Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Title of a Freelance Writer

For those who've stumbled upon this by accident (or through my other blog--the angerball), I've decided to start a blog about freelance writing: novel writing, feature magazine writing, high-tech PR writing, promotional writing--just about every type of writing that you can do (and I've done it all!) to establish yourself as a writer. (Not that I feel particularly established--I know people who've been writing for 20-plus years and who've been on New York Times bestselling lists who still feel like their writing career is a work in progress.)

So my question is this...when do you feel comfortable enough in yourself and your work to actually call yourself a "writer"? I always felt--and still feel-- the need to justify myself and the career path I'd chosen when people asked what I did. It wasn't until I was published in a magazine that people had actually heard of or when I got my book deal that I felt like I was "allowed" to call myself a writer. Yet, I still use the term "freelance" whenever I'm asked what kind of writing I do. If I say novelist, people will start to look for my books in the store (they'll be looking for a long time, because SISTERS OF MISERY is still in the revision stage and won't hit shelves until August 2008). If I say magazine writer, I get asked which magazine I write for so they can start looking for my articles. When I tell them that I'm not going to have a piece in EVERY issue, I get that glazed over look.

For those who are not in this business, they don't realize that this month I could be in Glamour, and next month I could have a piece in Cat Fancy (well, maybe not Cat Fancy, because I really don't know all that much about, nor do I really fancy, cats.) And even if I have a short, say 500 word piece in a national magazine, it took a lot of work and edits and emails and sweat, blood and tears to get that little article.

Think of it this way. The next time you read your favorite magazine and the article wasn't written by one of the in-house writers and you see the little name printed at the bottom of the piece, understand that that is a VERY big deal for that writer. Just to get into those magazines is an incredible hurdle. And just because a writer gets published in Vogue once, doesn't guarantee that they will consistently be assigned pieces for that magazine. Even well-known, very established authors with instantly recognizable names have to pitch (yes, they still pitch, just like you and me) to these magazines just like the rest of us freelance writers. While they may have the added benefit of possessing a household name, they still need to pitch an idea that's fresh, innovative and exciting.

In some ways, it levels the playing field for the rest of us--us freelance writers.

But I digress.

I still do not feel 100% comfortable calling myself a writer. Technically I was a writer when I wrote ad copy, press releases, radio commercials, high-tech PR pieces, advertorials and book reviews, but I still couldn't bring myself to call myself a writer. I even had a business card from a PR company that I worked for part-time that said Megan Kelley Hall - Writer, and I still flinched when people asked what I did. Because when you say writer, instantly people's eyes light up. They inevitably ask what magazines I write for, what books I've published, what essays I've crafted. And up until recently, I could only name a few obscure journals and unknown papers.

Now, when people ask, I can say that I've written for Glamour, Elle, New England Bride, Boston Magazine, American Baby and that I have a novel coming out in August. But I can't drop the freelance moniker. Because, technically, that's what I am. And that's what I'm comfortable saying. And until I have on-going articles in magazines with wide circulation, multiple books in the bookstores with my name on them, and many, many, many essays published in anthologies, I'm sticking with title of "freelance writer." Even if it continues to confuse people.