Gotta Be Willing to Do What It Takes


When you’re trying to build a writing career, and establish a connection with nonfiction magazine editors, you have to be willing to do whatever they need, whenever they need it, however they want it.

I don’t have a journalism degree, I’m not all that tied into the NYC journalism scene, and I have a day job in IT so I’m limited in what I can do during normal business hours. I have to be realistic in identifying the negatives I carry along with the positive characteristics I can offer an editor. But I can do my best to counter-balance those negatives with more and more positives. One way I try to distinguish myself is that I’ll write anything, with any deadline, that an editor needs. No questions asked, no whining. Just do whatever it takes.

That sometimes puts me in positions like what I experienced last week. I received a last minute assignment from a national magazine on a Tuesday evening. The deadline was Thursday morning. Of course, I worked all day on Wednesday. Which means I was up all night trying to meet the deadline.

The point is that when you’re starting out, and when you’re trying to build a writing career, you can distinguish yourself by taking on the shit assignments. The ones that other writers won’t touch. I know I may not be this particular editor’s first choice writer (or even his second or third) but if I’m willing to stay up all night and do the work on short notice, that is undoubtedly going to help me move into his starting rotation. My only concern with short deadlines is quality. I don’t want to agree to something and then turn in a bunch of crap. Other than that, you got a writing gig? Count me in. I’m like Paladin with an ink pen. Have pen, will write. 

I’ve also been involved in another writing project that has been taking up a great deal of time lately. This gig has involved a good deal of heavy lifting and it has had me up until 2am each night and then back up at 4:30am after a brief nap to get back at it. But it is well worth it.

So here’s my advice to you… do whatever it takes. Go without sleep, skip the gym, record your favorite television shows. But when you get an opportunity, then be damn sure to take it. I know a lot of writers who moan and complain about short deadlines, or they decline assignments because they’re not interested in the subject matter, or it doesn’t pay enough, or the publication isn’t big enough, or whatever. These are writers like you and me; they’re not Pulitzer Prize winners. Yet, they act like they can work whenever they feel like it. Me, personally? I’m not willing to take the chance that if I say no today, that there will be any opportunities tomorrow.

My last couple of weeks have been exhausting. But also exhilarating. I’m thrilled (and thankful) about these projects and will do whatever it takes to make them successful.

I can catch up on my sleep later…

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