Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Two Year Assessment of Freelancing

Tuesday I conducted an interview for an article I'm writing for A professor at my alma mater, the University of Rhode Island, is conducting research into using asphalt pavement for collecting solar engery. He's also looking into research for related things, but the solar energy from pavement interests me the most. I wrote an article on this subject last November for Buildipedia, and recently pitched a follow-up article to them, which they accepted. Only after the first article was published I learned that my school was also conducting this research.

So I conducted the interview, want to conduct another one with the professor at Worcester Polytech, the one I've had such a difficult time reaching, but the article just isn't coming to me. I'm now two days behind my deadline, and I should be writing the article (pending additions from the second interview), but it's just not coming. Why?

I don't think I'm a journalist, nor really an article writer. I started pursuing freelance work back around February 2009 as a means of building a platform to improve my chances of having a book accepted by a traditional publisher. That's the advice given by Cec Murphey and other pro writers: write articles, lots of them, then try your hand at books. I started my writing career backwards, I guess.

In these two years my articles have appeared in three print publications, and two on-line publications. Including all the ones I wrote for and posted at, it's somewhere around 150 articles in those two years. What have I benefited from that? It's a resume, I suppose, showing a potential book editor some stick-to-it-ness on my part. Maybe it shows some flexibility, writing on engineering, history, poetry, stock trading, genealogy, and environment. None of that could hurt.

But I don't enjoy it a whole lot. I'm not good at cold calling, so contacting by phone or e-mail people I don't know to ask them about some fact I need in the article is not a fun thing. Even talking with an engineering professor was not pleasing. It wasn't unpleasing—just kind of neutral, kind of blah. The article writing itself has been okay. I don't get the thrill of word crafting an article that I do from a poem, or from a scene in a novel. I don't feel the enjoyment that developing a complex fiction plot gives me.

So why do it? When I have two active book projects, two or three more immediately on heels of that, and things to learn and do related to the books, why keep writing articles? One reason is, while the writing itself leaves me somewhat flat, I get a feeling of accomplishment at the completion. I can look back at those 150 articles and have some satisfaction at a body of work. Another is the original reason: to build a body of work that may some day be considered a platform that will impress a book acquisitions editor. I'm pursuing self-publishing now, but could always make a reverse decision at some point and pursue traditional publishing. This all might come in handy then. And I'm making some money at it, enough to fill the tank and pay a bill every month (though recently it's trailed off a bit).

I guess I'll keep freelancing, but it's unlikely I'll seek to expand the markets beyond those I'm currently for. A few articles a month, mixed in with novels and non-fiction books, should give me variety of research and writing, and portfolio. But I'll revisit this decision often over the next six to nine months.

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