The Secret Lives of Writers – Dorothy Distefano
Dorothy Distefano has loved to read since discovering the power of words at four-and-a-half years old with the book, “Ann Likes Red.” Moving to writing was a natural progression, though she took a circuitous route to get there. She has been, in no particular order, a wife, mother, psychiatric RN, gastroenterological nurse, substitute teacher, family book club creator, PTA president, and soap opera critic. She is finally living her dream. Random facts: her children can tell what kind of day she’s having by looking at her hair; her favorite word is lollygag; she loves Kindle so she can carry 3,000 books with her just in case; she is writing a novel that has been continuously written and rewritten in her head for five years—it is finally being created for real; she loves to put words in the right order so that they sound nice. She is the Writer on the Verge.
My Secret Life?
That sounds mysterious, doesn’t it? Like I’m leading a double-life and am really a spy or something… But my writing life is actually quite secretive.
When someone asks me what I do, I’ve found that the answer, “freelance writer” is met with confusion and the inevitable next inquiry, “What do you write about?” That’s the answer that takes more time than they have actually allotted for an answer. Most jobs can be distilled into a polite two to three sentence public version that satisfies those who have asked and the conversation can move on. But to ask me results in more confusion than when they started.
“What do you write about?” “Well, once I wrote all about orchids, though I didn’t know anything about them and had to learn all about them for ten full articles and then I wrote about dental procedures—don’t even ask me about root canals—and I ghostwrote a YA sci-fi novel and I’ll never do that again because it was so difficult to give up and see someone else’s name on it—but I do ghostwrite articles about anything from education to iPhones and sometimes I—” By then, the person I am talking to has that glassy-eyed look. They opened Pandora’s box and had no idea what they had done.
Writing for the nicheless niche
Freelancing can be a lot of things. Many writers find a niche and stick to it. They master it and find success as an “expert” in a field. My niche is not having a niche. If you want me to write it, I’ll learn it. The only things I’ve refused are technical subjects that I am clueless about and porn. Okay, there was that one foot fetish thing, but I thought it was for a podiatry site or something. I don’t see anything erotic about bunions, but whatever.
When I’m in my office writing, often I’m actually looking for work. Freelancing requires networking. It isn’t a horrific thing to start out on a marketplace site, as long as you don’t write 500 words for $1, because you are trying to establish a reputation for quality, not being cheap. And you have to be careful about having your own contracts. Unfortunately, not everyone is trustworthy.
Often, freelancing is associated with the stay-at-home-mom. When my kids were small, I could barely speak in complete sentences, but if it works for you, go for it. It does give you a freedom you can’t find in brick-and-mortar businesses. You can schedule work and life in a way that suits you. You can work as much or as little as you want. You can work wherever you want. But you have to hustle for jobs. And you have to be good at what you do. Oh, and you have to be a great time manager.
A different kind of freelancer
Life as a freelancer has, for me, been a great experience in learning new things, expanding my skills, and doing work that isn’t normally associated with freelancing. I tutor a college student in writing. I am assisting a local author as his proofreader. He says I’m his editor, but he doesn’t like to listen to all of my advice, so I consider it proofreading. And my writing led me to my most recent position, Director of Client Happiness (my real title) at Webbased.me, a company that makes big business websites at small business prices. Most of my work is telecommuting.
Is freelancing for you? The only way to know is to try. I quit my substitute teaching gig about ten years ago to try it and never looked back.
You never know what could be next. So, as a freelancer, what do I write about? Everything. Why? What do you need written?
The Secret Live of Writers is a series of blog posts from writers (published or unpublished) who dish the dirt on how they juggle life and art. You can read about the whys and wherefores here.
The Secret Lives of Writers is now available as an ebook
You can now read all 13 guests posts from Volume 1 in the one convenient ebook. It’s out now in the Amazon Kindle Store and in other stores (iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc.) too.
Full of writing inspiration and advice, if you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, and this book doesn’t get you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), nothing will!
You can grab your copy from the Delicious Publishing Book Store.