I’ve been freelancing on and off for more than 15 years. While I’ve been lucky to land some decent-paying projects with a few well-known publishers and online outlets, I’ve always wondered whether there is a secret formula to getting more work.
In fact, there is a secret formula to getting more freelance assignments, just as there is a secret formula to getting a fitter body: do more, work more. In both cases that’s easier said than done. I know what I should be doing but often I lack the motivation and stamina to get to the next level.
This is why I’ve been thinking about how to approach this issue from the opposite direction. I am not sure how one succeeds as a freelance writer — success is subjective and hard to define — but I do know what it takes not to succeed.
With the hindsight of 15 years, here are the things I should’ve done to get further as a writer. Consider it anti-advice from someone who knows better.
“There are a lot of ways to stay safe as a writer: by not writing, by writing to no one, by writing to a single admirer, by challenging the judgment of those with the power to judge, by not putting much effort into your work. ‘It’s hard,’ Zink writes in ‘The Wallcreeper,’ ‘trying to defend your territory and advertise your presence and keep out of predators’ line of sight.'”
Every word of this Kathryn Schulz profile of novelist Nell Zink is perfect. It helps that Zink’s life story and book plots are brimming with zaniness and improbability. This was such a joy to read.