Sunday, September 05, 2010

Free Lancing

I'm a writer of many kinds, one being freelance. Because I'm relatively new, I'm a "free"-lance writer, meaning I do a lot of it gratis. But I really do it because I love to write. And I'm honored to be asked.

Free-lancing always offers exposure, traffic back to my blog, practice and the opportunity to address a topic I may not otherwise have considered. It also builds my portfolio. I love my blog and complete editorial control, but being asked to write for someone else is validation. True validation comes from within, but acknowledgment from others is fuel to a writer's soul. It's a reminder that we're not just doing this for ourselves.

Everyone has a story on how they became a writer. Here's mine.

When I was younger, I excelled at math and science but struggled with English, grammar, comprehension and writing. A lot of that was due to the way I read: I must speak every word out loud in my head (yes, I often mouth the words) - I cannot speed-read and never met the time limits for comprehension tests. Standardized tests, and career placement programs, reinforced this. I'm logical and analytical and was always encouraged to pursue math. I felt creative, though horrible at reading and writing, and math came easier.

But a funny thing happened: life. I was laid off from a research job in 1992 and ended up self-employed, taking any assignments I could get. A college buddy of mine, Scott Weber, asked me to copy-edit magazine articles for his recently acquired Maryland Magazine. Me? I'd never done anything of the sort. But times were tough and I had a rare moment of courage and figured I'd wing it. Independent writers submitted material in many different styles, often not in electronic form. So I also had to transcribe. I borrowed a Chicago Manual of Style from my friend and office-mate Jessie Newburn and quickly learned grammar, style and editing. And I was exposed to lots of examples of writing, good and poor. I took the works of others and made them consistent, at least in technical style, while leaving their original voice. I also copy-edited a medical journal for Scott's company. That was interesting. And I transcribed tapes for speech pathologists. I didn't get the writing bug then, but the seed was definitely planted.

I've always played music, written some songs, pursued a brief career in radio, but ended up in analysis: technical requirements, methodology, calculations. I've been doing it since 1996. It is my comfort zone, I'm a subject matter expert, and I still enjoy it. But I learned and mastered the skill of technical writing - taking complex information and making it digestible for multiple audiences. Little did I know I was in training for my next career.

I've always wanted to get into comedy but have a horrible memory, so I've stayed away from stand-up. In 2006, I started this blog where some of the first pieces were old stand-up bits. My friend Jessie was already blogging and helped get me started, introducing me to other bloggers, tools and techniques. And she has offered me invaluable advice and loving support all along the way.

Blogging introduced me to a non-competitive community of writers that support each other. I've learned so much from so many, and continue to meet more each day. Twitter has also opened up a new world for me - so many friends, writers, authors, comedians. It's also a great forum for joke writing.

I was welcomed into the ScriptChat community - a wonderful band of brothers and sisters that are involved in scripwriting, TV and film. There are honestly too many to name here but my two biggest supporters and confidantes are Jeanne V. Bowerman and Jamie Livingston.

With this blog, I've also been lucky to meet some very special people who have asked me to freelance.

First, it was Matt Titus and Tamsen Fadal. I was home with the flu when I saw Matt on one of the morning programs talking about his new show on Lifetime called Matched in Manhattan. He was talking about mantiques (embarrassing, outdated technology) and I thought it was hilarious. I wrote a quick blog post that day called Top 10 Mantiques. Then I worried about permissions and copyrights. I found Matt's web site and sent a link of the blog, basically letting him know it's out there and I was crediting him. A week later I got an email, asking me to call Matt. He and his wife Tamsen were interested in working with me!

They've authored two books on relationships (Why Hasn't He Called? and Why Hasn't He Proposed?) and host a website, called Ask Matt & Tamsen. They asked me to submit humor posts on relationships from the male perspective. They're in Manhattan, I'm in Baltimore, but we found a way to work it all out via email, phone and web. When I first started, I was actually renting out my friend's basement going through a divorce. Was I qualified to offer relationship advice? In a humbled state like that, with some perspective, yes. And I think it made me a better partner in my current relationship, with my warmest supporter and sounding board, Barb. I've done at least 15 articles to date. And I've loved it!

A few years ago I also met Dave & Ilana Bittner through Jessie - man, do I owe her a lot! Two wonderful people who started HoCoMoJo (Howard County Mobile Journalism) and asked me to produce some podcasts using my unique (depending on your perspective) sense of humor (depending on your sense). I've done nine so far.

And recently, I followed back Deepak Gupta, a marketer on Twitter. After a few friendly exchanges, he asked me to guest blog a post for his Marketing By Deepak web site. Why not?! It posted last night:  Prevent the Twitter Unfollow: Tips from a Twitter User
 

My friend and fellow improv artist Nicholas Cowling recently started a new blog one-line headline, where he's asked me to contribute. And I certainly plan to!

I've also met some very cool authors on Twitter like Sezin Kohler (author of American Monster) and Matt Debenham (author of The Book of Right and Wrong). Actually, there are a lot of people I could mention - many can be found in my Awesome Tweeps blog.

Why do I share all of this? Because I love talking about myself. :-) Because it's helped me create a voice, and network with people I wouldn't have met if I didn't just start writing. I'm almost 47 years old, and I can attest it is never too late to start. It doesn't matter what a standardized test, naysayers, or the negative voices in your own head tell you. If it's what you love, give it a shot. Practice, practice, practice. Write, write, write. These statements become clich├ęs for a reason.

And I no longer believe these are just coincidences. I'm always where I'm supposed to be, and will get to where I should be when it's my time. That doesn't mean I'm waiting, either ;-).

So may I recommend free-lancing to you for all the reasons I've stated above? The money will come when it comes.

In the meantime, I've set up a new Freelance page on the blog here with links to all my guest posts/podcasts that are active (and I can still find).

A huge thank you to Jessie, Matt, Tamsen, Dave, Ilana, Deepak and Nicholas for believing in me and honoring me with a request for my writing. And to Sezin and Matt for considering me a peer. And to Jeanne and Jamie for helping me get to where I truly belong. And to Barb for everything.

I can't wait until I post the blog about a sold script and the TV shows I'm writing for. It. Will. Happen.



5 comments:

Sezin Koehler said...

What a great piece, Mike! And thank you so much for the shout-out. :-)

I really enjoyed reading about your history with words and where you find yourself today. I think it's amazing that you never felt you had an affinity with being a wordsmith. You are such a natural writer and now I appreciate your words even more.

I agree with you that we all have to keep at writing, getting ourselves out there, even if we don't get paid. Karma will find us eventually and even if She doesn't, we all know we wouldn't feel whole without writing and creating, so either way it's a winning situation.

All the best,

Sezin

Mike said...

What a great comment, Sezin. "Karma will find us eventually and even if She doesn't, we all know we wouldn't feel whole without writing and creating, so either way it's a winning situation." <-Amen!

As always, thank you for such kind words, and inspiration.

~Mike

Barbara W. said...

I can't wait either! (for your sold script and the tv shows you will be writing for ; )

Happy Happy Happy!!!

nicholas cowling said...

Great write up and insight! if your #scriptchat is any indicator, you're on your way.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I too enjoyed reading how you got involved in writing. It is truly an inspirational story because with every grey cloud there is a silver lining.

Keep being awesome!!! rose