Making the Grade

Tuesday, August 17, 2010
It seems like a no-brainer, homeschooled girl that I am, that I would be attracted to the whole concept of freelancing, work at home, self-employment, etc., etc. But this week, after receiving a couple complimentary responses to some work I’d submitted, I realized that freelance writing appeals to another facet of my personality. Not the independent, self-motivated portion of my personality. Rather, the codependent “teacher’s pet” aspect.

If there was ever someone motivated by a nice “A” on her schoolwork, it would be me. I’ve always shrunk away from the “teacher’s pet” label when it’s been bestowed on me (really, it's not ever meant as a compliment, is it?) but there’s no denying that I’m motivated by what people think of me, and even more than that, I’m highly motivated by people thinking well of my writing. It just feels really good when someone has something nice to say about something you’ve worked and worried at.

I stumbled upon this quote in Writer’s Digest last winter and it does a pretty job of summing up how merging teacher pet tendencies and a penchant for writing can lead to a successful freelance writing career: “There’s really a shortage of good freelance writers . . . . There are a lot of talented people who are very erratic, so either they don’t turn it in or they turn it in and it’s rotten; it’s amazing. Somebody who’s even maybe not all that terrific but who is dependable, who will turn in a publishable piece more or less on time, can really do very well.” It’s not so much about what you crank out, but about meeting guidelines and deadlines, about giving people what they want and what they asked for! Sounding a little like school work?

Really, freelancing writing is rife with school work analogies. After all, you’re given an assignment, which you then hem and haw about, put off, and finally buckle down and tackle. In the end, you turn in what you produced and hope you haven’t missed the mark too much. The only real difference is that in freelance writing, you’re awarded not with an A, but another assignment.

We don’t write because we want to get “A”s on everything we do for the rest of our lives. C. Hope Clark just wrote a great blog about how validation of our writing both helps and hinders the creative process. But we do have to seek out some sort of validation for our writing, at least if we want to make a business of it. In freelance writing our success is dependent on at least meeting, if not trying to exceed, people’s expectations of what we can do. An inclination towards being the teacher’s pet can only help with “make the grade.”

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