Take It to the Streets

Sometimes, I feel like I’m in one of those dance movies where someone from the streets uses their tough life to work their way to the top in a prestigious dance academy where everybody has fancy schmancy training. You know those movies. Something like Save the Last Step Up While I Stomp the Yard Because I’m Dancing Now Mama! As corny and predictable as those movies are, I usually identify with the main character’s fight against stereotype or feelings of inadequacies.Also, I’ve always wanted to have a dance battle some with rich kids in the rain in a town where dancing is against the law until I change that law by teaching Chris Penn how to do the two-step. (This will never happen because I have no idea how to dance.)
A friend and I were talking the other day about my work plans for 2012 and 2013. I was talking about some things I would need to hire out and she reminded me that I live in NYC now because she wanted to twist a dagger into my heart. She pointed out that there are lots of great programs here for writing and publishing that have students looking for part-time work. I told her that I couldn’t hire those people because they would know more than me and show me up every day with all their book learning. I mean these are people who study the art of writing. I know that I should cut back on passive voice. They know why.

Word Nerd I Am Not

I started at Old Dominion in Hampton Roads because that’s the area I graduated high school in. After a year, I went to Louisiana State University to study biology. I wanted to become a veterinarian and they had one of the best vet schools in the country at the time. About 95 percent into my college education, I realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with my hand up a cow’s butt. But I also realized that I wanted to graduate. So I did.To be perfectly honest, I have very little recollection of college. I spent almost all of my time trying to keep up in class, while working two jobs and trying to support my then deadbeat boyfriend and his kid. (Note to everyone: Um, don’t do that, ok?) I know that LSU has a football team. I also know that bus doesn’t run down Highland Road on game days because Baton Rouge doesn’t play when it comes to their football. I remember how to get from my place to the where I could eat on my student card. I once saw a group of frat boys playing croquet on their lawn completely naked. I got kicked out of the dorm for hiding a gerbil in my room. I came to the realization that I should never live with a roommate ever again. And that’s all I got. It was a blur, really.So yeah, I get jealous when I see that other people have been to school for the past 10 years and have studied gerunds in depth. Or know what a gerund is off the top of their head. Or can use the word “gerund” in an everyday sentence without sounding like a d-bag. Even though I look like a word nerd to my family and friends, I get around you guys so passionate about the Oxford comma and realize that I’m not all that word nerdy. I don’t always fit in here. I don’t care whether AP says it’s okay for me to say email or e-mail. Unless I’m being paid to write in AP style for work, I’ll write it however I want to. Let AP come find me if they have a problems with it.

Here’s What I Know

I have my limitations. I would never bill myself as an editor because I’m not good at it. Grammar doesn’t come naturally to me. Self-editing is always a challenge. When I complete work for a client, I usually finish the actual writing very fast. Then I have go back over it again. And again. And again. And again. You get the picture here. (And if it’s a post, especially for this blog, I probably skim it once. If that. Hence the typos.)But I know I’m a good copywriter. The power of persuasion is one of my talents and I’ve been using it all my life. I know I have a unique voice that I can bring to any project. I can also hide it when you don’t want it. I know that one of my best and worst traits is intense empathy for just about anybody. This helps me put myself in the shoes of any audience and helps me nail exactly what it takes to sell mayo to that lady reading my copy in the store. . . even though I despise mayo and I’ve never met this woman.I am and always have been a storyteller. I have a way with words. I can wrestle copy to the ground and beat it mercilessly until you’re in love with it. I’m clever, too. I’m amusing and entertaining. I wouldn’t call myself a stand-up comedienne but I can make you laugh if you just give me some time to find your sweet spot. Even if I can’t find it, I’m good for a smile or two. I’m a good time and a good read, too.

This feels like just a list of why I think I’m awesome but it’s not. It’s what I know about myself as a writer and it’s all true.

I just have to remind myself of it sometimes. Like when I’m in a room full of people with big degrees. Or when I’m slaving over whether I should capitalize “web” when I know for a fact I should capitalize “Internet,” because that’s what the rule says. Or when I end up confessing that I don’t care whether it’s a physical book or an e-book because I just want to read. Or when I’m trying to figure out how to remember that “accidentally” is not spelled “accidentically.” And when I’m working next to someone who has so much experience while I’m very sure I only got this job because I refused to leave the point of contact alone until she would give it to me.

But the one thing I have to do is resist the urge to yell out “Let’s take it to the streets, son!” when I feel intimidated by someone I think has a better education than I do. Because, I can’t dance so I don’t what we’re going to do when we get out there. Also, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone else about my talent and ability as long as I believe it.

What intimidates you about other writers or writing in general? Go ahead and tell me in the comment section below. Bonus points if you can also tell me why it’s silly.
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Princess Jones

Princess Jones is the mad scientist behind Diary of a Mad Freelancer. For more talk about freelancing, writing, and selling yourself for a living, follow her on Twitter.

