October Writer’s Life: Back at work but where’s the motivation? [#yearofwriting]

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Well, we’re officially in the last quarter of my #yearofwriting and I do believe I am doing pretty well… But not as well as maybe I thought I would be by this point in time? Let’s see.

After last month turned out to be a kind of disaster for my writing, in between Hurricane Irma derailing things and then a planned two-week vacation (which I am VERY grateful for), there just wasn’t much time to do anything during the month of September. My hope, however, was that I would do much better in the month of October since I was back to work full-time and no longer had Romper to worry about since I gave that gig up back in August. October, however, proved to be a bit trickier than I expected.

What was published: 

As you can see by the above, all I really published in October were stories from my two regular contributor gigs at MamásLatinas and HipLatina. However, I am definitely NOT sorry for this nor much surprised by it.

For one, getting back into the swing of things proved to be a bit more difficult than I imagined — but that’s okay, it happens. For second, I actually ended up having three weekends in a row where I traveled for one reason or another and this derailed some of my freelance and pitching plans. This, too, happens.

Yet I was actually able to accomplish quite a bit and, very happily, took on more work for HipLatina. I’m really enjoying writing for that site and am thrilled to be working more with such a great team. So how did I do?

How much I wrote: 17,614 words

How much I made: $1300

From May until August, I was working with Romper and writing a LOT. I was also earning a pretty decent regular freelance writing paycheck, so I was very curious to see how this month would compare to what I was making with them. My estimate (and please do forgive my math) is that I was averaging 32,778 words and $2,181 during my time with Romper.

As expected, my word count and my earnings went down but definitely not as much as I thought. Although my actual word count fell by about half, my earnings didn’t do quite as badly. For comparison, during my pre-Romper days, my average word count was 16,495 and monthly earnings were $1325. So, actually, I more-or-less came back to where I was at beforehand.

But the truth of the matter is that I simply haven’t been pitching or freelancing much outside of my “regular” gigs, so I do expect that to pick up once I am able to adjust to my new schedule and take on some more one-off pieces here and there. We shall see!

Pitches sent out in October: 4*
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 3
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

*This was another case where, for one of my pitches, I sent a particular editor 8 separate ideas.

I didn’t pitch as much in October as I was hoping to do, but I still did okay. Considering that a few weeks of the month were almost cut in half for me, this is a pretty good average. The truth of the matter is that pitching can get really hard for me because, first and foremost, I have to do my Brit+Co editorial work and take care of my regular contributor gigs.

And you know what? I like this system. The more I have regular editing and writing coming in, the calmer I feel. Considering that I made about the same amount of money and wrote about the same amount earlier in the year, when I was pitching like a madwoman, is giving me hope that this new system is actually better. I’ve definitely had some more time to focus on personal projects on the side (like my memoir, Moscow Chica) and that has been an awesome change since the start of my #yearofwriting. Finally!

Back at the beginning of the year, one of my big goals was to get published in 17 different publications but I already accomplished that. In fact, I posted a big list of my accomplishment and then revised my 2017 writing goals. I feel pretty good about the direction I am heading, and I am sure that I can accomplish quite a bit more in the last couple of months of the year.

For now, let’s see what happens.

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An update to my Writing Goals for 2017 [#yearofwriting]

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When 2017 started, I deemed this my #yearofwriting and gave myself some serious writing career goals for the year. I created a basic business plan, hired a writing coach to take my career to the next level (which she did), organized my published clips and planned to do five *major* things this year.

My BIG goal for 2017 was to be published in 17 publications, and I am THRILLED to say that I accomplished this goal! It was actually done by August, thankfully. Here is what I wrote per publication:

Other than my goal of being published in 17 different publications in 2017, I also planned to save for taxes, launch a newsletter, write #52essays2017 and finish a book proposal.

But as the year wore on and I was accomplishing my #1 goal, my priorities start to change and shift. For one, I wasn’t really writing my 52 essays… and I’ve basically given that up now. I also didn’t really have time to focus on the newsletter or book proposal… and we used my tax savings to pay off a hefty credit card bill.

So you would think that I was kind of failing at my writing goals, right? Well, the truth is that I wasn’t so much failing as I was realizing that I wanted to shift my goals and give myself something new to accomplish. In this vein, I gave myself some adjusted goals.

I still plan to save for my taxes (which I “paid back” with some of my extra income from those 17+ articles), but now I am actually working on my book proposal. For my third goal, I wanted to still launch my newsletter but am holding off until the end of the year to do that. And for my last two goals, which are the ones that are new, I want to earn $2,000 per month in freelance income and I want to write five travel articles.

The freelance income quote is in order to make up for the money that I am no longer making since I let go of my gig at Romper at the end of August and the travel article bylines is because I have decided that I’d like to do more travel writing in general (especially since I just came back from a wonderful 2-week trip).

