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Major Keys to Freelance Writing Success

A side-effect of ghost- and contract-writing for companies that are way hipper than I am is spending a lot of time on social media and hearing from a lot of social media experts.

Despite my best efforts to glide off raw, natural talent, I have to adapt to their voices and trends and jargon and metrics and whatnot.

I mean, srsly, we all know that if I wrote from the heart every post for every client would be like 8,000 words long and wandering and full of references to goodness knows what. Yet somehow I keep getting work, so I must be doing something right.

As I take a break between some contract writing assignments today, as I reflect on this side-career, I feel like I’ve really landed on some secrets to success in this field. And if there’s one thing experts like to write about, it’s how to be good at things!

Without further ado, then, here are my keys to success (if measuring by my life, which I absolutely don’t recommend as #goals-worthy):

Silence is the enemy, or, Background Noise is your muse.

Options include:

  • Music (preferably Black Keys or Disney Soundtracks)
  • Period Pieces on Netflix (Jane Eyre, Mansfield Park, etc.)
  • Coffee shop chatter. This one is the worst, obv, but it’ll do.

Fill your mind with inspiring things.

Recommendations, by medium:

  • TV: Gilmore Girls, Frasier, New Girl, X-Files
  • Movies: Anything made out of a book by Austen, Tolstoy, or some other dead classic writer. Also things starring Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, etc.
  • Books: Lewis, Rowling, also anything by a dead classic author. They’re so good.
  • Radio: Classic hip-hop, alternative, or top 40 sometimes, you know, when it’s like Adele or whatever. NOT country, though. No.
  • Internet: Buzzfeed, but only the quizzes (v insightful), social media BUT only read Twitter, the rest is just for pretty pictures, amirite?

Caffeine

All of it.

Exercise

Or a lot of candy. Maybe both. Probably both.

Own a puppy

Plz note: not conducive to productivity, but v helpful to combat the sometimes soul-killing aspects of content writing.

Hopefully this list has inspired all of you aspiring freelance writers greatly. Or at the very least, deterred some future competition away!

PS… I’m putting together a curriculum with some ACTUAL, practical tips for freelancing and contract writing. Stay tuned!

When the Church Fails

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

* * *

Hurts from the church go deep.

Wounds from an enemy may also scar,

but wounds from neighbors, family, friends –

from those baptized in Holy Waters, sanctified to serve the needy –

these wounds are unexpected and internal

and leave an impact more lasting than merely toughened tissue.

 

The number of those who share these wounds should be few,

though I suspect they are many.

Churches and entire denominations have been exposed, after all, laid bare on the news for scandal and pain.

Maybe some of us know this specific wound.

 

But maybe the wounds aren’t so public or “newsworthy.”

Maybe, like me, you grew up in the church.

Maybe, like me, you were even the pastor’s child.

And the church you knew wasn’t a cult or a scandal,

But it wasn’t always the community described in Acts, either.

Maybe there were expectations and judgment persistently forced upon you, near-constant intrusions into your home and your life which served to feed the judgmental cycle of expectations

again

and again

and again…

 

And all of a sudden you understand the beginning of this verse all too well:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?  

 

For so many,

Pastor’s child or no,

Regular church attendee or no,

Outsider looking in or no,

This is where the verse’s truth stops.

 

They have looked inside the church,

past the doors, to its people,

And their actions and lack thereof,

And their words and lack thereof,

And they have walked away.

 

I walked away.

And to best explain that experience I’m going to rabbit trail to the movie “The Giver.” I watched this movie last week, and despite expecting to hate it because it couldn’t possibly live up to the book, I found myself immersed in memories of my childhood and teenage years in the church.
Of being told that open minds were dangerous and “different” was to be feared.

I’ve always been anxious, so basically I grew up always afraid.

Like Jonas in “The Giver,” as I began to get more in touch with reality here on earth, with the bits of history my schools had glossed over, with people more diverse than those my sheltered life had allowed me to encounter, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of things I’d been told to fear and broken by the systems I’d been taught were the answer.

There was a lot going on in my life during my “Jonas/Giver” years; a nasty battle with anorexia, my parents’ divorce, finally going to college after time off and choosing a Catholic one, full of mandatory courses on theology and church history, at that.

