If I have any advice to offer someone who is serious about freelance writing, it would be this: Get a job as an editor. Even if it’s a part-time gig for a small local publication, do it! I’m convinced there is no better way to learn the business of writing than to sit on the other side of the desk. Working with other writers, helping them to produce stronger writing that is tailored for the publication you edit, forces you to view your own writing in a less myopic way.
I’ve been the editor of Ideas & Perspectives, the flagship publication of Independent School Management (ISM), since 1993. The content of this advisory letter is highly technical and focuses on management issues at private schools. For example, here are the three articles in the issue of I&P that we just hustled off to the printer:
- What the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Means for Private Schools: Rectifying Past and Present Pay Discrimination
- Price, Product, Process: Competing Within Your Market Platform
- Professional Development During Hard Economic Times
I coordinate with our management consultants and researchers to pull together each issue every three weeks. The articles typically go through many drafts before publication. Each writer has a different style, and I work with each to retain that style while meeting the requirements and tone of the publication. Not always easy and almost always challenging, but I wouldn't want it any other way.
However, even though I enjoy editing I&P and often write articles for the publication, it is not my preferred style. I much prefer writing "over-the-back-fence" gardening articles and fiction. But, I fully believe that my editing job has improved my overall writing and has opened me to diverse writing styles that I would not otherwise have experienced. And working with other writers has made me more aware of my own shortcomings and has provided avenues for improvement.
Writing is often a lonely business. Editing certainly makes it less so.