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Yvette Tan

So You Want to be a Writer?: 5 Myths About Freelance Writing

February 23, 2009 11:19pm
There is an amazing amount of people who want to become writers in the belief that it'll catapult them into a world of freebies, glamor, job security and celebrity friends. I hate to break it to you but whoever told you this is lying. Seeing your byline on the printed page is exciting, but the writing itself is a lonely process. More so if you're a freelancer. Freelancers generally work from home. No officemates, but full of distractions galore. Here are more myths about freelance writing:

1. Freelance writing will make you rich

If I had a piso for every person who thought this, I'd be richer than Lucio Tan. I'm sorry but unless you're Butch Dalisay or Ricky Lo, people who have worked hard developing their own style and readership to get where they are, this will probably not be the case. Writing pays peanuts, baby. Especially in this country. If you want to be rich and be a writer you have to either a. work like crazy 24/7 and never spend on anything but the barest necessities (but why quit your nice safe office job then?); b. have another, more stable business and treat writing like a hobby; or c. come from a rich family or marry someone rich. Most writers write because if they didn't, they would die. If you plan to write because it will make you money, you're barking up the wrong tree. You want to be an actor, not a writer.

2. Freelance writers are glamorous

Whoever gave you this idea is not only lying, but is probably on drugs as well. Really bad drugs. You should tell him to change his dealer. Most freelance writers I know tend to let themselves go. You work by yourself at home and you forget to do certain things. Comb your hair. Take a shower. Eat. Exercise. Of course, not all freelance writers are like this. But a lot of them are, yours truly included. So. No glamour here, thankyouverymuch.

3. Freelance writing means you can take vacations whenever you want

Sure, being a freelance writer means that you can pack up and leave any time you want. A friend asks you to accompany her on vacation to the Maldives? Just say when. But if you're the average writer, what's going to be on the top of your mind is whether you can make next month's rent and not how many bikinis you should bring. Being a freelance writer is like having your own business. It will consume you, devour you, take over your dreams and waking hours until all you see, even in your dreams, are words, words, words. Some people thrive on this. I happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who do. If you are like me, then maybe freelance writing is for you. If not, don't quit your day job.

4. Freelance writers get invited to the coolest parties

If you're a showbiz writer who's gotten invited to a party, then you're working. And who wants to work when everyone else is having fun? If you're a freelancer and you somehow by some strange mistake of the universe get invited to a party, you're either wondering if you can write about the event and sell it to a publication, in which case you're working or you're not going because you have too much work to finish (which is always a good thing if you're a freelancer), in which case, you're still working, just not at the party.

5. Becoming a writer is easy; anyone who can string a sentence together can become one

Okay, this doesn't necessarily relate to freelance writing per se, but it does matter. Just because someone was taught to pick up a pen and write random letters on paper in grade school doesn't mean he or she is automatically a good writer. It doesn't mean, however, that he or she will suck forever. There are many writers, yours truly included, who have started off sucking big time. I couldn't even get into my high school newspaper. Now I write for major publications here and overseas. The secret: I read a lot and wrote a lot and was always on the lookout for things to learn. I still am. I believe that people who don't like to read or learn can never become good writers. How else can you train your brain?

You see, becoming a freelance writer isn't as easy as it looks. As with most business (and it is a business), freelance writing takes preparation, determination and guts. It's not easy to let go of that steady paycheck. So think twice before you decide to join the fray. And if you're still interested in the mechanics of becoming a freelancer, you can tune into my next installment (which may not chronologically follow this one) and find out how to get started.