January 2017 Writer’s Life: Published pieces, money talk, pitches & more [#yearofwriting]

At the start of the year, I wrote about the 7 fearless things I am doing for my career in 2017 and exactly why I am signing up for the #52essays2017 challenge. I also committed to making 2017 my #yearofwriting… my theme for the year, if you will.

I’ve had a few small successes here and there: Mainly that I am now officially a contributor at Mom.me (yay!) and am getting serious about working on my memoir, Moscow Chica: How Growing Up Cuban and Russian Made Me an American.

But I also wanted to talk about what a writer’s life is really like… Mainly, I wanted to talk about the solid numbers.

So here’s the deal: Starting this month, I am going to get real and tell the truth about how my freelancing has gone this month. I’ll talk about what went well, what didn’t and what it all meant. So here goes!

What was published: 

Some of these pieces were written before this month, and some were written more recently. Obviously, all of my Mom.me work is news stories and the repeal of “wet foot, dry foot” was recent too. But all in all, I also wanted to show what freelancing I did. Other than my part-time food editor job at Brit.co, here are the solid numbers:

How much I wrote: 16,475 words

How much I made: $1725*

*I am including two pieces that were accepted on spec (meaning that the editor wanted to see a full draft before they could finally say “yes”) that have been submitted but I haven’t officially heard back on. Also: This ONLY includes my freelance writing income.

Besides that, there’s also pitching… It’s what us writer have to do in order to write, yes? This month has been by FAR my most successful month of pitching and reaching out to new editors. To be honest, in 2016 I was feeling pretty cushy with my PT food editor gig and my contributing writer roles, and never looked to expand my resume.

Well, one of the things that I am doing for my writing career in 2017 is that I hired a writing coach. Her name is Mridu Khullar Relph and she runs TheInternationalFreelancer.com, and is basically FANTASTIC. The truth is that I needed a big kick to get my career to the next level, which is precisely why I hired her. It’s gone incredibly well so far! Here’s all of the numbers:

Pitches sent out in January: 27
Pitch rejections: 9
Pitch non-replies: 12
Pitch acceptances: 4
Pitch acceptances on spec: 2

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 5
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 1
Pitch acceptances: 1
Pitch acceptances on spec: 2

I admit: The 27 pitches isn’t an exact number, primarily because one pitch went out on 6 simultaneous submissions and a couple of editors received more than one pitch from me in one email. But that’s basically it.

To be honest, considering that this is the FIRST month of my #yearofwriting and also the first year that I have been seriously going out there and pitching editors, I am feeling pretty good.

The one lesson I learned, for sure, is that there comes a time when you just have to get out there and do it. And I’m happy that I’m finally doing that!

How did your 2017 start? What lesson did you learn in January that you’ll be taking with you for the rest of the year?

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7 Fearless things I’m doing for my writing career in 2017 [#yearofwriting]

It’s the start of a new year and, as always, that has me (and everyone else in the world I suppose) thinking about what this year will bring.

It’s no stretch to say that 2016 wasn’t everyone’s favorite year. Despite some personal successes, I know that I still have a long ways to go. And despite what will be happening in this country and around the world when President-Elect Cheeto Dumpster Fire (#sorrynotsorry for calling him that for the next four years) takes office, I’m fairly optimistic.

In fact, as I look a head to the coming year… I am feeling optimistic for the first time since the morning of November 8th. With so much going on, I’m particularly feeling good about where my freelance writing career is going. Right now, I am looking to strike a better balance between some of my regular work as the food editor at Brit+Co as well as my regular contributor gigs at Mom.me, Dose and other personal projects.

And other than a big post-it note that says “YOU BETTER SAVE FOR TAXES ACCURATELY THIS YEAR!” above my fancy new desk, there are a few major things that I am going to be doing in 2017 in order to advance my career. If you’re a writer or otherwise creative, read ahead for a few useful tips on how you can do it too.

1. Creating a business plan: This is probably the scariest thing I can imagine because, well, I’m not exactly very business-minded. What writer truly is? We write because we have thoughts and ideas fluttering in our brains, not because we want to deal with numbers and taxes and complicated terms that I don’t care to learn. But that shouldn’t be an excuse anymore. Inspired by a four-part business plan writing series on Virginia Sole-Smith’s blog on freelance life, I actually think I have a pretty good handle of this one now. And, GULP, I might even know what I’m doing now? If you’re interested, check out part 1, part 2, a handy chart and the finale here.

