09 December 2010
"no" is my new mantra
Really, I don’t mean to be a bitch, but, I need to get this rant off my chest. I’ve been freelancing fulltime for 12+ years. I did not attend journalism school and I learned everything I’ve needed to know to support myself solely off a writing career by making every mistake in the book. Yes, I had a few big serendipitous breaks, but I did not have a mentor or a whole lot of guidance to show me the way. I just jumped in, did it, worked my ass off and made it work, because I fell hard and fast in love with writing and knew nothing else in the world would fill my soul quite the same way.
So, when I get nearly three dozen emails a week asking me how to become food writer, a travel writer, an author, a ghostwriter, a blogger or a social media expert, I cringe, and now, more times than not (there are a few exceptions), politely decline help and say “no.” For one, I simply don’t have time to dole out career advice, especially while engaged in this year long volunteering tour de force. Secondly, a “small” favor inevitably turns into a never-ending string of questions and pseudo-mentoring that I didn’t sign up for and then I find myself in an awkward cyber break-up situation. Lastly, the percentage of people seeking help who actually thank me is ridiculously small. (I’m a stickler for giving thanks.)
Don’t get me wrong. I want to encourage people to write and follow their dreams – I just don’t want to hold their hands or be a go-to source for career advice and information. At least not for the 100 or so people who hit my inbox each month seeking a “short” phone conversation or a “small” favor. No thanks. If I’m going to spend time inspiring budding writers, I’m more inclined to guest speak at a high school or university class or share insights in a blog comment or engage in back-and-forth banter on Twitter. This friend-of-a-friend email referral situation, though, is driving me batshit crazy. It’s like asking my dentist, lawyer, veterinarian how I can do their job and expecting a quick, all insightful answer. It’s impossible to sum up a decade plus of experience into a short and sweet email. Creating a successful freelance writing career is not easy, but if I can do it, I’m guessing there are other passionate people out there who can do it too – without my help. The influx of outreach is flattering (thank you), but I'm afraid “no” is my new mantra. All of my charitible resources are maxxed out for the time being. Well, at least through June 2011.