In “The Giver,” Jonas questions the system he knew and confronts reality. My version was turning from my system – the church – and questioning everything. And the more I questioned, the more I began to know, see, and love Jesus. And after years of receiving truth, I was finally able to go back to church. I was able to find the difference between religion and relationship and celebrate it. To turn to Christ when any system or person failed, and to experience the too-often-overlooked second part of the verse where we can learn to live freely and lightly.

 

I wish I could say that this verse applied only in past tense,

That I just had a tough time of it in childhood,

That I was just…”overly churched.”

But I’m not that unique

And my youth wasn’t that special

And I think every one of us has both

been failed by the church

And failed as the church.

 

And it’s not okay,

but it is okay.

 

Because we can always go back to Jesus.

We can always trade in our burdens of too-high expectations

of those on either side of the pulpit,

Of expecting perfection by our personal standards

Instead of listening to

And living like

Jesus.

 

Hurts from the church go deep.

And we’re probably not done receiving them.

We can live fixated on our scars.

Or we can live fixated elsewhere,

Intentional to keep from scarring one another,

As we learn to live freely and lightly.

Parent Teacher Conference Data

25 conferences in

4 hours plus
1 IEP meeting plus

1 impromptu
1-on-1 work session to catch
1 student up (which we did!)
5 more conferences in
30 quick minutes before
30 quick minutes of snack/water/caffeine/bathroom break then
1 student and her
1 mom waiting
0 energy left but
“You’re the famous Mrs. House! Well, famous House in our house. Every day I hear more about you. You’re the reason Maddy wants to be an English teacher! And the reason I think she can do it!” And there’s
1 more reason that adds to
1 promising meeting that adds to
1 student willing to work in the middle of a conference-filled lunchroom that adds to
86 more reasons to keep putting forth
all of the effort for
each and every of my
89 students.

Here I Am

Do you ever post things online without really thinking about the reaction they’ll get?

Rhetorical question, really. We all do that.

It’s no secret that I go back and forth on how much I share, how much I save for in-person moments. I shared something yesterday morning in one of my “fits of overflow;” when I learn something so important that I feel I must share it.

Screenshot 2016-01-27 at 10.06.52 AM

And then I felt weird about it. I felt awkward that I didn’t write the perfect words to accompany it. That I described a Bible-in-one-year plan as some novel concept, when *scoff, scoff* as a preacher’s kid I know all the ways to read that book, and I’ve read it all before, and so on and so forth. I felt like I was showing too much yet not showing enough and it was uncomfortable.

Yet, in spite of that…In spite even of the really not that aesthetically pleasing image I’d created with an app, I feel like it’s important for me to document this phase of my faith journey.

Later that day, I wrote the following, as a means of processing my feelings. There’s this generational movement of my fellow church-raised people. Of trying to reconcile what we were raised to believe with what the world tells us with what at the end of the day we find when we look the bare bones of Christianity in the face – as stripped of doctrine and added rules as we can. If we can.

****

I am always a child before You.

A legacy of being your daughter, a princess familiar with your court, to use the familiar royal analogy. A sense of pride; I’ve known you forever! You held me together in the womb and in my infancy, when death seemed certain. You showed me an angel as I cowered, a confused little child.

You pulled me back from the edge, countless times, showing me your truth. Ever increasingly, ever undeniably. Reintroduced to my own Father and friend through new cycles of life.

I feel I should sense shame as I put vulnerability out there, as I admit at 30 that I’m approaching the throne I’ve known all my life as if it were there for the first time…but therein lies the beauty. I know my dirt, I always have. I understand it more now, however. What it really is. I’m done retreating to primp in the hallway outside of your court, fussing for perfection before re-entry. I’m also done listening to the whispers of “the dirt is all there is.”

I’m ready for you to throw open the doors, throw open your arms, and hold me. (Again)

I’m here and I have my dirt and that’s that. You can wash it away, but you’ll use me in it. You’ll put words in my mouth and a staff in my hand and I will go, I will speak, I will share what I see.

And some may know I’ve been your daughter all along, and observe casually as if nothing’s changed. And some may think it’s all beginning…

But it always is. Always was.

Thanks to Josh Wing for sharing this video – I think it explains well how timeless the cycle is.