Have you been to the Abbotsford Convent? It is possibly the most amazing building in Melbourne. You can feel (and smell) the history in each and every room. The vibe is phenomenal whether there are markets running, cafes buzzing with activity, creatives at work in their little mouse holes or courses being conducted.
I attended a freelance writers course over the weekend run by the Australian Writers Centre. Seems a strange thing to do when I've been in the business almost a decade.
The problem was, I was stagnating. I was afraid of being typecast as a parenting-only writer when I am so much more than this. I love writing about parenting because the topics are endless. I have four little motivators at my disposal, so never do I experience a shortage of subject matter. But there are a million other things I can and do write about. The diversity of my work and my skills are not always reflected in the volume of work I secure, or the pay I am offered.
As an attempt to broaden out from the parenting genre, I pitched an idea to a publication I won't name. They accepted the idea and off I went to interview, to find the story behind the person. After spending hours on that piece, wanting to do complete justice to the subject matter, I was told the payment would be $35. Yes, you read that correctly: THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS. I think the minimum hourly rate at Woolworths is higher. It was my own fault. I made assumptions that were wrong. I should have clarified pay first, before promising anyone anything.
This was my catalyst. I needed to either change the direction of my sails, or beach that boat and get the hell out of there.
When writing is a need not a want, you have to follow the paths wherever they may take you. So beaching the boat was not likely to happen. Becoming jaded by people paying shit money for quality content was where I was headed.
Who loves a jaded almost-40-year-old? No-one. Including myself.
So, I took my husband's advice (such a pearler that I had it embossed on a tea cup): "If you don't like it, change it. If you don't want to change it, shut the f*ck up." Seems he was tired of my whingeing.
I signed up for a course and got myself re-inspired.
Freelance writing offers great flexibility but can also be a hard slog. If you have an established rapport with an editor, like I do at Fairfax/Essential Baby, then it's great. They know I'm skilled and reliable, I know they'll be open to new ideas and pitches. I also know they pay me. On time and more than $35.
When you're approaching new editors for work, you need to swallow a tub of harden up. Rejection is common. Ignorance is even more common. Some just don't reply at all. You have no idea if your story topic was terrible, not suitable, or just lost in the slush. Being that squeaky wheel can work for or against you, depending on the person. Understanding that editors get swamped with pitches every single day makes it harder to pester. Standing out from the pack can be tricky.
But I have a newly polished armour and a head full of ideas. 2015 is going to be my year for making this freelance boat not just sail but soar (can a boat soar?). You know what I mean.
Thanks to those inspirational people who helped me get back on track. Off I go to pitch away and write, write, write until my keyboard has carked it.