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Have pen, will write – but writing for money may take time

In an era of blogs and self-publishing opportunities, everyone seems to be a writer.

Making money as a writer, however, requires much more than updating a weekly, self-published blog. And the competition for paying gigs can be fierce.

Cliff Brooks, Georgia author of the year nominee, began writing short stories in elementary school. He studied history and political science in college but continued to hone his writing skills. After graduation, he began freelancing for magazines, crafting both interview pieces and fiction.

Cliff loved writing, but it didn’t pay the bills. By day he worked as a probation officer for the Department of Juvenile Justice. After hours he continued to write and began developing contacts at local magazines.

He worked for the state of Georgia for nearly a decade. In that time he also wrote humorous articles for the local paper and landed a book contract. Those 10 years, he said, challenged his ability to focus on his goal.

“Finding time to write around a full-time job can be difficult. If there are interviews to be done, on occasion it’s challenging to agree on a time both parties can speak. The secret is to keep a tight schedule and never take on more than you’re able to complete on time. Always be open for criticism and don’t take it personally,” he said. 

Many budding writers may begin their career writing for free or developing content for websites. The exposure and readership can be worth more than an actual paycheck and lead to paying jobs.

Brooks recommends seeking guidance from professional writers when you begin your career.

“I should’ve found a mentor in freelance writing before I jumped in with both feet. There’s a learning curve with every job, but I could’ve avoided some big bumps in the road with a little guidance. My suggestion is to find someone in the business to help you get your sea legs,” he said.

A freelance career, he said, can be great for someone who is on the move.  

 “Freelance writing is great for anyone who might have to move frequently. There are some companies that never require you to visit an office. Everything is done online,” he said. “This type of work also provides a sense of normalcy, because no matter where you move, the job is the same. The small things can go a long way to boost overall happiness. “

Brooks encourages aspiring writers to follow their dreams but be prepared to do the research and legwork needed to win the assignments.

“To get into the profession, do research on what the job requires. Pick some topics you’re passionate about and find magazines covering those interests. Contact the magazine and inquire about submitting work. Many magazines advertise for unsolicited material. Choose several magazines and begin to make contacts in the literary world. Here, as on Wall Street, who you know in the business can make great things happen.”

Brooks’ just began a tour to accompany his acclaimed book of poetry, “The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics.”

When he is with the crowds who come to hear him speak, he can feel and see how much his years of work have rewarded him and everyone who reads his words.

 “When I read poetry and see those words move people in the crowd, it’s humbling,” he said.

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