On Spec Or Not On Spec?

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I’ve got one of those nasty summer colds right now, so my head isn’t quite right today. So it seemed like a good day to browse the net – also the BootsNall Boards – to see what was going on.

I come back to the topic of travel writing, in general, and writing “on spec,” specifically, because it is one of those topics that I can’t seem to find agreement on, either on writing sites or within myself.

Writing on spec – or, on speculation – is one of those no-nos they tell you about in Travel Writing 101. Here’s the scenario: you query an editor and the editor likes your idea but asks to see a fully-written article before he/she agrees to pay you for it. In 9 cases out of 10, you will put in a lot of hard work for little or no gain.

I’ve technically written on spec once, but thankfully was paid for it. But what of the hundreds of queries I have sent out and never fully fleshed out?

My husband likes to guilt trip me sometimes by saying, “You’re a writer, so write.” I try to explain that “No, I don’t put fingertips to keyboard until someone agrees to pay me for it.” It seems quite shallow when I look at it from his perspective.

Though I’ve written two books, it’s not surprising that I have gotten my share of rejections from newspaper and magazine editors. Either they didn’t have room for my idea or they may not have had the confidence that I could string enough words together to form a story. After writing many a query and fewer articles, I thought I would challenge myself to sit down and write. Something. If not for them, then for me. Sometimes you have to get words on paper in order to get into the flow, into the craft. Essentially, when you’re writing for yourself – either in a diary or a travelogue – you’re writing “on spec.” So what if you don’t always get paid for it? The words and ideas are yours.

And here comes my glowing endorsement for BootsnAll. I like that I can post my articles – uh, ramblings – on their site without much effort. This blog helps in that respect, too. I just posted two pieces – one on DC, the other on Greece – that have been languishing on my hard drive for months. It feels good to get them out of my system, literally and figuratively.

Now if only I could get this cold out of my system.