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What Got Me Writing

When I started freelancing, I never imagined I would end up writing for a living. Never in a hundred years. Yet, I’ve been doing it full-time for almost a year now.

I got interested in freelancing because I wanted to try something different. I needed a break from the office routine. The job was OK. I had excellent colleagues and was friends with everyone. And while it wasn’t making me rich by any means, I never lacked for anything. It was a comfortable job—perhaps too much.

The trouble was that going to the office got harder and harder as time passed. It got to the point that I started sensing that the whole thing was a terrible waste of time. Meetings and busywork consumed most of my and everyone else’s workday. Going back and forth to the office four days a week (+1 home office day) took too long and squandered too much energy. At least that’s how I perceived it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know meetings and some degree of paperwork is unavoidable. I do. I’m fine with that. I made my peace with that; it’s just how companies work. But there is a point where bureaucracy takes over, and I felt we had long gone past it.

At first I thought that maybe I needed to change jobs. So I updated my resume, went to a few interviews, and even landed an offer that would have meant a substantial pay bump. In all honesty, when it was time to make the decision, I realized that I wasn’t too excited about the change—it felt like swapping one office for another. I realized that more money just wouldn’t cut it.

One friend who was already a freelancer recommended me to try Upwork. The way he described it sounded great, just what I needed. So I created a profile and started sending proposals for jobs I thought I could do.

Freelancing was a whole new and intimidating universe. It was exciting and scary. I did a few programming jobs here and there, I coded a chatbot, I did some database migrations.

One day I saw a job post asking for a 2000-word PHP installation tutorial. I knew PHP and MySQL pretty well, so I figured that it was easy money. By that time, I already had a personal blog with a few posts, and I thought that alone qualified me. So, without thinking too much about it, I sent my proposal. After all, how long could it take? Two thousand words… easy peasy, piece of cake… easy as falling off a log.

I landed the job and said I would have it in 2 days, 3 tops.

Boy, did I planning-fallacy-ed the thing…

I spend 2 entire days just writing down the steps and taking screenshots. Then 3 more writing the damn thing (all this while I did my daytime job). It dawned on me that proper writing is much harder than blogging for fun. It was exhausting, fun, and sleep-depriving. And when the draft got accepted, I was incredibly proud.

That was the point I started considering writing as a job.

In the following months, a lot of people were very kind and let me write for them. One person took a big chance and gave me enough work to take the plunge and try writing as a full-time job, for which I’ll be eternally grateful.

So, what I like about writing

It’s different

Professional writing is different than any other job I had. For me, it’s the perfect mix of learning, playing, and working.

It’s challenging

Putting words on paper is easy. Making them make sense and tell a story, not so much. Finding the correct tone, showing just the right amount of information, and figuring out how best to deliver is a balancing act. It’s the kind of challenge that makes me want to keep trying harder.

Give something back

It feels good to contribute, even if it is only a grain of sand in the infinite expanse that is the Internet.

View things in a different light

Any text that doesn’t consider the audience is destined to fail. Writing forces me to put myself in other people’s shoes.

Has its own pace

There’s no on-call duty, no overtime, no meetings back to back, and (usually) no super-long hours. Within certain limits, I can choose how many hours I want to work.

The other side of the coin is that staying productive at a consistent pace it’s a lot more difficult. Some days I’m on fire. Others, I can’t write a word to save my life. And there is no way of knowing until I sit and try.

Learn new things

Writing is a way of learning. If you ask me, it’s one of the best ways. It has given me the chance to play with many wonderful technologies that I otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to.

Defrags the noggin

Writing forces me to put things down and examine them in the critical light of the narrative. I frequently find that what made sense in the nebulous circumvolutions of the mind breaks down into a mess of disconnected sentences and repeated words as soon as I put them on the screen.

Relearn old things

We’ve all been tripped by an innocent question while explaining something that we thought we knew well. Without fail, writing reveals the flaws in our thinking and shows how well (or bad) we understand things.

Give it a try

Some people say that writing is art. That may be true for the likes of Poe or Bradbury. My problem with calling it art by default is that it puts it on a pedestal. For me, writing is like carpentry. It’s a skill that must be honed every day. Something that takes time and effort, sure enough, but is entirely within reach of anyone.

So give it a try.