Author Archives: knenn11

SO YOU WANNA BE A WRITER…STEP 10: WHEN THE HONEYMOON IS OVER, PERSEVERE

I’m heading into my 5th year of full-time freelance writing. I was crafting content part-time for four years prior to launching my business, Nenn Pen, Ink, full time. That puts me at nearly a decade of professional wordsmithing.

The honeymoon is over.

But that’s not all bad. I’ve been married to my best friend, Chris, for more than 20 years now. Our honeymoon has been over for two decades, but our marriage is richer than it’s ever been. All those years have helped us learn a lot about each other, and we’ve grown and changed together. There have been rough patches, but God has seen us through, and we’ve come out stronger on the other side.

I think the same goes for writing. At the beginning, it might be all excitement and romance. After the honeymoon is over, you have to be committed to persevere and continue on this journey.

It’s not always fun. There might be days when the last thing you feel like doing is typing one more sentence. Other days, your hands will be excited to fly over the keyboard as creative ideas surge through your brain, searching for a path of escape.

And then there are all the hum-drum days in between. It’s the life of a writer—which is what you wanted, right?

Well, maybe not exactly. The writer’s road might have some challenges you weren’t expecting. Here are four that I’ve had to face—and some advice on how to tackle them.

The Grind

One of the things I love about freelance writing is the variety it provides. One day I might be writing about fundraising events and the next, fish tanks. Despite this diversity in projects, I’ve discovered I can still get bored. Even writing about things that are interesting can start to feel like a grind. This can be especially true during long Chicago winters, when you’re cooped up in your home with a laptop for months on end, waiting for the temperature to rise above freezing once again.

Or maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, you might find yourself at a point where your freelance work is feeling more like work than freedom. It is, after all, a job. And that can get old.

To keep things fresh, consider ways you can change up your days (beyond variation in writing topics). Find new physical places to write. Maybe you want to spend one day a week at a local coffee shop. Maybe your town has a great library where you can sit among words as you write them. The writer’s world can be lonely and isolating, so getting out and about may also provide some much-needed personal interactions that don’t involve a screen.

You can also vary your schedule. If you’ve been keeping the same hours for a while, consider changing them. You could spend an hour every afternoon reading a book, exercising, playing a game, or praying. Then, work an hour at night instead. You can still get the same amount of work done, but this breaks up your day and makes your day more flexible and fun.

For more simple change-ups, check out this article I posted during a particularly grinding winter several years ago.

The Search

If you ask people about their favorite hobby, I think it’s a pretty sure bet that no one will say “I really enjoy looking for a job. All the searching, applying, interviewing, and rate negotiations are immensely enjoyable. They’re my favorite.”

I personally love scavenger hunts. Some people love duck hunts. The job hunt…is another story.

And as a freelance writer, you’re constantly on this hunt. At least, it’s likely that you will be. You may get some long-term clients, but even those projects may ebb and flow based on the client’s workload. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll need to be on the lookout for new opportunities at all times. Projects start and end. Clients’ needs change. Just like a painter or a plumber constantly booking the next gig, you’ll find yourself in an ongoing search for writing work.

 

This continuous hunt is taxing. You can never sit back and relax, watching the paychecks roll in as you clock in and out of your cushy job.

I admit, there have been moments when I’ve wondered if I should just take a j-o-b so I can be done with this hunt. I think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a stable income for the next year, and not have to wonder what I’ll be working on six months from now?”

But, I just can’t do it. Despite those moments, I love what I do. It’s a huge blessing from the Lord. And I want to keep doing it.

So, I continue to hunt.

But, if you’re like me, and that hunt starts to take its toll, try these two tips:

  • Take a break. If you have some steady clients, give yourself permission to stop looking for jobs for a month. Ignore the job alerts. Delete the writer newsletter emails. Just focus on your current projects for a while.
  • Expand your search. Maybe it’s time to enhance your portfolio by exploring new territories. Have you been applying for a lot of blogging jobs? Try some professional articles. Have you written a lot of articles? Maybe it’s time to try your hand at editing. This will not only make your job search more interesting, it could take your writing career in a new, exciting (and profitable!) direction.

