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    Lions in the (Freelance) Writing Jungle

    The writing world is a chaos of egos, moods, interests and tempers. A neophyte freelancer who is armed with nothing but idealism and a passion for writing can become a helpless victim of the many lions in the writing jungle. These prowlers come in disguise, ready to pounce on their unsuspecting victims when their prey least expects danger. Before you become a victim yourself, be on the lookout for...


    Prowler # 1

    He is a more senior writer who knows the right people in the business -- or so he claims. He is willing to help you get around. In return, he asks you to research for him, encode his notes, run errands, interview people, clip reference materials... in short, do the dirty jobs for him. Of course that's for free. And of course he gets the credit. As for the help he's willing to give, just wait... and wait... and wait!

    -> Before you run out of self-respect, know when enough is enough!


    Prowler # 2

    He is an editor who's out on an ego trip. He rejects your work but encourages you to go on writing. He suggests some revisions here and there, some more paragraphs in this and that chapter. You think he is genuinely supportive. You follow his suggestions to the letter. Then he goes over your revised work. His mood shifts. He suggests some more changes. The cycle goes on. Then he drops the bomb: He can't consider your article after all. You have no idea that he's an emotional sadist who's just out on an ego trip.

    -> Set boundary lines. Beyond that, it is no longer *your* work! Take it or leave it!


    Prowler # 3

    He is a co-writer, also a freelancer. You are both neophytes feeling your way around. So you cling to each other for support. You plot your writing career and start creating your network of opportunities. You want to learn, to grow, to make it big. But the flake pulls you down. He proceeds in an uncertain and sluggish pace. He can't decide his priorities. Since you're buddies, you can't leave him behind. Before you know it, he has stunted your growth.

    -> Be careful of the flake for his attitude is contagious.


    Prowler # 4

    He is an agent of sorts -- or so he makes you think. He knows the right people and he can wrestle writing opportunities for you wherever he goes. He has that Midas touch. You adore him. You follow his every word. You think he can make or break you. But instead, he breaks your back! He gets the bigger percentage of your fees. He drowns you with writing assignments that you cannot decline. (You want to earn, right?) Then he laughs his way to the bank as you work your back off beating deadlines.

    -> Decide who you're writing for: your agent or yourself and your readers!


    Prowler # 5

    He is another writer who's ever-willing to help you critique your work. He spares time to brainstorm with you. You find him helpful and concerned. But he is actually a writer who hasn't got an ounce of creativity in his system. Before you know it, he has stolen your idea/s! Sure he'll change a character or two, alter a scene here and there. But it is still *your* idea that he's submitting ahead of you!

    -> Divulge some clues but don't expose your treasures! And remember, choose the people you'll trust!


    Prowler # 6

    He is another writer and a neophyte like you. Since you're both new in the business, you agree to help each other. You introduce him to your contacts. You share your writing opportunities with him. You lend him your books and notes. You share with him the secrets of the trade that you've discovered the hard way. You are too naive to notice that you're traveling in a one-way street.

    -> Help if you must, but help yourself first!


    Prowler # 7

    He is a friend, relative, a boss, another writer -- he could be anybody in your life. To him, nothing is possible. You approach him with your brilliant ideas and he automatically announces his verdict: It won't work! He shatters your morale into bits. He dampens your enthusiasm. He hates the world and he wants you to hate it too!

    -> Avoid the pessimist like the plague!


    Prowler # 8

    He is the inconsiderate publisher who's on the look out for neophytes like you. He knows that getting published means the world to you, never mind if you get paid or not. He publishes your articles one after the other without any mention of remuneration. Just reading your byline gets you high so you continue submitting. And when you finally have the courage to ask about fees, he barks, "What fees?"

    -> If you won't give value to yourself, who will?


    Prowler # 9

    He is a scheming businessman whose only interest is to make money. He organizes writing contests and other writing activities that lure unsuspecting neophyte writers like you, like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. And why not? Neophytes need the experience -- and added credentials. But there's a catch. You have to pay for an entry form, another fee to register your work, a hundred bucks for an official writing kit, and countless other fees for who-knows-what! Multiply that by X number of contestants and the organizer makes a killing. As for you, idealistic writer, forget about winning. Just wait for the fictitious names they announce as winners. You might find an interesting one for your next hero and heroine!

    -> Discernment is a freelancer's weapon. Develop it!


    Prowler # 10

    He is another scheming businessman who pretends to be a patron of the written word. He has a magnetic personality. He forms writing groups to support aspiring writers. How noble indeed! He promises the world to his unsuspecting victims. He collects membership fees, ID fees, subscription for the group newsletter... whatever! But he never distributes the IDs or the newsletters. Neither does he call meetings. After a while, the groups he formed die a natural death. Gone are his promises, the other members and everything you paid for.

    -> Take two: Discernment is *really* a freelancer's weapon. Develop it!


    As a freelancer, you are on your own. You have to prove yourself *and* protect yourself. Out there in the freelance writing jungle, the rule is the same: Survival of the fittest!

    Copyright © 2003 Lizzie R. Santos

    Lizzie Santos writes features, literary pieces, scripts and other writing projects both in English and Pilipino. She also lectures at creative writing workshops. Her first book, The Laughter of the Leaves and Other Musings, was published by Giraffe Books. She is working on her second book. Contact her at liz_pages@yahoo.com.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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