with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
Those of us in the writing profession love lists. We love how-tos, must-dos, and both bulleted and numbered lists of things to avoid, steps to take, and ways to flourish in this biz. It makes sense, I guess… but I always find myself coming back to the idea that it’s good to know the rules, so that you can decide when you want to break them.
It boils down to this: There’s rarely just One True Way to do something. If you’re a newbie and you’re trying to learn the ropes of the business, by all means, read the lists. Take notes, even. But remember that people are people, which is to say that people are different and make different choices, and what’s the right path for someone else may not be the right path for you.
Learn the rules so that you can figure out which ones you don’t intend to follow. Because I promise that—just as following them all doesn’t guarantee you success—breaking a few doesn’t spell your doom, just so long as you’re mindful about what you do and don’t want to do.
Myth 1: You have to be a social media expert in this business. Actually, in the writing business, it mostly helps to just be… a writer. Should you know how to use social media? Yes. Should you attempt to participate in various venues both to up your visibility and because those skills may come in handy for various jobs that go beyond “just” writing? Absolutely. Are you doomed to never attaining success if you don’t have a billion Twitter followers and a super-popular Facebook fan page and a thousand pins on Pinterest and and and and and (you get the idea)? I don’t think so. Learn social media. Use social media. Don’t feel like you have to master everything or be super-active everywhere on the ‘net as a writer. Most of the folks I see actually managing to “be everywhere” online don’t actually have all that much time to write. Just sayin’.
Myth 2: You are your brand, so you have to act in accordance with your desired image at all times. I think the Internet has really blurred the line between personal and professional, in lots of different ways. That’s a whole topic unto itself. So far as writing online goes, though, it’s not that you have to be one thing all the time, it’s that you have to be mindful of where you are and who you’re with. You wouldn’t get drunk in the middle of the day in your crowded office (I hope!), because that would be unprofessional. But you might get drunk at home with a few close friends, after hours, and the people you work with would never know. That’s not the greatest metaphor, I suppose, but it’s the same for how you behave online—make choices about which spaces are public and which are private, and conduct yourself accordingly. (A better example: this ties back to the first point, actually, too… I have both a public Twitter account and a private one. Draw your own conclusions.)
Myth 3: You have to suck up to the “famous” people in your field to get “in” and get hired for bigger and better gigs. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about me, but I’m not exactly a fan of sucking up, in any form, at any time. I think being disingenuous tends to bite people in the butt sooner rather than later, but always eventually even if not right away. And really, there’s two things wrong here. First, the “famous” people generally aren’t the folks doing the hiring (or even in a position to recommend you to the people who are), and second, there’s a difference between networking and ingratiation. Conduct yourself professionally. Make connections. But don’t try to form chummy relationships with folks purely for business purposes—it probably won’t help, and when it becomes clear that you’re just using someone, it can most definitely hurt (their feelings, at best, and your chances at work, at worst).
Myth 4: You have to go to lots of conferences to build your business! I’ve written at length, over the years, about the benefits I think both new and seasoned writers can reap from conference attendance, speaking, and networking therein. I definitely think it’s a great tool to have in your arsenal, if it’s something that fits into your schedule and budget. However, much like social media involvement, at a certain point it’s possible to be so overscheduled you no longer have time to do any actual writing. What’s more, if you can’t afford it, there’s no conference worth the investment if you’re going into debt to make it happen. I also think this tends to be a case of people assuming that More Is More, when really, being judicious with both your time and money is going to yield the best balance of investment and benefits.
Myth 5: You have to be edgy, raw, and willing to reveal everything to make your mark as a personal blogger. There’s no question that bloggers who are willing to get personal are often the most compelling reads. But the flip side of that is that there’s a difference between a passing-a-car-accident-and-can’t-look-away connection to your audience and a lasting, enduring, emotional connection to your audience. Boundaries aren’t a sign of weakness, they’re the mark of a thoughtful writer. No one else can tell you where your boundaries need to be; that’s something you’ll need to figure out for yourself. But do figure it out. And if you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t. By the same token, even if you think you’re comfortable sharing everything, be aware that “edgy” definitely works in terms of shock value, but shock has a shelf life.
I probably could’ve skipped this whole list by saying: Blogging is about being an individual. So don’t be afraid to be one.
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