The Pet Peeve Project

Some writing is fun and exciting. Some projects are…the opposite. You might discover the client is difficult to work with, or the content is different than you expected, or that you grossly underbid your rate based on the work involved.

Whatever the reason, you aren’t enjoying the job and wish you could drop it. See Step #9 of this series for advice on how to get out of this sticky situation.

The Battle: Personal vs. Professional

Is it a novel you’ve never finished? An idea for a children’s book you’ve never pitched? A blog series you’ve been dying to write?

What personal writing goals are you finding it hard to meet? As your days fill up with clients’ projects, when are you supposed to find time for your own?

This is a tough one. You have to pay the bills, right? And maybe your Sci-Fi story could help do that if it gets published, but maybe it won’t. How can you keep moving forward with your freelance work and still find a way to pull these back-burner projects to the front?

I think it’s important to make these personal writing passions a priority. Don’t neglect them completely. Find a way to work them into your schedule. Set aside Friday afternoons to work on your own stuff. Take 20 minutes a day to make progress on a current personal project. Or, make Sunday evenings your “me” writing time (which happens to be when I’m typing this blog post). You might even look into a weekend writer’s retreat.

If you have a gift for writing, it’s possible God has some things He wants you to say through your own content, so don’t ignore the desires of your own heart to write.

You may also want to set new goals each year or each season for your personal writing development. These may include:

  • Finish and submit a book proposal by the end of summer
  • Join a writer’s group
  • Enter three poetry contents this month
  • Learn a new writing skill through a class or online research
  • Attend one writer’s conference this year

The point is to look for ways you can improve your craft and accomplish long-term goals. Remember to keep goals SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Persevere!

Ready to keep moving forward? If you’ve come this far, it’s time to persevere in your writing career. You can do it!

Like anniversary celebrations and vow renewals for a marriage, taking these steps will keep your writing career fresh, fun, and rewarding—long after the honeymoon is over.

SO YOU WANNA BE A WRITER…STEP 9: KNOW WHEN TO FIRE A CLIENT (AND HOW)

You’re trying to grow your freelance business. You’ve been taking every writing job that comes along just to get experience and put money in your bank account. You’re feeling fortunate to have cobbled together enough writing jobs to pay the bills and start a portfolio.

But…

There’s this one job that you hate. (Maybe hate is a strong word—but it might be close.) You were grateful when you landed the opportunity, but things have gone south since you started. Maybe the subject doesn’t interest you. Or maybe the customer grates on your nerves. For whatever reason, you simply don’t want to work with that client any more.

What should you do? In the midst of trying to make it as a writer, is there ever a time to say no to a job? Is it ever ok to “fire” a client? Will you be considered a quitter if you give up on this project?

In Step 4, I covered when it’s ok to “just say no” to taking a job, but this situation is different. You’ve been working with the client for a while, but you don’t have any desire to continue that relationship.

I have good news for you: Yes, there is a time when you can say “enough.” If you’ve been following these steps to develop your business, you should be in a position that you can let go of that dreaded job.

No, this isn’t a free pass to just quit as soon as a project or a client becomes challenging. But I believe there are legitimate reasons to move on from a particular opportunity. Here are four:

1. When the work doesn’t meet your goals

Keep in mind why you started down this unconventional path in the first place. Was it for flexibility? An excitement for the craft? The freedom of being your own boss? Maybe you wanted to become a world-renowned cat blogger.

Whatever they are, examine your motivations and the goals you’ve set for yourself and your writing. Then, take a good look at the job in question. Does it meet these goals? Or at least move you toward them? If it’s taking you in the wrong direction, it might be time to turn around.

Several years ago, I was working with a resume company. I was receiving steady assignments, and they were happy with my work. I could have gotten more jobs from them if I wanted them. The problem: The work involved setting up multiple appointments with the people who were requesting resumes—and they often didn’t keep those appointments. I found myself arranging entire days around phone calls to gather information or review a completed resume, and the people didn’t bother to show up for our meetings.

