Seven ways to screw up your writing career

When you’re freelance writing, you’ll find there are a million people out there who will tell you how to succeed… provided you give them $49.95 per month for a minimum of the rest of your natural-born life.

But there aren’t a lot of people willing to tell you what you shouldn’t do.

Luckily, I’m here to help.

facebook-image1. Start your morning off with a quick look at Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site. I know… how can you live without seeing the latest incendiary post about the President, or your college roommate’s daughter’s best friend’s new cat video? Perish the thought, right? If you really, REALLY don’t want to succeed, make sure you get into an argument with that friend from elementary school over whether or not people who park in handicapped spots should be shot on sight, and then go out and try to find an amusing cat video to upload.

2. Treat your career like a hobby. Don’t worry about things like Tax ID numbers, bookkeepers, separate checking accounts and income projections. In fact, don’t even keep track of all of your contacts or reach out to them regularly. It’s not like you actually want to make a living, right? The mere thought of being a work-at-home writer is enough. No need to keep track of invoices, receivables, tax information and receipts – that’s all for losers. Besides, everyone else thinks you sit around in your underwear playing solitaire all day so you might as well, right?

3. Forget to find new assignments on a regular basis. If you’re like most people, you “know” you’re a good writer (isn’t everyone?) and what you have to say is much more pajamaseloquent and important than anything anyone else has to say. So, really, people should be coming to you, begging you to write for them, shouldn’t they? Put on those comfy slippers and those flannel pajama bottoms and just wait for them to contact you. Once the word gets out about how great you are, they will come flocking to your door.

4. Don’t market yourself. Nope, nope-ity nope, nope, nope. No need to get a web site, a Facebook page, a blog, a Twitter and Instagram account or business cards. Just be yourself, see above and wait for assignments to come pouring in.

clock-image5. Give top priority to making sure you only work a six or seven hour day. Nothing says success like only having to work four hours a week, right? And if you have to work more than eight hours a day, you must be doing something wrong. No one knows better than you how much more important it is to relax, unwind and keep your reading up, rather than working hard and earning your stripes.

6. Stop trying to learn. Instead of listening to others who work at writing for a living, make sure that you keep yourself above it all. There’s no need to learn about social media marketing, SEO search terms, monetizing your blog or how to craft a sentence. Who needs that stuff? You just need a few articles a month so you can sit back and write the Great American Novel. It’s a no-brainer. Who needs growth and education when you have brilliance behind you?

unprofessional-habits7. Definitely, above all else, don’t be professional. Make sure that you don’t double check your work, keep good notes about sources and their contact information, meet deadlines or work well with other people, like editors and photographers. That just screams “amateur!” You’re a diva. Every word you write is pure genius! Editors should consider themselves lucky that you deigned to allow them to use your prosaic gems.

Granted, I am by no means the most successful freelance writer out there. But I am making a living from it. And I am getting paid for my work. And I have learned a few things in the two years that I’ve been doing this. There’s no guarantee that my experience will be the same as your experience, but I can tell you for a fact, there’s nothing that will kill your freelance career quicker than believing you are above it all. Do the work, the hard work, of building a base of clients and marketing yourself as a writer, and you should be fine.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2017

All images remain the property of their owners

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9 things I’d like to tell high school graduates

Since no one has invited me to speak at their high school graduation (yes, Ohio and Wisconsin, I’m looking at you – there’s still time!), I figured I would take it upon myself to let high school graduates know what I think.

You're almost on your way!
You’re almost on your way!

Personally, I’m pretty sure this is the safest way to do things, since sometimes, not even _I_ know what will come out of my mouth.

When I graduated from high school, more than 30 years ago, I felt I knew it all. Graduation comes with a feeling of excitement that parallels the feeling of being out on your own, almost – at least for many of you – and being away from the prying eyes of mom, dad, the nosy neighbor who always snitches on you and any younger siblings or cousins you may have.

You, as you sit there in that chair, are not imagining doing dishes, or getting up at unGodly hours of the morning to make your way to class/work/daycare. You are imagining a life where no one will tell you no.

I know this, because I was in your shoes once.

