The Time I Was a Professional Writer

If, for some strange reason, you keep up with my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a new one in a pretty long time. There are a couple of reasons for that. For one, I gave up social media for lent. I’m not sure what this says about me, but for some reason I felt less motivated to write knowing that I wouldn’t be sharing it with anyone. But that wasn’t all. I value writing in general, whether anyone else would see it or not. The main reason I haven’t written on my blog is because for a couple months, I, Scottie Hill, was a professional writer.

Now, okay its not as cool as it sounds. When I think about professional writing, I envision Ernest Hemingway sitting at a lamplit rustic wooden desk, maybe smoking a pipe and sipping on some sophisticated kind of tea, crafting elaborate stories on a note pad. My experience was nothing like that. Most nights involved me hunched over my 2008 MacBook in the 24 hour zone of my library, sipping burnt Starbucks coffee, furiously pounding away at my key board, trying to put ideas into sentences and anxiously watching as the word count slowly crept up towards my goal. I was a professional writer, and for about 8 weeks, that was my life.

It all started in January when the local coffee shop I was working for ran into a difficult stretch and had to cut back on hours for employees. With a couple of big expenses coming up, including a spring break snowboarding trip, I knew that I had to find a way to make some extra cash. Well, I thought, I have always liked writing. Maybe I could find someone willing to hire me to write? It turns out there are entire websites for that very purpose: connecting freelance writers with clients willing to pay them. Freelance writing. That sounded pretty cool to me. So I signed up for a site and within a couple of days, I had miraculously landed a gig. There was a website out there that was actually willing to pay me to write articles for them! How cool is that?!

Newman_desk
This is NOT where I wrote my articles.

And it was cool. Just not as cool as I thought. The website was essentially a study tool for high school students covering a wide range of subjects. I, as a History major, was assigned to U.S. History and European History. These were right up my ally. However, I soon discovered some of the pitfalls to freelance writing. Deadlines. Long hours. Pay per article, not per hour. Sketchy proofreading. Lifeless articles. Soul crushing word counts. Too many hours behind a computer screen, and not enough in front of other people. This junk was hard. At my peak, I was writing about 12,000-14,000 words every 10 days. On top of schoolwork, fraternity responsibilities, and attempting to maintain a social life, I was swamped. Any spare hour was devoted to catching up on articles. And when I was caught up on articles, I had school papers to write. My school papers started to become as monotonous and lifeless as the articles. My life started to dissipate into a sea of historical events, with dates, names, facts, and figures taking up all of my brain space.

The final straw came when I decided to check out my articles on the website. I was initially pretty excited when I recognized the title of one of the articles I had written. I was published! However, I clicked on it and was met with dismay. I barely recognized the article. I pulled up the draft I submitted and compared the two. They hadn’t changed anything. No, it was all there, just like I typed it. As I clicked on the other articles of mine I noticed the same thing. I could barely remember writing any of the 15-20 articles. These words were strangers to me, blindly spilled from the keyboard in my frantic effort to meet my deadline and reach the word count. These were definitely my articles, but this was not my writing.

I write because I like to tell stories. I write because I like figuring out how to convey emotion. I write because I like to make people feel things, see things, imagine things, and experience things. It brings me life to formulate an idea and see it captured in words on a page. And I love being able to share that with people. Whether it is an experience I have had, a lesson I have learned, or an idea I developed, I write to communicate my thoughts. I like to think that my writing can bring joy to people, and I even like to think that somehow, someway, people can catch a glimpse of the Creator in my writing.

I’m not saying I would never write for money again. And I wouldn’t even write off the thought of pursuing a career in writing. It is something I am passionate about, and it is something that brings me joy. If I can somehow write with those purposes in mind and make a source of income, I would be thrilled. However, when my words cease to have meaning, when they become dull, lifeless, and fail to evoke emotion or feeling, it will no longer be my writing. I’m not an idealist, and I don’t assume that all professional writers always write about what they want, or that I’ll never pick up a freelance job again. I probably will. However, this experience has in a way renewed my joy and love of writing, simply from not being able to do it for so long. It has reinvigorated my commitment to tell my story, and to share it with others.

No matter what other projects I take on, or where life takes me, I pray that I always find the time to write. Consider this my recommitment to this blog. May it ever be a source of passion, joy, and inspiration. I don’t know what I will write about, and I don’t know if anyone will read it. What I do know is that it will be my writing, and the words that I use will be like good friends to me, familiar and significant, unique and meaningful. This is my commitment. This is my blog. And this is my writing.

0 Replies to “The Time I Was a Professional Writer”

  1. Definitely a Don Miller, definitely not a Hemingway. Ernest was mostly an awful person. But I am a big fan of anyone who still appreciates the written word (english major/hobo) and I like this blog

    1. Rachel, I’ll take Don Miller too. I just thought Ernest Hemingway made me sound more edgy. But thanks so much for reading this! Hope you enjoy anything else you might read here! Always glad to have another hobo major around.

      1. Edgy in an alcoholic, abusive husband way? You’re certainly better than that. 🙂 anyway, it is a good blog. Sometimes I am blindsided when I find out people outside my own department write very well (which shows how elitist I am), but this makes me happy. We need more Donald Millers in the world.

        1. Okay you’re right, not a Hemingway at all. But hey, every now and then some of us non-English majors can put a couple sentences together that don’t sound terrible. And seriously thanks, I’ll take a comparison to Donald Miller any day.

  2. Scottie,
    For some reason I am reminded of your passion for hats when you were a child…a different hat for every activity. I have found writing to have its own variety of hats…in my own experience it has raanged from being published in my field, technical writing including policy, procedure and protocol, newspaper articles, short stories, poems, etc. Some hats fit better than others. Some hats I have loved, some I hope never to wear again. You have a gift for writing and communication. I look forward to seeing the next hat you wear.

    1. Thanks for the comment Craig! That is a great point. I’m very thankful to have gotten to wear various writing “hats” so far. It has given me some good insight, and it also helped me start to learn what kind of hat I prefer. It’s definitely a process.

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