Organized Rambling: To be a Writer

Organized Rambling

Oh, to be a writer.

Much like a musician or composer composes with notes, an artist composes with oils, a chef composes with food, and a teacher composes a lesson plan with worksheets, a demonstration, and an activity—a writer composes with language using infinite combinations of letters or characters to convey something, anything.

As a young writer, I wrote and illustrated "George Washington Kitten."
Original illustration from the classic George Washington Kitten.

I’ve been writing for most of my life: creating short stories like George Washington Kitten as an elementary student, drafting scripts about ordering hot dogs for my high school French class, assembling research papers and creative writing assignments in college, writing press releases, newspaper articles, and book reviews, working on my novel, or rambling in blog posts, like what you’re reading right now. I have recently started to get paid for my writing and not have it included as part of my position’s salary. Which, I must say, feels pretty cool to be monetarily compensated for something you love to do.

As a writer, particularly a freelance writer, some pros and cons come in tow, just like with any job or position. Creating my own flexible work schedule, taking on the assignments I want, getting to read and review books, working with community members and making new connections, attending recent events and crafting reviews about the experiences, and yes, getting to wear sweatpants while I work—these are all great perks to the freelance writer lifestyle.

The more challenging aspects that come along with this path include having to find your own work—the jobs don’t land in your lap—sometimes it’s difficult to track people down for interviews and photos, jobs can be inconsistent (although, I’ve been blessed with regular work from several sources), payday is contingent upon submitting your invoices, but you may not receive payment until the next cycle/month, which can make things financially tight. And most of the time, you have to have other means of income to make ends meet, but that seems to be the case for most people right now, regardless of whether you’re a writer.

However, those “cons” aren’t that bad if you think ahead and plan accordingly. The trickiest aspects to address regularly are the reactions I get when people ask me what I do for a living.

One of three things usually occurs when I respond to “What do you do?” with “I’m a writer.”

Obi-wan Kenobi confused about someone being a writer.
This wasn’t the answer you were looking for…

One: Confusion

The askee is confused because they don’t understand how anyone can make a living out of words, even though we are constantly surrounded by words (i.e., billboards, daily newspapers, smart gadget manuals, bookshop new releases, television and radio scripts, social media posts, web content, product descriptions, directions on the macaroni and cheese boxes, etc., etc., etc.). It’s almost as if some people imagine words, slogans, limericks, catchphrases, sentences, directions, and humorous copy just poof into existence.

Rain Man and Tom Cruise contemplating what it is to be a writer.
Editing via telepathy

Two: Assumption

The askee assumes you can whip something off at the drop of a hat—that writing anything, for you, is a breeze and requires no effort because you are a self-proclaimed writer. Also, you can edit in your head, Rain Man-style, the following sentence they rattle off because, again, you’re a writer, and you should be able to do that. It’s almost like you’re being tested. Still, I have to hazard a guess that the same people don’t ask a surgeon to slice open a body part to prove himself or insist that a plumber pull open the under-the-sink cabinet doors and start explaining how and why the drain is functioning properly. Maybe these situations do occur, and I just haven’t attended enough dinner parties to witness such feats of profession.

Michael Caine speaking positive affirmations to writers about getting that publishing crown.
Wear the published. Be the published. You are the published.

Three: Publication

The askee, upon hearing your response, follows up their initial question with another: “Have you been published?” As if being published is the crowning achievement—not the process or journey, not what you learned along the way, and not the value you’ve created outside of the published realm. And more often than not, the askee is asking whether or not you’ve been published by a publisher/publishing house or a literary journal. They don’t view regular newspaper or magazine publishing or consistent blogs as being published. You’ve made it if you’ve been published in the right way. Otherwise, you’re a wannabe writer.

Thus far, you may be thinking that I’m feeling salty about my choice of profession, but I’m not. Instead, I really and truly wish to educate people on what a writer experiences, with or without publication in the traditional sense.

We all know how prevalent the written or spoken words are in our everyday lives: the podcasts and music you listen to while driving or working out; the news you get from MSM or alternative sources; the books you stay up till all hours reading; the shows you binge-watch on one of the now countless streaming services; those posts you like by your favorite mediation or self-love guru on social media—all of these, and so much more, require writing, and to some extent editing, fact-checking, and proofreading. I cannot attest to the last three items in the writing process of others, though. I know I incorporate them, but I don’t think everyone does, hence miscommunication, misunderstanding, and misinformation. Therefore, it’s good to keep that grain of salt handy when reading.

Steph Curry being Salt Bae.
Just a dash…

Writing is vital to the flow of life; I don’t think anyone could argue that point.

Side note: I cannot be the only one who confidently throws away the empty Lipton or Knorr rice bag, only to pull it out of the trash minutes later to confirm what I already read. Praise Lipton and Knorr for their simple instructions that my 31-year-old mind should have memorized by now, but being able to re-read them each time makes me feel a bit better about my life. There are memes about this, so I know I’m not the only one.