And that unbridled enthusiasm is a good thing. Really it is. It is what has propelled you through your high school years, and will propel you through your salad years. And for many of you, your Ramen noodle years.

But there are a few things you should know as you go out into the big blue world.

1) High school never ends. Remember how you used to talk to your friends during lunch? And you’d say “Oh. My. God… (please say this with me in your best surfer girl voice) I canNOT believe she is going out with HIM! What WAS she thinking?” and “Dude, he totes gets away with everything! It’s like the crap washes right off of him and lands on someone else.” Uhm, yeah… that never ends. Grown ups still do that, and we call it office politics and gossip. It never ever ends.

No one wants to visit you and your dirty bathroom.
No one wants to visit you and your dirty bathroom.

2) Learn how to clean a bathroom. This will become really, really important when you live alone and date. Same goes for learning how to master at least three really great recipes. I suggest Shrimp Scampi, Beef Tournedos and Chicken Marsala. Trust me on this.

3) Stop taking selfies. Seriously. We’ve all seen enough of you. Maybe you could, I don’t know, take pictures of the rest of the world. There’s some pretty cool stuff out there that may be a little more interesting than you, as hard as that is to believe, and you might want to remember it.

4) Read. I don’t care whether it’s books, newspapers, magazines, textbooks or auto manuals, just read. It is, by far the most important thing you have learned to do, and will continue to be the most important thing you will do in the future.

5) Learn to be by yourself. Because you will be. And it’s good to figure out how to not have someone else entertain you. It will come in handy during the rough times. Trust me on this as well.

big bang6) No one lives like they do in TV and the movies. No one gets 2-bedroom rent controlled apartments with great views on a physicist’s salary. People have jobs that they go to for upwards of 8 hours a day, five days a week, with paychecks that do not afford them the luxury of a daily cup of coffee at Starbucks unless they either go without dinner, or rack up debt equal to that of Bolivia’s. You are not going to leave college and land a $100,000 a year job managing a tech company. You will likely make $25,000 a year and struggle until you either a) get promoted; b) get married or c) die. And it’s okay. Because millions of people do it every year and are happy. Really. Happy. And if you’re not happy in your job, find a new one. If you enjoy what you do, you will reap more than just monetary benefits. Nothing sucks more than dreading to go to work. Nothing. But if you love what you do, you’ll never feel like you’ve worked at all.

7) No one owes you anything… not a job, not an education, not a happily ever after. You have to work for those things. Generations of your family have come before you to make it possible for you to have so much. Don’t blow it. You have just enjoyed an 18-year vacation. Go out and earn that.

No one gets a trophy for 9th place.
No one gets a trophy for 9th place.

8) There’s no trophy for ninth place. In fact, there’s no trophy for second place. As a member of the trophy generation, we know that you all have been given trophies for just showing up. Real life doesn’t work like that. Honestly, there’s no prize for anything other than first place. Strive always, for winning. And if you don’t win, try again. And again. And again. In fact, never stop trying to be the best even if no one ever rewards you for it. There is a prize for that too. It’s called pride.

9) Have fun. This is your place and time. These next few years will be some of the best of your life. One day, you will look back on these past four years, that have meant so much to you now, and you will think “What did I ever think was so fun about that?” At least, I hope you will. I hope that with every age and every stage of your life, the next one just becomes better than the last. High school, growing up, becoming an adult – it’s hard. But it gets better.

Life really is like an oyster bed… you pick one and eventually it opens up. It may be nothing more than an oyster – in which case, with a little hot sauce and lemon juice, you’ve got a helluva snack. But sometimes, it’ll have a pearl. You’ve got to keep trying until you find those pearls. Find a long string of them. To you, they will mean the world, because you worked for them, and you earned them. The easy ones – the one’s that open up quickly – those aren’t any good. They’ll make you sick. But the ones you have to work for? Those are the best ones and the ones you’ll remember.

(c) Copyright Liz Carey 2014

Monster jobs, ripe for the picking

Every time I get depressed about my job, I go to my email inbox.

It almost always reminds me, life could be worse.

cage worker
Working for a living

Friday, when I was contemplating how busy I was compared to my friends who were traveling across the country, I got an email from Monster.com.