The main thing I learned by adjusting my writing goals is that I need and want to focus more on my freelance career rather than the writing I am doing at home. When I was setting some of those goals at the beginning of the year, I hadn’t yet realized that I do better with outer expectations than inner expectations. But thanks to me following the writing of Gretchen Rubin, in particular her work with The Four Tendencies, I now know why I do better with work deadlines and how crucial it is for me to make sure I get them (from others).

Basically, I was setting myself up for disappointment by saying that I will do all this writing for myself, including the #52essays2017, my newsletter and my book proposal. Instead, I am now focusing on goals that are actually achievable for me: Earning a higher income with freelance writing and doing more travel articles.

So far I actually have my first travel byline, WOO HOO. It’s an article I wrote for HipLatina that I am very proud of: 7 Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale When You’re Tired of SoBe.

And now… to tackle all those other writing goals in these last three months of the year!

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Why you should treat blogging like going to the gym

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As a full-time writer and editor, there is something that I am constantly struggling with: Should I write a blog?

Back in the day when blogging first started, it was great for any and all aspiring writers. It gave any person the chance to become a writer through the power of the internet. Anyone could do it and, so, it seemed as if everyone did do it.

Eventually, we got to the place we are today: There are tons of people we know who are famous and popular bloggers, those who have made their living reporting on the news, writing about their anxiety, talking about their parenting woes, or posting their latest food creations online. Most of the people I know who are “popular” and making a living with blogging have been doing it for over five years.

As a professional writer, I’ve heard the question “How do I start a blog?” from many friends over the years. I would usually send them to the countless free resources they can find online and encourage them to sign up with the free WordPress.com service. If it was a closer friend, I would give them more advice on how to make their blog great, how to take good photos and what to do if they want to share their content with others. All great advice (at least I think so) but I have rarely taken it for myself.

Why? Because I consider myself a writer, not a blogger.

My career began began before the blogger boom. I went to journalism school, had six internships before graduating and promptly started working in women’s magazines. Since then, I hopped from one women’s publication to another in order to grow my career and, most recently, became a full-time freelance writer and editor.

Of course, I wasn’t immune to blogging either. When I was bored at my first job and seriously job hunting in 2009, I experimented with many blogs. I think at one point I had somewhere like six blogs… Not a good idea, clearly. I couldn’t keep up with any of them, though I did learn a lot and it led to me transitioning from print publications to digital.

After that, I had a single healthy living blog, then a Tumblr blog and finally a food blog called Healthy Latin Food. Every single time I started a new one, I thought I had found THE ONE. But I didn’t. I always changed my mind, let it go, said I didn’t have the time… Which is true, due to a heavy workload, and not true, due to me not being good about keeping up with my own personal projects.

But anyway, the point is: I’ve always been interested in blogging and have appreciated the people I know who do it, but I wasn’t one of those people.

Blogging seemed like a very serious commitment and not one that I was able to invest my time in. Plus, now, as a full-time freelancer, time is money and I didn’t feel as if I have the time to do it… especially when most of my time is taken up by paid assignments (like my PT food editor gig at Brit+Co or my contributor role at HipLatina) or looking for paid assignments (as in, pitching other publications). At the end of the day, it feels as if investing time into blogging, when it is unlikely to bring in any money, is a bad idea.

And then I realized: Maybe blogging for money isn’t the point.

Recently, my friend BJ Mendelson posted about why you should blog more.

We had recently had a conversation about this topic and he made one of the best points that I had never thought about: You should be treating your blogging like going to the gym.

To him, going to the gym is just the necessary maintenance of being a human. It’s one of those things that you may not always enjoy doing but that is important to do in order to keep your muscles flexible and strong. So when it comes to blogging, he takes the same approach: It keeps your (writing) muscles flexible and strong.

After chatting with him, he advised me to do one major thing: Delete Google Analytics from my website.

The reason that all writers should be blogging, according to him, isn’t because you might earn money with it or because it may make you famous, but because blogging is simply a good way to practice some of your writing ideas. It gives you a chance to let your personality shine, talk about some of your projects and give readers (and potential editors/publishers who want to hire you) an insight into your work.

Treating blogging like the gym, meaning that it’s simply there to flex your writing muscles, is a great idea.

To be honest, it would have never occurred to me to think of it this way—probably because I absolutely hate going to the gym. You can ask my fiancé and partner Adam: He’s been trying to get me to join him at the gym pretty much ever since we met. Although I have gone on occasion, in general, I don’t enjoy working out. It’s something that I continue to struggle with in terms of my weight loss maintenance. But anyway…

If you want to start a blog and you are a professional writer, you should do it because it is a fun way to do more writing.

I realize now that blogging isn’t about statistics, fame or money. It’s good for me simply for what it is: Blogging is a way to do some more writing because I enjoy the act of writing. As I have recently joked to Adam, writing is both my job AND my hobby—which means that it is something that I am basically thinking about 24/7. I don’t really have many other hobbies or the ones that I do (such as reading audiobooks) are very much tied to my writing, too.