Taking the macaroni and cheese box out of the trash to re-read the directions.
Thank you, Clean Memes, for this gem.

And, with writing being so prevalent, I can understand how someone could make the assumption that writing is easy (even if it isn’t easy for them)—after all, it’s everywhere! However, assuming that such an act of creativity and the level of necessary research happens with absolute ease and without struggle is only to shortchange the hard work writers put into what they do. Sometimes writing is easy and straightforward, but other times, it’s like dragging cinder blocks uphill in the blazing sun while wearing stilettos—it’s a pain.

In the past, I’ve had coworkers, friends, and family members want me to edit on the fly, edit a sentence over the phone, or edit a phrase shouted at me from down the hall. They’ve wanted me to assemble a flawless paragraph, description, or bio quickly, and let me tell ya, it takes more than three minutes to execute any one of these tasks effectively. And having someone hover over your shoulder while you try to write doesn’t help. Again, it feels like you’re being tested, as if I have to prove my writerly abilities every so often.

At this juncture, I want to revisit something I mentioned early on: many writers often have other means of income. And it’s not just writers who support themselves with multiple revenue streams and part-time or full-time jobs and additional side gigs; it’s most creatives. I know dancers, musicians, singers, and artists who also work as instructors, reporters, waitstaff, and HVAC technicians, among other jobs, to provide for themselves. I don’t solely survive as a freelance writer right now, but I intend to someday.

Currently, I write for two print publications, review books, maintain this blog, edit my novel, create social media posts, take on freelance jobs (word of mouth has been the best way to get the word out), work part-time for my family’s business, and occasionally cat-sit.

Another creative I know—a singer—works at a restaurant when she isn’t auditioning, rehearsing, or performing. She recently relayed to me an all-too-common experience—being interrogated about your creative career/aspirations while working your “day job.”

People have implied that she should sing for them in the restaurant when they find out she’s a singer as if they don’t believe her or think asking for an impromptu performance is flattering to her. They also boldly ask why she’s working in a restaurant if she’s a singer and inquire after her finances, informing upon themselves that they haven’t had to work multiple jobs before to make sure all of their bills were paid while pursuing their passion. In this situation, I think people need to be aware that when we kindly answer your questions, thus making ourselves a bit more vulnerable to strangers, we aren’t asking for input or advice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for questions, and I love sharing about what I do. However, I think it’s more appropriate to ask open-ended questions that don’t involve someone’s personal finances or having to prove our skills.

I used to get down on myself when people asked if I’d been published yet as if I was doing something wrong because I hadn’t written a perfect book on my first try. But now, I interpret the question as “Have you been published yet?” emphasis on the “yet,” because yes, someday I intend to have my work on bookshop shelves—it just hasn’t happened yet. And that softens the blow of a harmless yet ignorant question.

Being published isn’t the only point of ascribing to the life of a writer, but if I’m willing to re-interpret certain questions, maybe the askees will be willing to rephrase their questions or simply ask: “What do you love about writing?” And that is something I could talk about or write about for days. An open-ended question yields so many possibilities instead of a singular yes or no answer, and as a writer, I think creating conversation is the best route to take.

Coming up next:


Nathan Fillion stumbling over words and ideas.
Indecision strikes…


4 responses to “Organized Rambling: To be a Writer”

  1. Thank you for answering all 4,000 of my questions the past couple weeks! This post was so relatable. It’s crazy how many people don’t know what technical writing is. This might end up being more complicated to explain than Etsy, whenever people ask me what I do for a living. The part about the singer really got me, too. I was in choir for…dang near a decade…and I literally had to stop talking about it because whenever I mentioned choir people would always be like “OMG, SING FOR US!” I’m sorry, but who does that? I’m getting uncomfortable just thinking about asking someone to drop everything and sing for me; idk what’s wrong with these people…

    • I was quite happy to help and answer your questions! Don’t stop asking! And I do wish you luck on explaining your profession moving forward–it’s a challenge, lol. I feel like I should write down several outlandish responses that I can use in these situations…

  2. First of all, your sense of humor is showcased in this post! The pics and gifs compliment your message perfectly. I laughed for 10 minutes. Thank you for that.

    Secondly, asking “what do you do” and assuming what someone does, equals who they are, is an unfortunate error. It’s a poorly phrased, conditioned question. This post should be required reading for people of all ages!

    I remember your George Washington Kitten story. Seems like yesterday 🙂 Classic. Definitely classic.

    • Hey, if I can create reasons or opportunities for people to laugh, then I’ve done my job as a rambling blogger 🙂 And if I manage to stir up some level of awareness at the same time, then I’ve earned a self-given high-five.

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