This might not bother you as much as it did me. But when I looked at this situation, I realized this job was not meeting my goal of working a flexible schedule. I was missing out on doing other things because I was tied to a lot of set appointment times—that weren’t even being honored. I felt like I was wasting time, and the work had become more frustrating than rewarding. The result: I quit that job.

2. When the client doesn’t communicate

I’m familiar with the old adage that the customer is always right, but I don’t believe that fairy tale. Good service is important, but there are lines clients can cross. If they do, it’s time to part ways.

Communication is one of those lines. Remember when I discussed the importance of being responsive to clients? It’s important for clients to have that same quality, too (at least to some extent). If you’re unable to get clear direction from a client, if they won’t get back to you if you have questions, if they expect you to meet deadlines without providing the information you need – this communication breakdown makes it impossible to do your job.

Case in point: You have a client who is extremely hard to reach via phone. That’s fine – you can simply email. But the client’s emails are abrupt and unclear. They rarely answer the questions you asked in your previous email. Many times, the client doesn’t respond at all, leaving you waiting and wondering if they want you to start the next article or not.

I experienced this scenario. I finally decided it was not worth the hassle and let the client know via email that I would no longer be able to work with him. I knew I had made the right call when I received an email from him three weeks later, asking if I was ready to start the next article.

3. When the money doesn’t arrive

There are times when you’re just starting out as a writer that you might feel like a starving artist. This doesn’t mean you have to work for free. If a client doesn’t pay, don’t keep cranking out the content.

This might sound obvious, but it can be all too easy to work and work and never get paid. They tell you the check is in the mail. They’re consistently late with payment. You never know when the money might hit your account.

This isn’t acceptable, even for a newbie. Set certain parameters for payment, then stick to them. It’s ok to charge a fee for late payment, and it’s ok to refuse to do any more work until the account is current. That’s just good business sense. If a client gets offended that you actually expect to be paid for your work, is that really someone you want to rely on for your paycheck?

Of course, this requires clear expectations. Set these at the start of your working relationship. How will they make payments and when? Include due dates and other payment terms on your invoices (and communicate them with your clients when you first establish your rates).

All of my invoices include this note at the bottom: Payments received after 30 days of invoice date are subject to a $15.00 late fee.

Yes, I have waived this fee a couple of times when a long-standing client was late with payment (and I knew it was on its way). The goal isn’t to set strict boundaries that give you an excuse to quit if someone crosses the line. The point is to protect yourself and the client by presenting clear expectations, then sticking to them.

4. When the bank account allows it 

I realize it’s one thing to believe it’s time to quit, and quite another to pull the trigger. There are times when you simply can’t. Even if you don’t like the job. Even if the client drives you crazy.

If they are paying their bills and sending you steady work, you might look at your budget and realize that it’s not wise to quit this job. This is particularly important if others, such as a spouse or children, are relying on your income, too.

In this situation, your best bet is to try to stick it out while you continue to pursue other opportunities. In other words, don’t quit until you have something to replace it. Develop a plan to replace the income first, then you’ll be free to move on (without missing a mortgage payment).

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

If you decide a job falls into one of the categories above, it’s important to take appropriate next steps. While it might be tempting to simply text an “I quit” GIF, followed by a , I don’t recommend it.

Instead, try these steps:

Finish the current job. If at all possible, finish the current project. Whatever you are working on for them, complete it (unless your reason is #3). This ends things on a more positive note, rather than leaving the client high and dry without someone to finish their project. You’ve committed to it, so finish it. Afterwards, let them know you won’t be able to take on any further projects with them.

Don’t burn bridges. Keep in mind that your reputation is on the line. Even if you no longer want to work with a particular person or business, this doesn’t mean you don’t want them to recommend you to others. If you end things as positively as possible, you can maintain a good relationship that could lead to other opportunities in the future.

Be professional. To avoid burning bridges, part ways professionally. Here’s an example of a professional “I quit” email:

I have accepted new writing opportunities and will no longer be available to write for your blog. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you. I wish you all the best with your business.