So when it comes to blogging, I need to do it more.

Per BJ’s advice, I have deleted GA from this here website and plan to go to the gym more… I mean, I plan to blog more.

I don’t want blogging to get in the way of my other writing and editing, but I do want to enjoy it. I don’t want blogging to be too stressful, but I do want it to be fun. And, last but not least, I don’t want blogging to be adding an unrealistic expectation to my plate.

But I am very much hoping that it won’t be that. Instead, I want to treat blogging like going to the gym: Something that I want to do because keeping my (writing) muscles flexible and strong is important to me.

Now if only I could get myself to the real gym…

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September Writer’s Life: Hurricanes & a real vacation [#yearofwriting]

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What can I say about the month of September? To be honest, I don’t even know where to start. The truth about this month is that I almost didn’t work. First of all: I had a pre-planned vacation for a good chunk of the month.

My fiancé Adam and I had been planning our trip to Europe ever since I surprised him on his birthday with concert tickets to see one of his favorite artist who was going to be giving a once-in-a-lifetime concert in Tilburg, The Netherlands in September. We decided to visit Amsterdam for a week and pair that trip with two cities in Germany: Cologne and Frankfurt.

Other than that, however, Hurricane Irma struck our hometown in Southwest Florida and threatened not only our home but also our travel plans. Thankfully, our home was mainly unscathed and we made it to Europe as planned. The only problem came in that, because I was so busy and overwhelmed by hurricane prep, I had no time to do any kind of writing in the week and a half before our trip. And, of course, the two September days after we got back were primarily spent catching up on everything.

So what I am saying is this: Excuse me if this month seems less-than-ideal in terms of my #yearofwriting progress.

What was published: 

Basically, all of the pieces that were published under my name this month were all things that I wrote the month before. But that’s okay. When you’re faced with a hurricane and a two-week vacation, life happens. And it’s really important to let life happen, I think.

I did write one piece, the 12 Foods Every Cuban Grew Up Eating for HipLatina, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (which runs from September 15-October 15). Definitely proud of that one!

How much I wrote: 3,749 words

How much I made: $100

The one great thing that came out of writing this month is that, encouraged by my incredibly supportive partner and fiancé Adam, I made some real headway on my memoir, Moscow Chica. He basically forcefully encouraged me to spend Labor Day weekend on the project, which I did. Happy to report that my book proposal is close to being done. And I definitely could NOT have done it without his not-so-gentle nudging.

Pitches sent out in September: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0

Obviously, since I had NO time to write, I also had no time for pitches this month. Oh well. I think I can just shrug this one off and tackle some SERIOUS pitching in October, which will be my first full month of being back on the full-time writing horse. (Um, is that a weird thing to say?)

Quarter 3 totals: 

How much I wrote: 61,336 words
How much I made: $3716
Pitches sent out: 4
Pitch acceptances: 1

Here’s to the end of the year going MUCH better than Quarter 3!

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August Writer’s Life: New gig, letting go & mental health [#yearofwriting]

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I don’t know how to say this other than to say it: August has been a very, very difficult month for me. It’s not because I didn’t have any work and was suffering financially (thank goodness) but because there were some changes and adjustments at Romper that seriously affected my mental health.

Without going into too many details and completely acknowledging that it is nobody’s fault, my life became extremely stressful this month. Not only was Romper completely overwhelming me, but there were other things in my life that were weighing heavily on me and seriously impacting my work. Not only was my workload basically unmanageable, but my health began to suffer too.

What I am finding out is that my mental health suffers greatly when I am feeling overwhelmed by work and it leaves my general health in shambles. Whenever I am stressing out, the first thing I reach for is soda and candy… so there was a LOT of unhealthy eating this month. After much deliberation, reconnecting with my therapist and support from Adam, I decided to let go of my PT writing gig at Romper (for now?).

What was published: 

Romper, specifically: 

Clearly, I still enjoyed writing for Romper. There were so many fun articles that I got to do this month, so quitting was a difficult decision. But, as I had predicted, the minute that I did, I felt a huge relief off of my shoulders. Romper was great for my career and I loved my time there… But, ultimately, it’s important to do what’s best for me and what is best for my mental health. I’m proud of this decision.

How much I wrote: 24,237 words

How much I made: $1,545

Because I was so overwhelmed with my Romper work this month, I didn’t freelance much and I basically didn’t pitch… Except one.

Pitches sent out in August: 1*
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 1
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0

*This editor received 8 pitches, accepted them all, and then asked me to write for them regularly, so…. Pretty good start, I think!

In other MUCH more exciting news, I managed to send one pitch out this month (or, rather, eight pitches to one editor), they were ALL accepted and I am now going to start being a regular contributor to the site in question: HipLatina!

I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled about this, to be honest. I have really missed writing personal essays during my time at Romper and I have also missed doing more cultural identity pieces, both of which are going to be very welcome at HipLatina. Hopefully, you’ve already seen some of my first pieces above—but get ready for more.

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