2. Hiring a writing coach: This one was even more difficult than the above, because it required me admitting that I need help. I am not someone who enjoys admitting it, because I fancy myself Wonder Woman (clearly). But I’m not. Nobody is, right? Toward the end of the year, I was feeling so frustrated by some of the issues I was having with writing (primarily the fact that I wasn’t doing more than the bare minimum) that I finally broke down and decided I could use some guidance. By PURE coincidence, the day after I had this tough conversation with my boyfriend, Mridu Khullar Relph’s newsletter revealed that she would be taking on clients on January 2, 2017. And the rest, as they say, is history…

3. Committing to a #yearofwriting: I just posted about this on Instagram, but this year I got Gretchen Rubin’s A Happier 2017 daily calendar. I’ve been a huge fan of daily calendars for the past few years, but this is my first time getting one that wasn’t just filled with my own Instagram photos (which I still think is a cool idea, if you’re interested). Today, her suggestion is to pick a word to focus on. I’ve seen friends do this in the past but last year I focused on three words (which have subsequently become really important to me): creative + passionate + fearless. Well, taking those two ideas and combining them, I decided that this is the #yearofwriting and I want to do more of that kind of writing. Writing that ignites my creativity, that helps me pursue my passions and that’s ultimately fearless.

4. Launching a newsletter: Speaking of those three words that made my 2016 pretty special, I’ve decided that I want to launch a newsletter that focuses on living a creative + passionate + fearless life. I don’t yet know what it will look like or exactly what I hope to accomplish with it, but this is something I really want to do. I’m going to give myself a couple months to fully research what’s already out there and how I want to do it, but I want to focus on how I am accomplishing those goals myself and also feature interviews with other people who embody those ideals. I’ll write more on what those words mean to me, but let’s just say… You’ll be hearing about them more in the future.

5. Writing 52 essays in 2017: Yes, this one’s a little crazier. In fact, I’m still not fully sure that I will be able to do this whole #52essays2017 thing because I admittedly suck at challenges… but I want to try. In terms of being more creative and writing more, it’s important to me to have something to push myself. I’m not great at pushing myself on my own, though, so I am hoping that having a community of other writers behind me doing the same thing will help. Plus, I figure, what’s the worst that will happen? I’ll have an hour or two a week where I just write about whatever I want. It’s not about earning money, it’s about just letting my creative juices flow. Cliche as that may be, sometimes my best writing comes out when I don’t plan anything. So let’s see what happens if I do that for a whole year!

6. Finding an accountability buddy: Since I am not good at finishing my own challenges and Linda Gonzalez, a writing coach I met back in October during BinderCon in NYC, even mentioned that an “accountability buddy” may be a good strategy for me, I think it’s time that I do it. I have plenty of other writer friends and people that I can talk to about my career. In fact, my (poor) boyfriend Adam often hears more than he probably cares to and he’s always there to listen and be supportive. But finding someone who can be supportive and also hold me accountable to some of my goals (you know, those outlined in my business plan) will be truly wonderful too. And so I am on the lookout for someone who has a similar career trajectory to mine and wants to work together to help each other out. It’s sort of like with the writing coach: Hard to admit that I need some help in this area, but really glad that I’m doing it anyway.

7. Better organizing my clips: This is kind of less complicated than the ones above, but I want to make this website better. Not necessarily because I expect a whole lot of people to come and read my thoughts or writings (though, you know, if you’re here, WELCOME!) but because I want to be better organized in my writing in general. And so there will be some updates throughout the year and the biggest of that will be how I publish and talk about my clips. Right now you’ll see that I just do monthly roundups by publication, but I am going to be switching this up. It’ll likely be a monthly roundup still, but this time I’ll do one post with all of my writing. I’ll probably also divide it either by publication or by category. This might be much smaller than the things above, but I’m hoping that getting super organized with my work will encourage me to do more of it. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?

Anyway, that’s it for now. Happy 2017, everyone! And I hope your year will be as productive, successful and awesome as I am hoping mine will be.

As my good friend (and fellow writer) Amanda Farah said to me in a text this morning, “Make this the year you kick all the ass.”

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The scary part of turning 30… That I’ve sort of held back on

Turning 30 hasn’t really gone exactly the way I thought it would.

The big Three-Oh, as they call it, has been both much better and much worse than I ever could have imagined.

I remember, years ago, when I realized that this age was on the horizon, thinking that it was a scary time. But that’s okay, because that scary time was very far ahead of me. Then as the years got closer and closer, I came to this realization that turning 30 was Supposed To Be Scary.

It was! There is not a single person that I’ve heard from who was actually excited to hit this mile marker. And I think I know why.

As teenagers, we seriously can’t wait to grow up. I couldn’t wait to finish high school, go off to college, get out of my parents house and start my new life. Then as a young adult, I was living the life I had always dreamed of as a teen.

I was successful in my career. I was living in the city that I loved. I had wonderful friends and I was constantly making new ones. I even had some sort of a love life most of the time. It was great.

My 20s were wonderful, really.

They were exactly what I had always hoped for and imagined, and then some. It was a time of discovery and appreciation. A time when I grew into my personality, lost weight and gained the self confidence I always knew was deep down inside of me.

The reason why turning 30 is seen as a scary thing is because, as teens, that’s when the fun seems to stop.

There isn’t necessarily a concrete age where everyone wakes up and decides “Holy F, I guess it’s time to be an adult now!” but 30 always seemed like just about the right number for that.

