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Keep Hustling

By Cheryl Scheir

I got my “big break” in freelance medical writing from a good friend. She had been in the business a long time when she started training me to do the kind of work that she does, namely writing training modules, workshops, and micro-learning materials for sales representatives in the pharmaceutical industry.

Her timing was perfect; I had literally prayed a few days before for a $400/month work opportunity to add some income to my stay-at-home parenting picture.

It’s been almost 15 years since then, and how that dollar figure has grown.

What struck me then as now is that when I asked her, “What made you think of me for this?” she said, “I’ve had a lot of writers show me their work and ask me how to get it published. You’re the first person who actually did it.”

She’s right. I sent her my work, submitted it to publishers, hustled my way into a weekly column for my local newspaper, and sold an article to a national magazine (thanks to the same friend for lighting a little fire under the publisher on that last one). Then she called me to start learning her trade.

Here’s the lesson:

· Writers write.

· Writers submit.

· Writers chase down writing opportunities.

· Writers get published.

· Writers get more writing work.

If you’re a writer, here are some tips for getting some momentum:

· Start building your resume here, with submissions to Next Page Ink

· Write letters to editors responding to stories (I just rediscovered a letter from a reader of the New York Times Magazine who said my letter to the editor is on her refrigerator!)

· Submit wherever you can; think big and think small. Pursue paid and unpaid jobs

· Volunteer your writing skills

· Be open to non-creative opportunities that will pay you so that you can be secure enough to pursue creative opportunities

· Connect with mentors, like my friend (or now me!) who can guide you through the process

It may take some time, but I bet things will likely start to happen. I’m at a point now where I don’t apply for any jobs; the grapevine brings all of my clients to me. My schedule is such that I have to turn down some projects because I just don’t have the bandwidth. It’s a nice place to be, but it took a few years to get where I am now.

Patience, grasshopper. In the meantime, keep hustling.

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