Depending on the relationship with the client, you may need to add more details, or you may need to call instead of write, but this is a good starting point for a conversation or email. Keep it simple, positive, and polite.

But what if reason #4 above is preventing you from saying goodbye? If so, it’s time to consider my last step. Watch for:

So you wanna be a writer…Step 10: When the Honeymoon is Over…Persevere

What if I craved Jesus more than sugar?

 

I wonder what my life would look like if I craved Jesus as much as I crave sugar – or even more.

How much more would my desire be for Him?

How much more effort would I make to know Him?

How much more of each day would be focused on Him?

I’d crave Him after every dinner, when the meal doesn’t feel complete without something sweet.

I’d crave Him late at night, when midnight munchies hit.

I’d crave Him at 3 pm, when nothing sounds better than a chocolate chip cookie.

I’d crave Him when I wake, when Fruity Pebbles or a Poptart sound good for breakfast.

I’d crave Him when I watch a movie, when candy and slushie are close at hand.

I’d crave Him when I haven’t eaten in four hours, and it feels like forty.

I’d crave Him after an afternoon of swimming, when a Little Debbie hits the spot.

I’d crave Him on cold winter nights, when a hot cocoa sounds heavenly.

I’d crave Him when I gather with friends, when munching on junk food is always fun.

I’d crave Him when I play a game, when snacking seems like the natural thing to do.

I’d crave Him at the grocery store, when the shelves are stocked with seasonal treats.

I’d crave Him after a long day, when my energy is zapped and I need a rush.

I’d crave Him when I’m having an afternoon slump and want a pick-me-up.

I’d crave Him when I’m lonely and want some companionship.

I’d crave Him when I’m sad and need comfort.

I’d crave Him when I’m hungry,

or tired,

or frustrated,

or happy.

I’d crave Him when nothing else satisfies.

Because…truly…nothing else does.

 


 

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

 

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group

 

The Right Words

As a writer, I’m always trying to find the right words. I guess that’s why the following words hit home. I heard this performed at church this morning and knew right away I wanted to share it with you.

Read these powerful lyrics, then hear them in the Kari Jobe video below.

 

The Word

by Isaac Wimberley

 

If there are words for Him then I don’t have them.

You see my brain has not yet reached the point

where it could form a thought that could

adequately describe the greatness of my God.

And my lungs have not yet developed the ability to

release a breath with enough agility to

breathe out the greatness of His Love.

And my voice,

you see my voice is so inhibited,

restrained by human limits,

that it’s hard to even sing the praise up.

You see, if there are words for Him, then I don’t have them.

My God, His Grace is remarkable,

mercies are innumerable,

strength is impenetrable,

He is honorable, accountable, favorable,

He’s unsearchable, yet knowable,

indefinable, yet approachable,

indescribable, yet personal.

He is beyond comprehension,

further than imagination,

constant through generations,

King of every nation,

but if there are words for Him, then I don’t have them.

You see, my words are few,

and to try and capture the ONE TRUE GOD,

using my vocabulary will never do,

but I use words as an expression,

an expression of worship to a Savior,

a Savior who is both worthy and deserving of my praise,

so I use words.

My heart extols the Lord, blesses His Name forever.

He has won my heart,

captured my mind,

and has bound them both together.

He has defeated me in my rebellion,

conquered me in my sin,

He has welcomed me into His presence,

completely invited me in.

He has made Himself the object of my sight,

flooding me with mercies in the morning,

drowning me with grace in the night,

but if there are words for Him, then I don’t have them.

But what I do have is GOOD NEWS,

for my God knew that man-made words would never do,

for words are just tools that we use to point to the truth.

So He sent His Son Jesus Christ as THE WORD,

Living proof,

He is the image of the invisible God,

the firstborn of all creation,

for by Him all things were created,

giving nothingness, formation.

And by His word He sustains in the power of His name,

for He is before all things and over all things He reigns.

Holy is His name!

So praise Him for His life!

The way He persevered in strife,

the humble son of God

becoming the perfect sacrifice.

Praise Him for His death!

