Monday, October 18, 2010

Sending It Out

The past two months, Barton and I have been sending out proposals- a major one each week. We have dedicated Fridays as our day, and while we may schedule one or two meetings, carving out time has been essential to work on some of the larger projects together. These proposals have been everything from contract proposals, grant applications, a book proposal and scholarships. 

What I have found over the last two months is a transformative shift. I have found myself excited and motivated to be working on some of these larger projects. While normally I am a little anxious and tend to put a great deal of emotional weight into a proposal, I have been able to let go of the outcome, have fun writing on these projects and spending time working with Barton. Together, we’ve seen each other get excited about different aspects of a particular project, which has then motivated the other.

We don’t know any of the outcomes of our efforts yet, and that’s okay. There is a movement forward, and we know that just in going through the process of sending material out, there is a great deal of vision, learning, and exploration with new aspects of our work.

This has given me the freedom to be creative, find a belief in my work that is not attached to being accepted by a third party, and discover new areas of work. As a writer, it’s important to me to come back to writing, to come back to my vision. Even if the work isn’t ready or isn’t accepted, it’s important to discover the joy in the process itself.

As writer’s, when we put work out there, people will have an opinion. Of course we want people to love our work or agree with our point of view, but that isn’t always the case. I discovered this when I wrote an article for the local newspaper about a website for stay-at-home fathers. What I didn’t know was that there was a behind-the-scenes issues between the father’s group and a similar group for mothers. Being able to come back to the writing and to the vision, helps me find my center when there are differing opinions or challenges that come up during the process.

How do you find your center? It may be in the time you write or the place, or journaling apart from other writing projects. Take the time to discover and nurture your vision. 

~Megan Cutter, 

Monday, October 4, 2010

On Writing Fast, and Well

In an ideal world, writers would have as long as it takes to finish a particular job. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world, so most of us have deadlines looming over our heads like editorial swords of Damocles.

In order to meet these deadlines, it's often necessary to write much faster than we would like. I speak from experience on this issue, having recently co-authored a book that required me to write several articles a day to stay on schedule. The articles weren't long -- just one or two pages each -- but there were a lot of them, and each required a bit of research. I quickly learned that I needed to add more hours to my workday in order to meet the mandated deadlines, so I started getting up an hour earlier, and working until around 9:30 each evening, including weekends. I didn't like it, but I did it, and I met all of my deadlines without difficulty.

This isn't the first time I've had to pound out the words to meet a deadline. Several years ago, Mark Cantrell and I wrote a 42,500-word book about the Columbia space shuttle disaster in just six days. (On the seventh day, we rested.) And previous to that, I wrote a 100,000-word book about World War II in nine weeks, at one point churning out 5,000 words a day. 

The fact is, a writer who can write quickly (and well) is an editor's dream, and thus a writer who likely will get a lot of work. It's not the ideal situation, but it happens often enough that any writer looking to make freelancing his or her career should come to accept it as an inescapable part of the job. More times than not, time isn't a luxury we can afford.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that you should accept every assignment that crosses your desk, regardless of deadline. If you know in your heart that you don't have enough time to do a good job, you should decline and explain why. A smart editor will understand and not hold it against you. And if your editor DOES hold it against you, is that someone you really want to work for?

Beginning freelancers often take an excruciatingly long time with their first assignments because they want to do as good a job as they possibly can. That's commendable, but unrealistic. Bottom line: finished is better than perfect. Especially when a tight deadline looms.

-- Don Vaughan