According to them, I am uniquely qualified to be: an HVAC technician, a vending machine route supervisor, end-user technology support for a feminine hygiene and toilet paper manufacturer (I shit you not), a chain restaurant general manager and an activity director for a senior living center.

Really?

So much for the English degree.

Now, I have never touched an HVAC unit, outside of the thermostat, and the only time I’ve ever diagnosed that anything was wrong with one was when ours started squealing at 2 a.m. on one of those nights when it was 267 degrees outside. My diagnosis? It was about to be shot if it didn’t find the will to work. It did stop squealing after I yelled at it several times. The repairman we called the next day said there was nothing wrong with it. I like to think it just decided to shape up.

Oh! The Vending Machine Supervisor is here! Huzzah! said no one ever...
Oh! The Vending Machine Supervisor is here! Huzzah! said no one ever…

And I wouldn’t be a vending machine route supervisor if you paid me to – which of course, I guess is the reason for the ad – mostly because I don’t like getting yelled at. No one ever says “Oh! Thank GOD, the vending machine supervisor is here! The Snickers bar row is refilled! Our lives are complete! Huzzah!” No, what they say is “Hey, you! Three weeks ago this stupid machine ate my 75 cents causing me to nearly pass out from not getting my afternoon Skittles sugar rush, I want my money back WITH INTEREST!”

Taste the rainbow indeed.

I don’t know what kind of end user technology support a toilet paper manufacturer could possibly need (“No, ma’am… it doesn’t really matter if the roll goes over or hangs under.” “Yes, ma’am, it’s okay to use it to blow your nose, so long as you don’t do that AFTER you’ve used it for something else.” “No, sir, I’m pretty sure the fact that your wife is a wadder when it comes to the tp in question, does not have anything to do with your plumbing issues. I take it you’re a folder?” And yes, I looked it up… 38 percent of women are wadders; where as 52 percent of men are folders. Only 20 percent of people are wrappers. Six percent don’t know… Uhm, just a question… how do you NOT KNOW? Thank God Monster didn’t say I should start a career as a survey taker.)

 “No, sir, I’m pretty sure the fact that your wife is a wadder when it comes to the tp in question, does not have anything to do with your plumbing issues. I take it you’re a folder?”

More over, I’ve worked in restaurants before and suffice it to say, that’s pretty much the reason I finished college. And since most of my activities involve alcohol and/or signing release forms, I’m pretty sure I’m not the person to be the activities director for a senior citizens community… although that does give new meaning to white water rafting, now doesn’t it?

I told Monster I had management experience and excelled in communications and marketing. Either every job on the face of the planet now requires those qualifications, or, and I’m thinking this is more likely, there are just way too many English and marketing majors out there.

There are just too many people who know how to write and promote businesses all applying for the same jobs. Which would leave very few left for me, if I ever decided to actually leave the job I’m in now.

So, I have a thought… let’s round up all of the unemployed English and marketing majors and let them compete, a la “The Hunger Games,” for survival. We can drop them all in the wild and let them write or market their way out.

English majors and marketing majors should compete for jobs in a more satisfying way...
English majors and marketing majors should compete for jobs in a more satisfying way…

Pen a great paragraph and you get a map to the exit. Make a killer logo out of twigs and stones and you get food for the rest of the game. Promote your cause via social media which goes viral and gets you more votes than Delvin on “The Voice,” and you win your way out of the wilderness and into a job as a vending machine route supervisor.

It really probably won’t be good for the English major community.

But it sure as hell will make being already gainfully employed seem a lot more appealing.

 

(c) Copyright Liz Carey 2014

Why I’ll never marry George Clooney

With the news that George Clooney is engaged to his 36-year-old lawyer girlfriend, millions of women’s hearts around the globe are breaking.

While they may be crying “Why not me?,” I won’t be one of them.

George-Clooney_0
George Clooney… in his single days

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s as handsome as ever – and I’ve always had a thing for the strong, brooding, smart ones – but nope. I’m not marrying George.

Not until his Dad apologizes.

It’s like this… years ago, when I was a reporter covering Northern Kentucky, I got the opportunity to cover Northern Kentucky University – which was pretty up and coming back then. Chris Cole, their public relations person, had became a good friend and he would give me the head’s up to stuff that was good to cover all the time.

