What I’m reading: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
What’s on the iPod: Right in Time by Lucinda Williams
What a couple of days. That cushion of time I had last week to finish two articles vanished thanks to whatever this latest winter storm was called — Nika maybe? I’m sorry the term “Snow-mageddon” was ever coined. The weather geeks are now out of control. It’s a new name every week. I can’t even tell you which one is headed this way tonight. To me, it shall be known as “The next damn storm.”
Despite four missed days, I pounded out two articles, which I hope are both decent. Not ideal circumstances under which to write, but the job must be done on time. I finished sometime yesterday afternoon, which gave me a little breathing room. I took to the blogs and the blog feeds.
Let’s just say it was a learning experience.
I’ve seen a lot of mistakes over the years — I’ve committed a number of them myself. But what you do as you move forward in your career is telling. What I’ve seen repeatedly are people making the same mistakes time and again. I wonder how those mistakes translate into lost business opportunities? We may never know.
A few years back, I wrote this post about the Seven Deadly Freelance Sins. They’re all still true, but that list just keeps growing.
That’s because clients who don’t hire you don’t tell you why very often. Unless pinned to the wall, they’re more inclined to just click off your site, delete that email, forget your name, and find a better fit.
So maybe it’s time someone told us what we’re doing wrong. Here are a few of the more deadly writing sins:
Terrible writing. One post I saw recently (by a writer, no less) had sentences that were so poorly written the point was lost entirely. I stopped and tried reconstructing the sentence to get the meaning. No dice. It was too convoluted. Is our online writing up to snuff? Sadly, this blog’s audience was the writing community. That’s one message that isn’t resonating, for sure.
Avoiding challenge. Can you read that author’s book #10 if the author hasn’t moved beyond the same formula used in book #1? Writers, challenge yourself to move beyond what’s safe and familiar. Experiment with technique, read and study others’ techniques, push yourself to improve your skills. In other words, commit to growing your talent, not resting on it.
Using fifty-dollar words. In one blog comment this week, a commenter went a little nuts with his thesaurus. Either his first language wasn’t English or he was trying to impress the blogger with his superior vocabulary. Unfortunately, he sounded like he’d vomited up a dictionary. Keep your audience in mind, and keep the flowery words to a minimum.
Failure to click on Spell Check. Yes, mistakes happen. I’ve been known to let “form” in where “from” should be. But there are some mistakes that are easily fixed, and yet you know the writer never ran Spell Check. It screams “I’m lazy” to your readers.
Having a high opinion of oneself. Am I the only one who is tired of hearing people go on about how special they are? Writers do this from time to time — you’ll hear about the blog awards (does anyone even notice those anymore?), the great things this person has done, and anything else that’s oozing in self-promotion. It’s usually these same types of people who, when they fall, hit bottom hardest. If the goal is to be a great writer, just go be a great writer. Yammering on about it doesn’t make it so. In fact, it looks like someone trying to cover up some shortcoming.
Calling out clients in public. Only one writer I know was ever successful at this, and it’s because she’d warn the clients that she’d do so if they didn’t pay the bill. But writers who complain publicly about clients or who name names are just digging their own career graves. Act professionally. Always.
Not knowing your audience. At all. This blog faces you, the writer. It doesn’t attempt to sell to you (except that e-book over there) because that’s not my goal. My audience comes here for free advice and a sense of community. If tomorrow I started charging you to read, you’d disappear. Likewise if I decided to start writing about remodeling. Your writing, all your writing, has an audience. If you don’t write to that particular segment, your message is lost.
What sins can you add to the list?