expertise. When people Google your name or your niche, you want to pop up on the first or second page. Free articles can help you establish authority and increase your Googlability just as well as paid articles can.

My advice, however, is this: use non-paying markets and content mills to give your writing career a jump-start. Then begin replacing them with paying gigs. Don’t forget the non-paying markets and content mills, because it may benefit you to revisit them once in a while. But once you begin getting paid for your work, your focus should be on getting other paid work.

What has worked for me is 1-3 pieces of non-paid content per month. I usually don’t do any more than one, but some months two or three will prove more beneficial. But the more time I spend on Demand Studios and non-paying publications, the less time I have to write for paid publications.

And, with the halt in my day job due to summer vacation, the money is more important. Plus, I’m looking to build my freelance writing income to last us through my upcoming maternity leave. I’m hoping what I build up can continue once I go back to work to supplement my income.

Perhaps once I’m where I’d like to be in my freelancing career I’ll do more in the way of Demand Studios and non-paid writing (I know I’ll concentrate more on it once I’m ready to market my next book). For right now, I’m setting them on the back burner. But I’m not giving up on them completely.

Do you write for free as well as for pay? Do you think this is a good idea for writers?

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Step-by-Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success

Deventer Boekenmarkt: Europe’s Largest Outdoor Book Market

VVV Deventer public domain publication photo

Considering that my last topic was my dream library, how appropriate is it that this weekend saw an event in the Netherlands that has become one of my ultimate favorite ways to add to my book collection.

Each year, on the first Sunday in August, the Dutch town of Deventer holds an outdoor book market. The Boekenmarkt (Dutch for book market) has been going on since 1989 and has been growing steadily each year ever since.

A market that started out that first year with 100 stalls now boasts 878, manned by book dealers and shops, antique stores and various organizations. The entire market spans six kilometers (3.72 miles) and is the largest outdoor book fair in Europe.

Deventer’s Boekenmarkt also has food, maps, art, records, and antique paper goods (think photos, postcards, posters, etc.) for sale. And there are also street acts and musicians, art, and special exhibitions. On the evening before the market there is a poetry festival held at Theater Bouwkunde, so you can easily make an entire weekend out of the event.

This is the second year we’ve gone, and let me just say that you simply can’t spend enough time there. You could be busy for days browsing all the titles.

Our first trip was last year and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. We did a whirlwind tour in the time we had allotted for our visit, the goal being to walk the whole distance of the book market and just take everything in. After a few hours it was time to leave and we hadn’t even seen half of it. But I did score some excellent titles for pretty decent prices.

This year, I had planned to spend more time browsing, but instead ended up hoofing it around the city trying to locate an ATM. I did eventually find one in just enough time to buy two books before we had to leave. But all was not lost: Deventer is a gorgeous, historical city that sits on the edge of a river, so just being able to walk around looking at the sites, the book stalls and the people made it worth the while.

It’s definitely a diverse crowd that fills the streets on Boekenmarkt day. Families, bookworms, intellectuals, geeks, couples, teens, foreigners, Dutch… Many come carrying large shopping bags on wheels or suitcases to hold their purchases. In 2008 there were 125,000 visitors to the Festival and, in 2009 when it poured rain the whole day long, 75,000 die-hards braved the torrential rains to attend.

The book sellers at the event are all professional, so the prices are higher than they’d be at your average used book store, but they’re all marked at decent prices and often times, you can talk the dealer into giving you an even better deal.

So the lesson I’ve learned for next year is to arrive as soon as the festival opens, complete with a large shopping bag and wads of cash. Because — as we have both agreed — we will be back next year. In the last two years, this has become an event we both look very much forward to.

If you’re ever in the Netherlands on the first Sunday of August, do stop by Deventer for the Boekenmarkt. You won’t regret it! The event is run by the Deventer Tourist Information office, in case you’d like some info (unfortunately the site’s in Dutch, but luckily there’s Google Translate).

Have you ever been to an outdoor book market or a book festival? Where is your favorite place to buy books?

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How I edit

No way this cup of coffee’s gonna get me through the entire editing process!

Personally, I can’t stand reading things with mistakes in them. My own work included.

It doesn’t irk me enough that I’ll stop reading whatever it is, but it frustrates me and immediately lowers my opinion of the writer or author responsible for the content.

With my own writing, I try to get it as close to perfect as possible. I’m not perfect, so there will always be some mistake. Even now, I’ll go back and read old blog posts, finding something new and racing to the edit window to fix it.

But that doesn’t excuse poor writing and silly mistakes.

I’ve always been a proofreader. Even in grade school, I’d re-read my work dozens of times before turning it in. That doesn’t mean I get everything, of course, but poorly written work and easy-to-catch mistakes drive me nuts and I want to get as many as I possibly can out of my work.

To this end, I’ve developed a pretty rigorous editing regime.

Everything I write is first typed up in Word. I use the spellcheck feature to catch any glaring mistakes. Then, I’ll read through it silently, then again while saying the words under my breath, and then a third time reading my work out loud.