When we turn 30, we’re no longer the young people that everyone talks about. We’re not allowed to just be silly and have fun, to need time to find ourselves, to admit that we still haven’t figured it all out, to need a seriously drastic change in our careers or our homes or our relationships (like I did).

This is the age when we supposedly Have It All Figured Out. And despite the fact that I intellectually know that this is all BS, that there isn’t a perfect age to know everything about yourself or the world or your place in it, that feeling is still somehow there, in the back of my mind, taunting me with its anxiety about why I haven’t done those things yet and fully become The Person I Was Meant To Be.

In our 20s, it’s easy to say that we still have time. When I was 23, I was just out of college. At 25, I was having a quarter life crisis and adjusting what I truly wanted in my career. At 28, although I was well aware that 30 was just a couple years away, it still felt like I had the world ahead of me.

And then I turned 30 and somehow… I don’t know, there just wasn’t something extra there.

I don’t know exactly what this piece is that I was missing. I’ve been told that turning 30 is scary. I’ve read articles about all the things I should know or do or read or have by the time I reach this age. I’ve also been reminded that it’s not a big deal. That turning 30 doesn’t really change anything and that plenty of people, both friends and those of the famous variety, have lots of growing up to do even after this age.

But yet still it somehow affected me.

And I still haven’t even figured out how, to be honest. Turning 30 was simultaneously not at all a big deal to me and also the biggest deal on the planet. I know that it’s fine that I’m not quite There Yet, but I also know that plenty of people are.

So what if I have friends who are only now starting to pair up? So what if I have friends who are just barely starting grad school? So what if I have friends who just decided to quit their jobs to travel the world? Their choices are amazing and wonderful and I admire them – and at the same time it all still scares the F out of me.

This evening I lay in bed and read the first chapter of what I am coming to appreciate as a very important book in my career, Writing Is My Drink. Although there are lots of awesome tidbits and nuggets I’ve already obsessively underlined in the book (yes, I’m one of THOSE people), there is a particular sentence that stood out to me: “Why don’t you try writing about what scares you the most?”

It’s something that is suggested to the author, Theo Pauline Nestor, and prompts her to write a story about her abortion. As I sat there marinating on what that sentence meant, I realized that she was right.

Writing about what scares me the most is the key to good writing, and in particular the key to good memoir writing. As I begin this new life as a full-time freelance writer and seriously start working on my memoir, Moscow Chica, there are lots of things that scare me… But one in particular that I am honestly just not ready to write about.

Yet as I lay there, I realized that’s not really the biggest thing that scares me. The thing that scares me is that turning 30 is going much better than I thought it would a couple months ago, and somehow much worse than I thought it would a couple months before that.

I’ve spent many days over the past several months (and, to be honest, the past year) telling myself that it was all going to be okay. Turning 30 didn’t mean the end of anything and it certainly doesn’t mean that I have to grow up, be an adult and know what the heck I want in life.

And although I know that’s true, it still doesn’t scare me any less that I am not where I thought I should be at this age.

In many ways, turning 30 has allowed me to take a step back and reevaluate my life. It’s why I started the Map Your 30s blog in the first place. But I realize now that I haven’t really been very honest here, and I haven’t really been writing as much as I know I should be.

Before you take a step back and warn me about using the word “should” in the past two paragraphs, I KNOW.

Nobody is quite as good as I am at giving myself way-too-high expectations that I am sure to fail. I’m only now, at this age, learning where that feeling comes from and what damage it has done in my life.

For right now though, I have to admit that this isn’t really going the way I thought it would. I think it’s going very well, actually… Maybe. But at the same time, there is a fear in me still that I can’t seem to calm. I don’t even know if I can put a name on it yet, but it’s there.

This whole “turning 30” business has really messed me up somehow. And I don’t know if it’s because of the ever present societal expectations or just my own, but what I do know is that I have a need to write about these things.

I promise to try to write about them more often. And a little bit more honestly. Because it’s really easy for me to talk about the awesome parts, like meeting the love of my life or moving out of the city I called home or how I’m eating healthier these days. But it’s harder for me to talk about the painful or confusing or scary parts, like what to do when tragedy strikes or why I have issues accepting generosity.

I know I need to, though. I wouldn’t be up right now, sitting in my very dark apartment while Adam sleeps in the other room, typing away at my computer about The Thing That Scares Me The Most. And I’m not even sure what that thing is yet, but I’m here writing about it anyway. Maybe if I keep hitting the keys long enough, I’ll figure it out.

For now, though… I’m just going to say that being 30 is weird. There are a million amazing things about it, yes, but it’s also really, really weird. It’s not an age I ever had a plan for, despite absolutely being the type of person who’s always planning my next step in life, and so now I am a bit aimless and confused.

And I guess that’s okay. I know that I’m not the only one feeling this way. Perhaps when I wake up tomorrow, this will serve as a catharsis and that whole number will seem a little less scary to me.

But for the moment, I’m just going to crawl back into bed and try to fall asleep… Scary oh-my-god-am-I-actually-thirty-now thoughts and all.

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