I just finished and sent an article to a local newspaper for which I freelance. Last week, I sent them another one. The editor was short on copy, so she suddenly needed stories NOW, which I meant I had to change my plans for both weeks and put a rush on it. After many hours of research, driving around to do interviews and take pictures, transcribing notes, dealing with photos, and actually writing the things, I look at the list of tasks I had planned to accomplish and wonder if I should have taken the assignments.
I didn’t do anything to sell my books, both the published and the unpublished ones, didn’t send any of my writing out, and didn’t write anything new except these articles. Yes, these articles are pretty good, I learned about some cool stuff, and I love that people where I live will read them. I appreciate the money and the clips, too. But is this what I should have been doing?
My week would not have been so clogged if my “day job” as a church music minister didn’t also ramp up with a special service, a liturgy meeting and a funeral, but there’s always something calling our attention away from writing, isn’t there?
Did I use my time well? Several friends have died lately, showing me all too clearly that none of us knows how much time we have. So what is better, taking the easy-but-time-consuming assignment or taking a risk on something bigger?
When you’re starting out, you publish wherever you can, paid or not. There’s value to everything we write, but as the years go by, we have to ask ourselves: Is this moving my career forward? Is this taking me toward my goals? Or am I just treading water because the next step scares me?
At a long-ago writers conference, one of the speakers said that every day we should write something and do at least one thing to advance our careers. I think it’s good advice for all of us.
Driving home through the rain after an interview in Lincoln City, OR, I found myself thinking that writing is like making taffy. Sometimes you have to gather, mix, and boil the ingredients, sometimes you have to let the taffy cool, sometimes you have to stretch, pull and shape the taffy, and sometimes you have to cut, wrap, and sell it. Does that make any sense?
What do you think about this?
P.S. Later in the day, as I closed the office for the night, I realized I had been more efficient, more productive and more confident than I had been in ages. Sometimes completing an assignment and knowing that it’s going to be published, even if it’s not a career changer, can put you in the right frame of mind to do other work that is. Just be careful that it doesn’t take all of your time and energy.