I once told a good friend of mine that I write to put food on the table.
That was true, but it’s not exactly the whole story.
There’s a difference between being a Freelance Writer, and being an Author. I wear both hats. Allow me to explain the functions of each one.
The Freelance Writer Hat
This is the practical baseball cap that I put on and wear when I’m writing for other people. It is the custom-tailored hat that is probably worn on a couple of edges, but it still looks okay. It serves its function.
There are deadlines, demanding clients, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) keywords and phrases, revisions, more revisions, ratings, tailor-made posts that don’t sound like anyone else, client’s clients and their sub-clients, and on and on ad nauseam. It’s the type of writing where if you don’t write, you don’t get to eat.
The Author Hat
I like this fit better, of course. This is my sexy, wide-brimmed hat that shields my eyes from the searing pain of the sun and lends an air of je ne sais quoi to my appearance. It’s the hat I wear when I write for pleasure. If it sells on the shelves, great! If it doesn’t, well, damn, but it won’t stop me from writing and enjoying myself.
There are some deadlines when working with a publisher, edits and revisions, more revisions, helping to market your work, and moving on to your next story. It’s the type of writing where you write, sometimes get paid for it, and hopefully just have a great time doing it.
Both hats are valuable, and they’ve taught me a great deal about the writing process. Not only are you creating art with words, you’re crafting them, too. You’re building a structure that will hopefully stand for a good long while. You might not build the Sphinx or The Great Wall of China, but hopefully you’ve built something that will house a few generations of readers.
I have also said that it is not necessary to have a muse in order to write. I still stand by it, that it’s 100% true if you’re dedicated to your craft. That doesn’t mean you’re not inspired or uninspired on some days, but I’ll write more about that later. I’ve been accused of having a Puritan streak for it (thanks, Frank!), but that’s not true, either. The Puritanical work ethic can play into it for some, but I prefer to think of it as a dedication to producing art. I am not a machine nor a beast of burden. I am my own muse.
I used to think that I needed a muse in order to produce a story. As such, I wound up not writing very often, just waiting for the “right idea” to come along. Then, I got into Freelance Writing to help pay my bills. There was no room for waiting with this. There were articles to write and deadlines to meet, but each article had to be original and unique, and not look like the generic crap that a bot can crank out in minutes. If you want to stand out in the world of freelance writing, you MUST produce work that has a twist to it. Infused with humor, excitement, and quality. Considering my consistent rating is five of five stars, I think I’ve got that part under control.
Doing it day in and day out gave me the idea that I could do the same thing with creative writing, if only I would sit down and write…anything. Start with a dream I had last night and see where it went. Take a character from one of my games and tailor them to become original. Use my imagination. BECOME MY OWN MUSE.
That isn’t to say there aren’t ideas, dreams, and other people who inspire me. There are plenty of people I admire and things people say that wend their way into my head and sometimes wind up in my manuscripts. But there isn’t an intangible thing out there that controls me and what I write. I draw inspiration from elsewhere, but I am the creator. If I had to depend on something or someone else, I’d never get any project finished. But I’ll write more about that next week. This week it’s all about author hats.
No matter which hat you choose, one or the other, or both, try to approach them in the same way, especially if you’re feeling uninspired, ill, or otherwise ‘just not in the mood.’ Put yourself in the mood. Think it’s impossible? I’m writing this very moment with a migraine. I created this piece and I’m pretty pleased with it. If I can do it under these circumstances, then you can, too.