As many of you know, I am currently freelancing for a couple of papers in my area. It started out with an article last November. I’d recently moved home from Hong Kong and was trying to break into writing in print. I contacted the editor of my local paper and asked him if he’d be interested in a feature on a WWII/Korean war vet of my acquaintance for Veteran’s Day. Much to my delight, he said yes.
The article went to print almost exactly as I’d written it, and since then I’ve been writing fairly consistently for that paper and, now, a second one—a position I got because of my connection with the first paper. But at both papers, I’ve noticed a not-so-surprising but somewhat annoying trend: The editors and other staff are often . . .
Take this email exchange for an example:
Here is the Bye Bye Birdie article! I hope it’s okay. :)
One thing I wanted to clarify (before I forget), do I need to send you an invoice for each article in order to get paid?
Thanks so much. I hope you had a nice 4th!
And here is the editor’s response:
You’ll get paid on a monthly basis and don’t need to send an invoice. Articles are $30 each unless otherwise specified.
No salutation, no sign-off, nothing.
Now, I understand that journalists are busy people. I know it’s a cut-throat environment in which dog eats dog or gets eaten. I get it. But, still. When the world is too busy and too self-absorbed to take two seconds to return simple gestures of good will, something is wrong. Seriously wrong.
I wrote in my last post that I wanted to write about SOMETHING. Something that matters. And I think that that’s the key for me. All good writing—writing that touches the heart and is etched on the mind and has the power to move mountains—comes from passion. The minute I am forced to write about something trivial that, in the grand scheme of things, won’t matter tomorrow, the magic of writing is lost.
I don’t want to be a puppet.
And so I will find my own way. It’s somewhat freeing, honestly. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought I wanted to find a “normal” life. I thought working my way up from a $3/hour position writing things I didn’t care would be the key to my success. Now I see I don’t have to “sell myself” (something all freelancers must do, which I detest) in order to find myself . . .
All I have to do is follow my heart.
You, my dear readers, have shown me that.
“Journalism largely consists in saying ‘Lord Jones is dead’ to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.” ― G.K. Chesterton
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
― Maya Angelou
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Note: This is not to say that I don’t think there is a need or place for journalism, or that journalism isn’t important. Not at all! It’s just a personal epiphany that it might not be the right fit for—my own dad has said I’m too creative to write news stories . . .
- what the world needs (jesscy.com)
- I was paid $12.50 an hour to write this article (theawl.com)
- A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013 (natethayer.wordpress.com)