Thursday, 10 March 2011

Worry warrior

I worry too much. People are always telling me that. And it's true. But I'm good at worrying. If worrying were a competitive sport I would be like the Tiger Woods (except no dodgey hanky panky) or the Fernando Alonso (except with better kept eyebrows).

Random aside: I just realised I know very little about female sportspeople. Sad.

Anyway, the point is that I could kick your ass at worrying. And then I'd worry about having offended you, apologise and offer to let you prove you're a better worrier than me.

One of the things I worry about a lot is my writing. I feel like I shouldn't really get paid for it. If I didn't, we wouldn't eat, so I'm glad there are people out there willing to pay me for it, but I personally think they're off their heads.

Now I know some of you very nice blog people will feel obliged to tell me that you think I write very nicely, but the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of you (can there be a vast majority in a handful of people?) have not seen my writing.

Yes, you've seen my writing here on my blog. But you haven't seen my writing writing - the stuff I write for clients; the stuff out of which I make my living; the stuff I get paid to write.

And even if you have seen a piece of my writing, let's say a magazine article, you haven't seen all the other stuff I write - brochures, website copy, press releases, annual reports (can anyone say "ugh"?), personal profiles, case studies... the list goes on.

They are all different types of copy that require different styles. And every single time I have to do something new, I freak out that it won't be good enough and the client will wonder why the hell they pay me money. Or they'll refuse to pay me money. Which is worse.

Case in point: this week I had to write someone's CV. Bear in mind that I've only every written about five CVs and they were for me, TSC and a few friends. We are young(ish), inexperienced start-out career seekers, so there's really not that much info to put in a CV. Easy peasy.

But this dude... He's a senior executive at one of SA's biggest manufacturing companies and he's been working for 20 years. He's been at his present company for 10 years. Writing his CV... very different. Very difficult.

He needed something WOW that would make him stand out, not a 25-point list of impressive things he's done at his company. His CV looked like a shopping list. It was BAD. Technically, anything I wrote should be better than what he had. But I am WORRIED.

I've researched CVs. I've studied examples. I've given my draft to a recruiter friend for some critical feedback and I've now sent him the first draft. And now I wait. And worry. Worry, worry, worry.


It was the same with the book I ghost wrote for my client, which turned out just fine. It was the same with the trade presenter I did for an ad agency two weeks ago. Still waiting on that one. And worrying.

I feel like a fraud. Like I'm pretending to be a writer and one day someone will discover I'm actually just me - good at spouting nonsense. And a champion worrier. But not much of a journalist.

Having lost my big retainer client (even though it was because they need the money to hire more sales people, not because of something I wrote. Or so they say), my confidence has taken a knock. But I have to go and find work. This means marketing myself. Marketing myself means telling people why they should hire me. How can I do that if I'm still asking myself the same question?!


I know what I need to do in terms of marketing:
  • Finish setting up my website
  • Update my easy peasy CV
  • Start actually handing out my pretty business cards instead of just looking lovingly at them sitting in a box on my desk
  • Try not to let clients catch glimpses of my neurotic behaviour
  • Start a Twitter account in my real name and use it regularly for work stuff (Blergh... not keen)
  • Ask current clients for recommendations
  • Collect testimonials
  • Start to believe that there's a reason people pay me to write
  • Start a work blog. Maintain total separateness (is that a word? Can I be a writer if I don't even know the answer to that question?) between that blog and this blog (I would DIE if clients read my navel-gazing nonsense here).
  • Pitch ideas to magazines I want to write for. Try not to grovel whilst doing so.
  • Consider valium as a new inclusion in my diet.
  • Learn not to be so hung up about ending on an even number of bullet points.
Now the challenge is to actually get to doing them. Instead of just worrying.


phillygirl said...

I am also a champion worrier! But sometimes I just stick my head in the sand and ignore it and wait for something to pass ... because I know the worrying would kill me and there's nothing I could do about it anyways (case in point: me waiting on visas for my trip!!!)

Haha. *hugs*

Damaria Senne said...

Oh wow! Looks like we have a very interesting club going here. I also worry a lot about the stuff I write. I worry that clients will dislike the way I wrote for their projects and will cancel contracts. I worry that they'll see my copy and wonder why they pay me, when they could it themselves or hire someone better.

Here's a (shortened) conversation I had with a friend this morning. I'd sent her the text of a children's book I'm self-publishing in September and a sample illustration from the artist:

Friend: I had a look at the story (a few errors though), and the pic. I think they go very well together.

Me: Thanks for pointing out the errors. It still needs a heavy edit and this morning I was wondering if the whole story is actually just crap.Other than the errors though, do you think the story is worth investing in?

Good friend that she is, she reassured me. She's probably going to have to reassure me on something else tomorrow:-)

po said...

Eeeh well I an relate, even though I am not a writer. My attempts at writing are so laughable, to me anyway. But we are our worst critics, and you have been paid again and again, so you must be doing it right!

DBAWIW said...

I think your list is an excellent start, seriously (including the Valium point). Try not to hate yourself too much and read this article - very interest stuff, I thought:

I think writing someone's CV, particularly that of a very accomplished person, is an extremely tough thing to do - seriously daunting, I believe, particularly because it is such a personal thing.

Anonymous said...

OMW! I can totally relate (not that I'm implying that you're not a better worrier.)

At the very least you keep writing. And you write very very well, though you probably won't believe me.

I'm much more likely just to stop writing to avoid the worry. My twisted mind believes that no-one can reject me if I have nothing to reject.

Its a sad state of affairs. Especially since I really want to write and dream of being even just a fraction of the writer you are.

Louisa said...

Sounds like you have a couple of great ideas already. You'll have to go two steps at a time though to keep your bullets even. ;-)

Tamara said...

Thanks for the support, everyone. Good to know I'm not alone.

Tamara said...

DBAWIW: Awesome article. I need to learn that.

Helen said...

I'm a big worrier about writing too - so much that I tend to trash drafts rather than let anyone see them... makes graduating... tricky!

I haven't updated my CV in a good 10 years, any pointers?

Sid said...

Ha. What I'd like to know is how to pitch my ideas to magazines. I want to write an article on my recent trip to Bali. Any tips from you will be greatly appreciated!

AngelConradie said...

I believe that if you are being paid regularly by different people for a service or product you provide, then you must be pretty good at it.