That He willingly stood in our place,

that he lovingly endured the grave,

that He battled our enemy and on the third day rose in victory.

He is everything that was promised.

Praise Him as the risen King.

Life your voice and sing,

for one day He will return for us,

and we will finally be

united with our Savior for eternity! Eternity!

So it’s not just words that I proclaim,

for my words point to THE Word,

and THE Word has a name,

Hope has a name,

Joy has a name,

Peace has a name,

Love has a name,

and that name is Jesus Christ!

Praise. His. Name. Forever!!!

 

What Does This Mean?

I was probably about 12 years old. We were on our way home from church, and my cousin, who was visiting from out of town, had attended the service with us. Her church background was very different from mine, so the question she posed during our car ride home should not have surprised me, but it did. Sitting in the back seat next to me, she asked, “What does THIS mean?” and raised her hand.

Having grown up in a church where hand-raising during worship was a common occurrence, I didn’t understand her confusion. I hadn’t realized that the sight of people with their hands in the air during service was a new experience for her.

I wonder how many others have the same question, but they’ve never asked. Not just children, either. How many adults aren’t really sure what all this hand-raising is about? Maybe you’ve heard of it, seen others in church doing it, or even tried it yourself – but aren’t sure what the point is.

If you’ve ever pondered my cousin’s question, let me try to shed some light on the answer – with some more questions to consider:

  • What does a person look like when they surrender?
  • What do people often do when they are excited about something?
  • If I hold out a gift for you, what must you do to receive it?
  • What do people often do when they experience a victory?
  • What do children do when they want to be held?

Humility. Praise. Celebration. Connection. Surrender. Worship. Excitement. Victory. Adoration.

There are many meanings to this simple act of raising one’s hands. It helps us express a variety of emotions and thoughts in a physical way.

The same is true when we use this posture to communicate with the Lord.

Do you want to surrender to God? Are you celebrating the victory you have in Christ? Do you simply need to be held by your Father? Is your heart filled to the measure with all the fullness of God, and you simply need to do SOMETHING physical to express it?

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. Psalm 134:2

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8

My prayer is set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4

 

 

It’s Not a Pie!

Whether it’s a strawberry rhubarb dessert or a deep dish sausage delight, both cause the same problem.

At some point, there’s only one slice left. Everyone sits around the table, trying not to ogle that last piece, trying not to drool, and trying to pretend they want someone else to eat it.

Too often, we view life like that limited pie. There’s only so much to go around, so we better get some while the gettin’s good. And, while pie can be delicious (at least fruit pies are – I’ll take a pass on those custard creations), viewing life like a pie leads to unhealthy thoughts and emotions.

Fear: “There’s not enough! I’m going to miss out!”

Envy: “She got a piece of pie. It should have been mine.”

Selfishness: “There’s only so much to go around, and I’m gonna have my piece, no matter who has to go hungry.”

Gluttony: “I better scarf it all down now, before it’s gone or spoiled.”

Judgment: “He took TWO slices?!? What a pig.”

Most often, we get hung up on the fear and envy pieces. We get so concerned that others have what we want or what we think we deserve. We find that we aren’t able to rejoice with others in their successes. Why? Because we think their success has removed another slice, leaving less for us. If they’re enjoying dessert, we might not get to.

 

 

We’re so off base.

Life. Is. Not. A. Pie.

This is such good news! It’s not a pie!

Then…what is it?

It’s a library.

That’s right – the place with volumes and volumes of texts. Do you know why life is a reader’s haven instead of a baker’s pastry?

It’s because God didn’t bake up one big pie that we all have to share. Instead, He set up a library, where He constantly adds new stories.

We don’t have to worry about a limited amount to go around. If someone else has a success story, we can have one too. Every life is its own book, and this library has limitless shelf space.

As we experience life, we are adding to it, not taking away. 

Once we realize this, we can rest. We can stop the scrambling for that last piece of pie. We can cease the envy and the fear. We can celebrate others’ stories. We can sit back and marvel at all God has done and continues to do.

We can take the focus off the pie and turn our attention to something more important:

What will our story say?

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