Once I’ve gone through everything, I send the document around to be proofread. With blog posts, I just have my husband read through them. This is particularly handy because he’s a non-native English speaker, so he sometimes needs things explained to him. If he doesn’t get the piece, odds are other readers won’t either. The hubby is always my first proofreader for this reason. He’s also a perfectionist, so I know he’ll be as harsh as he needs to.

For newspaper and magazine articles, I’ll pass those along to my parents once my husband’s through with them. My dad’s an avid reader and an extremely intelligent man, so he picks up a lot. My mother also writes as well as teaching high school and college courses, so she’s excellent with a red pen.

If it’s a manuscript, it goes from my husband to my parents to an army of proofreaders. These include my 5th grade teacher, members of my writing group, editors I’ve worked with that are willing and have the time to help me out, and someone hired for the express purpose of editing manuscripts.

After each proofreader returns to me with their comments, I go through and make changes accordingly. Sometimes my proofreaders or spellchecker will want to change something that I don’t feel is necessary or don’t agree with. In which case, I leave it as is. However, if more than one or two of my editing defenses report the same issue, then I know it’s something that needs to be dealt with, no matter how I may feel about it.

Once I’ve incorporated all the notes, I print the work out and read through it silently, under my breath, and finally out loud. I often use my dog Turner as an audience as you tend to read things differently when others are listening.

At this point, there’s not much else I can do but send it off to blog readers, editors, agents, and publishers and hope for the best. They always seem to catch things as well and, when all is said and done, you end up having a pretty excellent piece of writing.

How do you edit?

 

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Hoarding copies of your work

I remember, as a young girl, hoarding the free magazines and newspapers at La Guardia’s Marine Air Terminal. Not much has changed!

Yes, I am one of those that hoards copies of my work. If something of mine gets published, I need at least one copy. I even print out work published online so that I have a hard copy of it.

Interestingly, all my work is scattered willy nilly around the house. You’d think as a hoarder of something as personal as my writing, I’d have everything in binders and plastic covers. Actually, that’s not a bad idea for a rainy day project!

I have copies of books, magazines, newspapers, print outs and I even go back and read through them from time to time just to remind myself of why I do this writing thing. I love love love looking back over and re-reading my work. Talk about an ego boost!

I like to think that I’m not the only one who does this. I’m pretty sure I’m not. But I do know that there is a breed of writer that doesn’t have a single copy of their work. Doesn’t want copies. Won’t even read what they’ve written once it’s been published.

Granted, I’m sure their offices, computer rooms, and attics are a lot less cluttered! The idea is that it has been written and published and people have read it, so the author doesn’t feel the need to keep a copy for posterity.

Then there are those for whom simply being published is enough. Some people avoid collecting copies of their work for superstitious reasons as well.

And I guess you could argue that, in today’s day and age, pretty much anyone can get published (whether it be online, through traditional or self publishing, or in the school newspaper), so having your work published perhaps is no longer that big a deal.

I think it’s very interesting that although we are all writers and creative minds, we each go about the process, the journey and, yes, the business so differently.

Are you a hoarder of your work? Why or why not?

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Grow Your Writing Income: Learn How

Being your own boss

Who’s the boss?

Last week, one of my favorite writing blogs, Writing Come Hell or High Water, posted a piece called The Myth of Being Your Own Boss.

In it, we are regretfully informed that thinking going into freelance writing affords us the luxury of being our own boss is a delusion.

“You are always working with, or for, a client. And sometimes you may stretch out to work with other writers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, whatever the project requires. You may even find yourself inundated with work and hiring on writers to work for you. True, now you’re their boss in a sense, but the ultimate success of the project depends on you working well with them. Not to mention that you can set any rates you want, but you need to find someone willing to pay them.”

While we should certainly take these points into account as freelancers, I would argue that, if this holds true for us, it’s got to hold true for everyone.

Imagine you own a restaurant. The clients you are working with or for are your patrons. Sometimes you will stretch out to work with other restaurant owners, chefs, waiters and waitresses, whatever the project requires. You may find yourself inundated with work and hiring an assistant, restaurant manager, and extra restaurant staff to work for you. True, now you’re their boss in a sense, but the ultimate success of the restaurant depends on you working well with them. Not to mention that you can charge whatever you like, but you need to have the people willing to pay the prices.

Maybe you’re the CEO of a big company. You are working with and for the clients who buy your product. Sometimes you will stretch out to work with marketing directors, manufacturers, developers, HR personnel, whatever the project  requires. You may find yourself inundated with work and hiring a personal assistant, a secretary, and other office staff to work for you. True, now you’re their boss in a sense, but the ultimate success of the company depends on you working well with them. Not to mention you can set any rates you want for your product(s), but you need to have people willing to pay them.

It is a valid point that as a freelancer you are a slave to your clients. But that holds for any top position in any field imaginable. “The customer is king,” and all that.

When looked at this way, there is no such thing as being your own boss. In each instance the boss is always the client.

So the myth of being your own boss is busted. Not only for freelance writers, but in any business situation.

