I was reading an article in a trade magazine about “writing things that we regret,” and the author offered advice as to how to purge these writings from your online portfolio. I sat back and thought about my own history as a writing. Were there things I’ve written in the past that I was embarrassed about?
My evolution as a writer has gone through many incarnations. When I first started trying to write on a freelance basis, there weren’t a lot of places that paid well to write online. There were a few different sites now known as “content mills” that I submitted articles to. I got a thrill seeing my name online, wrote things like 500-600 word count articles on travel destinations and book reviews and got paid a whopping . . . less than $20 per piece. I was also still getting the hang of how to write open-ended articles like those, so they probably weren’t the most quality writing. While I doubt they are still floating around out there for anyone to see (believe me, I’ve googled them), I have to say I’m a bit relieved.
Around this same time period, I started pitching articles to a parenting website and got a few assignments. They paid more than the content mill sites, and the editor began offering me regular articles. This helped to beef up my online portfolio and gave me clips to share when I started pitching print magazines with story ideas. Writing these were fun at first, and timely as I had young children at home back then. Eventually the Walt Disney Internet Company bought out the website and my pay rate increased. Over time, however, it became harder and harder to find experts to quote in the articles because I was writing about vague topics like “when a baby’s eye color changes” or “games to play with baby.” These were assigned to me and not topics I pitched, so I didn’t have as much research to work with. Some of the sources I interviewed (i.e. doctors, developmental experts) thought my topics were hooey and weren’t afraid to say so. I see now that the assignments were probably based on SEO terms/phrases that the company was using to attract parents to the site. This site was later sold to another entity and I quit writing for them. I’m sure those articles contain a few examples of writing I’d rather not share with everyone. But again, they don’t show up when I search articles under my name.
Over the years I’ve written bad poetry (none published, thank goodness!), entered unpolished essays and short stories into contests, and pitched novels that still needed work to agents. With each word written, with each revision, I’ve improved my craft. Yes, there have been misses, but there have also been wins. Major wins, like award-winning short stories, articles that turned into magazine cover stories, and story assignments that led to job offers. A writer has to start somewhere, and I’m living proof. Don’t be afraid to evolve as a writer. We all have to start somewhere.
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