Something you probably didn’t know

Click image for one of Shannon's published works. Photo © Château de Monte-Cristo

Writing is hard work. Getting paid to write is damn near impossible. I know, because I’ve watched Shannon do the impossible every day for the last six years. She’s far more successful than she gives herself credit for, and I’m incredibly proud of her.

I’ve been reading a lot of travel blogs lately and I came across this essay So You Wanna Be a Travel Writer? posted by a professional freelancer. Her experience mirrors ours, or Shannon’s, at least. It’s a good exposé on the realities of trying to write for pay. Freelance writing is a field where you have to work terribly hard; suffer constant rejection; manage the chaos of feast or famine assignments; harass editors for pay; deal with the uncertainty of when, or whether, the next check will arrive; constantly ‘interview’ for the next gig; work on stories that may never get sold; and compete with folks who are willing to do all of this for free. It’s not all fun and games, even if it appears to be.

Nobody knows how hard Shannon has worked to make a go of it in this crazy profession, but I thought you should.

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3 Comments on “Something you probably didn’t know”

  1. Chris March 8, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Great post, Brian, and the linked one was really interesting. I’m lucky in that I get paid a regular 40 hours a week to write, the trade off being that I never get a byline. My work goes out under some engineer’s name. That’s OK with me, though. I’m doing what I love to do and doing it from home.

    Freelancing (or being technically self-employed as I am) is hard work indeed. I may get paid 40 hours but I work many more hours, especially if you count the “thinking” and getting up at 3 am because I’ve woken up with a great idea and have to get it written down there and then! Or getting up at 3 am because there’s a deadline to meet and I’m devoid of ideas as to how to structure the piece. But it’s the job for me.

    Your life on the road may sound idyllic, but you’ve given me a good insight as to how hard it can be to be productive and profitable. I am following your travels with great interest and look forward to the book that is surely going to result!

    Can you post when Shannon has a piece published so that I can track it down?

    • Brian March 8, 2011 at 9:20 am #

      Hi Chris,
      Thanks for the comments, as always.

      It’s funny. Because after Shannon saw the post, one of the first things she said was “Chris will understand.” And it’s true. Nobody knows how hard it is to write unless you’ve done it. And by “doing it”, I’m not talking about opinion pieces, or letters, or even this blog. I’m talking about writing factual pieces that have to be spot-on accurate, written on a specific subject, to someone else’s specifications, on deadline. It’s harder than it sounds.

      But writing is just a quarter of the battle. Getting paid for it is the really hard part. Shannon will routinely get requests to write for free. What other job in America expects you to work without pay? And every paying job she gets, she has to find. Imagine having to find a new job every week or every other week; sending out resumes, going on interviews, hoping to land a job that will pay you a week’s salary. Knowing that as soon as that work is done, you have to find a job for the next week. That’s kind of what it’s like to be a piecework writer, like Shannon.

      Nobody should read this as a complaint. And we’re certainly not looking for sympathy. I started this post because I read the linked article and it reminded me of Shannon. And it reminded me of how few people know what a tremendous accomplishment she’s achieved. So I thought I’d try to rectify that.

  2. Chris March 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    I do understand, and I am so very proud to be an honorary family member and bask a little in the glory of Shannon’s achievements.

    Just as Shannon has you, I also have someone who is the “wind beneath my wings,” always there with the love and support that makes the grind and the effort bearable. So take a little credit for yourself, too.

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