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    • Yo, I’m just surprised you even saw this post at all. You’re always surprising me, ma’am.

    • I know which fork to use but I can’t afford to go to restaurants that have forks. :-/

  1. I have this nagging fear that my lack of a degree will stunt my career’s growth. I’m freelancing to make up the gap, but I wonder how things would be different if I’d graduated. And then I remind myself that, had I graduated, I wouldn’t be writing now. Then it’s all okay.
    Austin Wulf recently posted..Thoughts on the 2012 GOP Field

    • Austin, you’re one smart cookie.

  2. I’ve been reading you for a while and I didn’t know this about you. Thank you for being vulnerable. We all have our Achilles’ heel, and artists tend to be plagued more by feelings of self-doubt than the accountant and dentist types, I suspect. You demonstrated a very effective and healthy way to manage those doubts—know ourselves thoroughly, our strengths as well as our not-so-sellable competencies.

    I have a Literature degree and worked as a journalist, speechwriter and editor on university campuses for two decades. I cannot tell you how many times a Ph.d ego challenged my editing on the basis of his/her doctorate, which wasn’t even remotely connected to English. We’re all small fish in some oceans despite what we think we’ve achieved. At least that’s true when you’re working for the man.

    That’s why it’s freeing to freelance. You package yourself in a way that does justice to your credentials, and your clients either take it to be true or they don’t retain your services. Or you fire them.

    I’ve left professional writing and am now a newbie in indie clothing design. I’m the one who doesn’t even know how to thread a sewing machine. Still, my work can bear the scrutiny of potential customers when compared with others on etsy.com who have Fine Arts or Fashion degrees. Being fresh to the field is invigorating.

  3. I get so passionate about what I’m writing that when I proofread my posts, I forget to proofread about half way in and just read for my own enjoyment because I love the way I write and the clever ways I put things. And then, by the end, I realize that I’m way too in love with myself. So, I start editing again, but inevitably think, “No, you are not too in love with yourself. This shit is AWESOME.” So, I end up proofreading things about three times, but never all the way through. I post the blog post, then go look at it on the screen, where I finally see the typos. So, then, I have to log back into my wordpress dashboard and refind the typo to edit it. This process happens at least once for every single post. I could use an editor. It would make this process easier. The only problem with an editor… she would want to eliminate almost all of my “…’s” and I really enjoy them. Also, I write the way I talk, which thankfully my readers seem to enjoy, but I know I could never go back to college writing again without rolling my eyes at all the rules. Writing went from a structured science to more of an artform. Interestingly, that’s when people started liking what I wrote. *sigh* Thank you for this post. You’re one of my idols, so it makes me feel better about myself. PS, I’m not going to proofread this comment, as a social experiment. 😉

    • Dawn, I think that may be part of my problem, too. I really enjoy my writing. (No, it’s not a crime to like your own stuff.) And sometimes I get caught up in what I think I wrote instead of the typos I actually wrote.

  4. Here I go again writing a novel! 😛 I’m so glad I caught this in my RSS feed. I wrote a post a while back called “Comparing Apples to Apples” addressing this very thing.

    I constantly feel inadequate or under-experienced when I talk to bloggers and professional freelancers. Even though I have 12 years of writing & editing trenchwork under my belt, when I see people like you, Natalia, Emily, Linda Formchelli or well, just about anybody successful at freelancing, I feel like a fake.

    I feel like if I hadn’t made so many “missteps” in my career, I’d have an extensive library of clips, a book deal or two, and a byline so influential crowds would part at nightclubs just to let me and my entourage through. (In my alternate world, Carrie Bradshaw and I lead similar lives.) I get deflated whenever I hear you guys talk about all the things I feel like I’d be doing right now if I had my crap together.

    But then I meet people who see what I’m doing and I can tell they’re a little envious. Envious that I have a website, jealous that I’ve risen as high as an associate editor for a magazine, and a little intimidated that I even call myself a freelance writer, even if it’s not full-time.

    You’d think this would make me feel better, y’know less of a fake, but it doesn’t. I just tell them that everybody starts somewhere and moves at their own pace. But then I turn around and see all these movers and shakers turning out content like it’s nothing and paying all their bills with their client’s checks and that sheepish feeling of inadequacy returns.

    I love your idea of throwing down in a dance-off. LOL! I don’t think I’d ever want to do that and I can dance pretty well. I keep thinking of that scene from Fast Forward, where the kids from Ohio get embarrassed by Michael DeLorenzo and his boys in the NYC nightclub. No matter how good you are, there’s always someone out there to make you feel like maybe you need crawl back on that bus to Sandusky. So your best bet is to stop comparing altogether.
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    • Candace, your comments qualify as blog posts themselves! It’s okay, though. It’s a compliment to have something I wrote have a long response. You’re right about comparison problems but it’s easier said than done. I’m trying, though. I’m trying.


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