At the time, NKU had a really great debate program that featured national speakers coming in for a panel discussion.

One year, the panel was Bob Woodward, Paul Begalia and Mary Matalin. I’d already met Mary – she and James Carville were speaking one night in Cincinnati years before and I got to go backstage with my husband and talk to them for a while. It was the first time I ever heard “Well, if “ifs” and “buts” were beer and nuts, we’d have a helluva party” from James, which I thought was brilliant, but which sent Mary to rolling her eyes. So, Mary wasn’t important to me to meet and quite frankly, I didn’t care who Paul Begalia was.

But, I was dying to meet Bob Woodward.

At that time, I was in the middle of my “investigative journalist” phase and my editor and mentor, Jack Lessenbery, was raving to anyone who would listen that I was the next best thing since the digital tape recorder. He got me scholarships to programs and courses and worked to get me to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan so he could groom me to be an investigative reporter at a daily newspaper. I wanted to be a kick-ass investigative reporter so badly I could taste it. Really.

Anyway, Chris got me two tickets to the debate, as well as the press briefing and reception prior, and I get my friend Dave to go with me. I thought maybe, if I was lucky, I’d get to ask Woodward a few questions at the press conference and call it a day.

Well, like any reception, there Dave and I were – standing around, mingling, making nice faces and partaking of the free booze and food. But I had my press pass on, because I was covering the thing after all. And I’m, you know… sitting there… talking to people… taking notes. Reporter stuff.

Anyway, Dave and I had just sat down at one of the tables in the reception tents when up walks Bob Woodward.

Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward

I’m not kidding. It was Bob Flipping Woodward. He of Deep Throat and Watergate fame. He of Pulitzer prize fame. He of reporter nirvana fame.

He walked by our table and looked at me. He smiled like you normally do when you pass a table full of people you don’t know, but then he saw my press pass and he stopped.

“Oh, you’re a reporter! I’m Bob Woodward,” he said as he started to come around the table toward me with his hand out. “What’s your beat?”

Honestly, I was having a little reporter orgasm about then. Seriously. I was about to get an audience with the King and I didn’t even have to bow or beg or anything. And he was the one who was stopping to say “Hi” to me!

My life was on the verge of becoming complete.

I stood up and put my hand out to shake his. In my head, I was going through a million different things to say to him and thinking to myself over and over again “Don’t screw up. Don’t screw up. Don’t say something stupid and screw up.”

I stood up and put my hand out to shake his. In my head, I was going through a million different things to say to him and thinking to myself over and over again “Don’t screw up. Don’t screw up. Don’t say something stupid and screw up.”

He was less than 10 feet away from me.

And there it was, right within my grasp, the moment of glory. I was just about to say “I’m Liz Carey, I’m the investigative reporter for the Community Press” when up steps Nick Clooney.

Yep, George Clooney’s dad walked up between me and Bob Woodward – with his back to me – and said “Bob, I want you to meet my wife and some other folks.” He put his left arm up around Woodward and led him into the crowd.

I saw Bob looked over his shoulder at me – still standing there with my hand up, ready to shake his. He mouthed the words “just a minute” as he disappeared into the crowd.

But, I never saw him again that night, except on stage.

I cannot tell you how pissed I was….

In fact, I was so pissed, that even though I was covering elections that year, they wouldn’t let me cover Nick in his legislative bid. Every time anyone mentioned him for about six months, the only thing I could do was cuss a blue stream about his lineage and resemblance to male body parts.

When he eventually lost, I did a little dance in the newsroom.

And I swore that day at NKU that no matter how much George Clooney begged, I would not ever let him become my second husband. How can you marry someone when you want to strangle their Dad? Not that I didn’t have that same urge with my husband’s dad, but that’s different… he never stood between me and Bob Woodward. He was just a jerk.

George hasn’t asked yet, and quite possibly, he never will. I mean, there is the fact that we’ve never met which is, I’m sure, hindering him from falling for me.

But if he expects me to say yes when he finally does come to his senses, he better figure out how to get Bob Woodward to the engagement party.

(c) Copyright Liz Carey 2014