My Mug

Go check out my mug here. It’s a nice photo taken by my wife, alongside some information about me.


If You Build It, You’ll Get a Freelance Life

Does blogging help you get a freelance life? It helps as a marketing tool, says Margit Feury Ragland in Get A Freelance Life:’s Insider Guide to Freelance Writing.

“Make sure it’s based on something you’re passionate about, so you’ll be able to consistently make two to six blog posts a day,” she writes. “If you build enough traffic, get linked to other bloggers and start to get buzz, this can be a great way to get recognized by a major media company.”

So, I have a blog. I post to it regularly, but how do I manage writing two to six posts a day when sometimes one a day is virtually impossible?

I can see how frequent posting gains traffic: In the past few days I’ve tried to post at least twice a day and I’ve gotten an increase of traffic, at least according to stats. Of course, I’m sure my traffic is exponentially lower than I Can Has Cheezburger, but I noticed that when I didn’t post, my traffic skidded at the red light but crashed anyway.

Unless I wrote posts all day, I don’t think I could manage two to six posts a day (even though at the moment I have the time). Still, I want to market myself as a writer.

How do other freelance writers market themselves? How often do you post to your blog?

Editor’s Note

If you read my post “Trolls Under the Bridge” yesterday, you may have noticed at least two errors (maybe there are more), one of which was a misspelling of Georgia O’Keeffe’s last name. I went back and corrected those erroprs, er, errors, and as I was doing so, realized how convenient blogging is: You can edit any post at any time. Oh, how that would have saved so much grief in my daily newspaper days, if after noticing gaffs, I could have gone in an and immediately corrected stories.

No matter how much one edits, perhaps a piece of writing never appears perfect, but it is nice to be able to fix things like spelling or grammar overlooked in the rush to publish a post. Of course, I still feel like a golden nitwit, especially when I realized I had misspelled “O’Keeffe” as “O’Keefe” despite having the name in front of me as a reference. Sometimes, I suppose, the mind gets all Coyote-the-Trickster on you and no matter what’s in front of you, you write what you think is right, whether it’s right or wrong. Or maybe that’s just me. (Interestingly, as I was proofing and preparing to hit Publish, I noticed I hadn’t capitalized the “k” in “O’Keeffe,” leaving me another error I had to correct. Rereading the post, I had to insert an extra “f,” for I, again, had misspelled “O’Keeffe”.)

Trolls Under the Bridge

At the Art Students League in New York one of her fellow students advised her that, since he would be a great painter and she would end up teaching painting in a girls’ school, any work of hers was less important than modeling for him.

So goes a brief passage of Joan Didion’s brief bio-critical essay “Georgia O’Keeffe” from The White Album (nothing to do with The Beatles, except the era), which I have been reading slowly, chewing and savoring each essay by a master of the craft. Georgia O’Keeffe fought her trolls, like the fellow student, male, dismissing her and her work ( “Style is character,” Didion writes) before O’Keeffe ever opened the narrow snake eyes of the art world to her paintings.

Trolls, however, lurk in both sexes, in all arts — painting, music, writing. All slobbering, ready to eat anyone who tries to cross the same bridge they’re living under. When I moved to Austin, briefly, in 1995, I lived with a troll under the bridge, Frances, who dismissed my writing, as if all I might ever produce would be samples to teach writing, if that. She, on the other hand, would be the great artist, the one who aggressively dismissed me and my writing as naive. She would achieve, publish novels, become wealthy, where I would not.

Dorothea Brande, in her classic Becoming a Writer (1934), warns of trolls, and advises writers to surround themselves with people “who, for some mysterious reason, leave you full of energy, feed you with ideas, or more obscurely still, have the effect of filling you with self confidence and eagerness to write.”

Trolls still lurk under my bridge — most recently a former boss, but sometimes Frances, and sometimes an old former editor at the paper. It can be hard for writers or artists to dismiss the undermining voices and go on to achieve what artists like O’Keeffe achieved. It’s part of our nature, I believe, to remain open to the underminers. Perhaps we feel the thing we love to do most is somehow unacceptable to the outside world, and therefore sinful, and we shoulder the sin, the temptation to keep writing or painting or composing, bearing it as a guilty pleasure, something we secretly desire to be absolved of.

And yet the believers exist out there: They share the sweet-tooth cravings, the indulgence in dolce peccante. They “fill you with self confidence and eagerness to write.” They are people like my wife, and my former colleague Clay Coppedge. Listen to such people. Cross the bridge, but keep from eating so much you get too fat to walk. Savor just enough of their influence to keep the words flowing.

Georgia O’Keeffe had her sister Claudia to inspire her when she lived in Texas. On their walks O’Keeffe would watch the evening star come out. She got ten watercolors out of the star. She savored enough and then produced art.

Writing Projects

After the MFA asks the question: What writing projects occupy your time these days?

My answer is that other than blogging this weekend, my last writing project was the interview I posted here with Arthur Plotnik. Which, other than the intro, was mostly an editing project, I suppose.

But, I did submit a revised version of “The Content of My Life Has No Appendix” to Minnetonka Review. For those of you following the blog Content is the six-part essay I posted here.

Annie Dillard and the Funk of Writing and Reading Too Much

Never, ever, get yourself into a situation where you have nothing to do but write and read. You’ll go into a depression. You have to be doing something good for the world, something undeniably useful; you need exercise, too, and people.

Annie Dillard, from the introduction to In Fact, the Best of Creative Nonfiction

In my newspaper days, I fantasized about having the time only to do nothing but write and read. A full time daily newspaper job consumed so much free time, little was left for reading or writing (other than the job). I dreamed of vacation days when all I would do would be read and write.

Now, however, because I’m underemployed, my days are consumed with reading and writing to the point I plummet into a funk — my mind makes a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven, strutting and fretting with fears real and imagined. Will I get full time work? Will I ever get another freelance assignment? Am I good enough even for local media? Am I good enough, period. The idiot’s tale, a neverending story.

So, Dillard’s right: My wife and I have been walking, and the exercise tenses down less fretting on my part. But, as of yet, I don’t feel useful, and I miss being around people, specifically my former colleagues at the paper. But, there’s less fretting. And that’s a good thing, right?

Encouraging Words at Narrative Magazine

Sometimes writers need Hallmark cards, opening up to refreshing pools of words that keep you writing. My wife dips me daily in these pools. Friends and colleagues sometimes pass a tin cup with a sip. Occasionally an editor sprinkles a few words to keep you writing. Recently, Arthur Plotnik did. (A big, toothy-grinned smiley should go here to thank him again for the interview, but this is a serious literary blog, so no such things as smileys here, right. 🙂 )

The first editor to encourage me, and say good things about my writing, specifically my fiction, was Tom Jenks. Though the brief note of encouragement Jenks left on a manuscript I submitted to him is probably lost to the various moves I’ve made in the past 10 years, the spirit of that note stays brainprinted in the white-hot center of my mind.

My spam box, however, sometimes short circuits that imprint when it captures e-mail updates of Jenks’s Narrative Magazine.

The latest update, though, was inboxed today, and I hope you’ll follow the link above and take a look at it. It’s sort of a reader’s Hallmark, opening up rivers of literary talent for readers. Rarely, if ever, does a discouraging word fall.

Specifically, I’m looking forward to reading Tom Grimes’s essay “The Leash” and gandering at the feature “Works in Progress” with sneak peeks at pieces from Robert Olen Butler, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Jane Smiley and Jim Harrison, among others.