by Jargon Writer

Writing my way to becoming a freelancer

Hitting Send

My boss has commented once or twice, when looking over pieces he wrote in older issues of the magazine, “I wrote that? Damn I’m good.” When I do the same, I always feel the exact opposite–”I wrote THAT?!?! And they published it?” Almost every piece I work on, I fret about getting it right. And I have a problem–I can’t edit my own work. Every time I edit something I wrote, I end up starting from scratch.

Take exhibit A as an example: My boss constantly praises the writing of one of our editors; so today I decided I would take a closer look at one of her articles (see it here) her style of writing and figure out what about her writing impresses him so much. The first thing I noticed was her soft lead. So I decided to see if I couldn’t achieve something similar. So I tried it.

And now I’m a nervous wreck. My boss won’t even look at the piece for at least 2 more weeks–I still have to do several interviews and all I wrote today was the introduction–but I’m worried he’ll think my attempt to copy her soft lead is silly. It really felt like I was taking a risk.

This is how I feel almost every time I submit a freelance article for publication.

Most of the time when I finally finish an article and hit send, I immediately wish I could call it back. I worry that the person on the other end isn’t going to like it, or is going to want to edit it to smithereens and will hold back because they don’t want to hurt my feelings (or that they won’t hold back, but instead just won’t use me again).

My suspicion is that my insecurities go back to what I talked about a while ago or, more recently– that I’m faking it–that I still haven’t gotten to that point at which I consider myself a writer so I constantly worry about being exposed. I’m hoping that when I get my website up and functioning this weekend that that will begin to change. Then, when I finally order business cards and begin introducing myself AS a writer, that it will set in even more.

But only time will tell.


April 8, 2010 - Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I came to a solution for this insecurity in my recent years at college and it turns out that the solutions to most insecurities is transposable.

    I realized something very important:

    Everyone is in the same boat. Some people have been in the boat longer than me, but in the end they’re in the same boat.

    If the writer you attempt to emulate has impressed your boss it wasn’t because she/he emulated someone else. He/she made a place for their own style. Make your own place. Don’t be a replacement. It’s not sustainable.

    Also, I followed your trackback to the post that stated “fake it till you make it” and I completely disagree. If you are having to fake it to make it, then you are in the wrong place.

    Comment by Mehul Kar | April 9, 2010 | Reply

    • I think it’s really interesting that you disagree with the “fake it until you make it” post – which isn’t about faking your qualifications or faking a style it’s specifically about faking confidence you may not feel.

      But the reason I think it’s interesting that you disagree with it is this: that piece of advice has been in every book on freelance writing I’ve ever read. And I’ve read quite a few of them.

      I really like your concept of the boat and it just being a difference in time, but for me (and, I believe, for many other writers out there) I doubt my own work. That doubt is what drives me to work harder.

      Not every is a good writer. I believe I know my strengths and my weaknesses when it comes to writing. But that only means I try to improve where I am weak. If someone’s work is being held up as the ideal, I believe I should try to learn from that. Like any other field of work, evaluating successful stories is a good way to figure out tricks to improve your own writing.

      Essentially, the “idea” that I am “copying” from her piece is using a soft lede vs. a hard lede. I tend to write hard lede’s, to make the most of my words. I also tend to break things down into the simplest denominators when I write (or teach) so that I know no one is left clueless. She does neither of these things.

      When you write as a profession, it isn’t about writing in your personal style – it’s about being able to bend your style to fit the publication’s style or the company’s style, while retaining your own voice. If she is writing in what my boss considers the “publication style” I SHOULD try to emulate that.

      Comment by mbreau | April 9, 2010 | Reply

  2. It is as I said when you interviewed me a few weeks ago. That biggest step for me was actually giving myself permission to call myself a writer without having to pass some official test, or being granted the title by some magical being. I still struggle with it sometimes, as I feel all writers do at some point.

    Comment by Ty Unglebower | April 9, 2010 | Reply

    • It is a huge step. And it’s definitely not an easy one. I’m better than I once was, but I’m definitely guilty of worrying about it.

      Comment by mbreau | April 9, 2010 | Reply

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