The Terror of Knowing: Lessons Learned from a Freelance Binge

The last few months have been very busy with a high word-count, Atlanta by Night, and Howl Con.  Thankfully, I’ve managed to carve out a week of rest to allow myself time to reacquaint myself with my wife and sleep.  This has given me time to ponder the lessons I’ve learned in the last couple of months and how to apply them in the future.

My time as a technical writer has trained me to think of creating in term of AGILE development.  Some writers seem to be able to get away with playing it fast and loose and find their way through things by instinct and luck.

That shit is only for professional badasses and literary gods!

  1. Figure out what your filing system and then make sure that it is updated daily.    Hunter S. Thompson might have had the clout to keep his editor waiting, but there rest of us have to work for a living.Time management is important when you are under a deadline.  Budget your time carefully to avoid one endless devastating crisis after another.I use an excel spreadsheet to track all accepted assignments, open submissions I want to target, and deadlines.  An editor wants to know about any potential problems concerning completing the assignment as soon as possible.  When discussing an assignment, I can open my spreadsheet and list off all of my obligations and negotiate for a better deadline.  Editors want less stress in their lives and reliable writers that deliver when promised make their lives easier and thus get more assignments.

    I made all of my deadlines, although I was exhausted by the end of it.

  2. Ensure that you have a disaster recovery system in place.  If your word file crashes, you don’t want to have to rewrite under the gun.   I backup nightly to my Drop Box folder where I can access my files anywhere in the world at any time.   If my laptop explodes in a fit of rage, I have my work covered.

    This came in handy when one of my files was corrupted on my laptop and I was able to retrieve everything up to my last backup the evening before.  This saved my writer’s behind twice.

  3. This is a job, be professional.   Complete assignments on-time.  Work before you play.  Batman: Arkham City might be the greatest game since Halo, but it isn’t going to write the words for you.  Freelancing is a job.  Jobs require that you show up and work.

    I managed to complete all of my assignments and deadlines!

  4. Conventions are not vacations.  Writing about vampires or ninjas with the kung-fu grip doesn’t justify unprofessional behavior especially when you are representing said work to the public.   Be polite and show curiosity.  Take the time to answer the actual questions on panels rather than just plugging your new book over and over again.  If it relates, then certainly don’t be shy about talking about your work, but don’t force the conversation there.Leave private disagreements private.  If you are speaking on a panel representing a product, you likely shouldn’t start bashing the parent company over financial concerns.  Contracts shouldn’t be randomly discussed in public.Present yourself as you want to be remembered.  This doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit to panels, but at minimum bathing with soap is required.  Don’t be that stinky geek trying to sell his latest story.

    I think I managed to keep within acceptable guidelines on this one.

  5. Gently Network  Networking is more than running around asking other people for help with your career.   It is about talking to people, making real connections, and sometimes helping other people meet.Writer and Game Developer Jess Harley is a genius at the subtle art of gentle networking.  She is a naturally gregarious person that connects with people in a way I envy.  Jess starts conversations and panels by formally introducing everyone in the conversation circle.  Then, she follows up by sharing a bit of information about each person as she is introducing them.

    I think I need slightly more work on this one to overcome my shyness in large crowds, but I think I have made progress.

  6. Give yourself the freedom to simply be.  Embrace what you love.  Share your interests with the world and don’t worry so much if said interests are cool or not.  If you are lucky enough to work on properties that you love, then enjoy the moment.

And then a great and terrible sadness overcame me as I realized that I would never be as cool as David Bowie dancing with muppets.

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