Are you ever really your own boss? Do you think this is an issue just for freelancers or across the board?

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Step-by-Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success

My biggest writing pet-peeves

My Great Bambinos of writing pet peeves

Of course there are the standards like their/there/they’re, ending sentences with prepositions, and — one I’ve seen a lot lately — congrads/congradulations.

And I have my own that kill me every time (Choose and chose — which one’s which? When do I use it’s and when do I use its?).

But the two that I see that just annoy the heck out of me are these bad boys:

Double-spacing between sentences
Yes, it used to be taught in writing classes that you must leave two spaces between sentences. The reason being that all typing was done on typewriters.

On a typewriter, all letters take up the same amount of space, whether it is a skinny letter like ‘i’ or a wide letter like ‘m.’ Because of this spacing issue, it was difficult to tell where one sentence ended and the other began. The double-spacing made this clearer.

Computer fonts are more proportional in size and spacing, making the double-space unnecessary. In fact, double-spacing can throw off the typesetting of a magazine, newspaper, or book layout, making the final product look skewed.

Your editor and layout designer will not be particularly happy with you if they have to go through your work and correct your double-spacing spree. It also makes it more difficult for readers — who are now used to the single-space format — to read.

So, save everyone involved some time and spare a few trees by putting an end to your double-spacing days.

Using hyphens instead of dashes.
A hyphen is a small bar (-) used to connect words and keep syllables together when the full word does not fit on the same line.

Connecting words: dim-witted, so-and-so, fine-toothed, double-spaced.

Keeping syllables together: “The police were disturbed by the young man’s indiffer-
ence to the property of others.”

So many people-for some unknown reason-use hyphens when they should be using dashes.

‘People’ and ‘for’ should not be connected. The same goes for ‘reason’ and ‘use.’ Who ever heard of a people-for or a reason-use? Nor are they syllables of the same word that need to be kept together with a hyphen for spacing purposes. Yet hyphens are used in both instances in the sentence above.

A dash is a longer bar (–) that is meant to separate thoughts and put in asides or extra information pertaining to the sentence.

“So many people — for some unknown reason — use hyphens when they should be using dashes.”

See, now isn’t that so much better?

What is your biggest writing pet peeve? Any suggestions or tips on how writers can avoid making those mistakes?

 

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Why I should have known I’d become a writer

Turns out I knew this was my calling long before I knew it was my calling

When I was little – 3rd or 4th grade – I wanted to be a paleontologist. At age 9 I knew everything there was to know about dinosaurs. I’d spend hours at the Museum of Natural History studying their dinosaur exhibition.

So when my 5th grade teacher gave us the assignment of writing and illustrating our own books to then share with the 2nd graders at the school, of course I chose dinosaurs as my topic.

We came up with the story text and our teacher typed it up, one or two sentences per page with room on top for illustrations. When we came back from recess, she had our pages ready for us to come up with illustrations for.

The next day, much to my delight, a GBC-bound copy of my ‘book’ complete with plastic cover was on my desk waiting for me. Over the next several weeks, all I wanted to do was go through my book, reading it aloud to anyone who would listen, admiring the way my writing looked and sounded, brought to life by my drawings.

That one project set me off on a year-long book writing kick. Everything I did or saw or experienced had to be turned into a book, bringing my parents such treasures as “Ticks, Ticks and More Ticks,” my first non-fiction work.

Authoring turned into journal writing and then, in middle school, song writing: hits such as “You Yused To” (unfortunately my spelling never got much better). In high school, however, writing became a most dreaded form of torture – boring term papers and book reports, grammar exercises, and the monotonous copying of vocabulary words.

College wasn’t much better. Though the paper topics became more interesting, by the time I’d finished all the required writing, there was no juice left to do any leisure writing. Though I did manage to keep up with my journaling.

This high school and college-inspired writing slow down made room for other interests, and before I knew it, my writing aspirations were replaced with dreams of becoming a Broadway actress.

But I quickly realized that the harsh world of the performing arts as a career was not where I wanted to be. So I headed back to university to see what else I could find.

This time, I chose Renaissance history, a topic that interested me greatly. It was here that I was reminded that writing was fun. I loved writing term papers. All I wanted to do was research and analyze and edit and rewrite until I had come up with the perfect paper that I felt did justice to the topic at hand.

When I married a Dutchman and found myself in the Netherlands, there was so much that the language barrier kept me from doing. But, thanks to the internet and the large international community here, writing was not one of them. Soon I was writing every spare moment I had and loving every minute of it.

It was during this time that I thought, “You know, I could make a living doing this!” It was something I enjoyed that I was good at and the thrill I feel every time I see my work published reminds me of that day I saw my dinosaur book lying on my desk in the 5th grade.

To this day that feeling makes me shake my head and chuckle as I whisper to myself “I should have known I was meant to be a writer.”

When did you realize you were meant to be a writer? What kinds of things have you always enjoyed writing about?

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Get paid more money for your writing! Freelance Business Bootcamp - the eBook