A Writer Needs to Write; But They Also Need To Be Read

Some of you may have noticed my recent, very short-lived foray onto Patreon. Yes, I deleted the page. Why? Simple. Nobody supported it. Now, don’t take this post as a whine. It’s merely a statement of fact. Nobody was interested in it, so I took it away. What will I do with the content I had intended to home there? I’m not sure yet. That will be a decision for another day.

I’m not ashamed to admit the spiral of depression I found myself in after this. It’s a large part of the reason I’ve not been online. I have found myself quite literally unable to write anything. Writing felt suddenly pointless. Why write, if it’s not going to be read? That got me thinking…

How many great writers out there are not following their dream and putting their art into the world because nobody has supported them? Now me, I’m resilient. I’m fortunate to have lived a life that has taught me to be strong and keep going, no matter how little encouragement I receive. Sure, I’ve had my little break, let myself be down and feel through my crushing disappointment. But now I’m back. And I’m still writing.

Not everyone has that resilience or relentless determination to keep writing after the deafening silence that is nobody bothering to read your work. Or worse, those that may read it, but don’t take the time to offer any kind of support. And that feeling is compounded even further when, like me, you go out of your way to support other writers. Be it kind words or even financially. Support is so important in the artistic industry. When it is not forthcoming, it can leave you feeling low, worthless, and unwelcome in the world of your chosen craft.

I will keep writing. But I will also keep learning. About myself, about others, and about how to continue pushing on even in the absence of any encouragement from others in this competitive and selfish world that seems to be professional writing. And my attention will be focused on those who do take the time to read and support my work. Because those people are truly priceless and precious treasures for which I will be forever grateful. You know who you are. Thank you.

Patreon’s Newest Creator…

If you like my writing here, you’ll love the fiction I’m creating over on Patreon. I realised I needed a place for all the actual stories I’m working on, and I felt they didn’t quite fit the vibe of this blog. So, I bit the bullet and signed up.

If you want to check them out as they drop, find me here https://www.patreon.com/harleyjhoughton

And of course, support is so greatly appreciated. Each patron tier comes with exclusive bonuses and benefits.

Hope to see you over there!

Feedback: And Why You Should Consider it a Gift

It can be tough hearing that you did something wrong. And it can be equally hard being the person that has to tell someone they did something wrong. We are all conditioned to prefer saying and hearing the good things about ourselves. Giving and receiving compliments just feels amazing, so of course we’d rather choose this line of conversation over those super awkward corrective chats. But here’s the thing. Nobody is perfect. None of us are able to effortlessly sail through every aspect of our entire lives without making a single mistake. While we are often able to identify ourselves that we’ve erred at something, there will always be those occasions where we find ourselves oblivious to this fact. The only way we are able to find out, is if someone gives us feedback.

So, why is this important? It’s important because if we have no idea we’ve done something wrong, we miss out on a crucial opportunity to fix it. To learn. To grow. To become even better than we are. It’s a constant part of the human condition to seek to improve ourselves and the simple fact is that this is impossible without feedback. Are you starting to see how being given feedback is like being handed a wonderful gift yet?

If not, allow me to elaborate. Sometimes the hardest feedback to get is when we think we are really great at something. Say for example, writing. As a freelance writer, I do this for a living. So, I like to think I’m pretty skilled at it. Getting praise from a client when I submit a piece that they absolutely love is one of the best feelings in the world. But you know what I’ve come to love even more? Good feedback. Because I know when I receive this incredible gift and put it to good use, my writing gets even better.

I won’t lie to you. The first time I received, what at that time I considered criticism, of a piece I’d written, it was hard. I thought I had done an amazing job, I’d completed my research, written it up beautifully, done the standard checks for plagiarism (a routine every writer should follow, you’d be amazed how often you can plagiarise accidentally…) and readability and all came back perfect. So, when the client told me they wanted me to make a few changes, I was devasted. Angry. Even hurt. Of course, I remained completely professional and made all the changes they requested with a smile and my standard positive and enthusiastic demeanour. And you know what? When I resubmitted the piece and they were happy with it, wow did I feel great.

If that client had not given me that feedback, I would have ended up giving them something they were not happy with. I would have ultimately provided a poor service to this person. And I would have missed out on this crucial opportunity to become even better at writing. See, feedback is a gift.

Now keeping this in your head, think about all those times you chose not to give someone feedback. You stayed quiet while your friend sat there talking with his mouth open and making everyone else at the table want to retch. That girl said or did something that caused your feelings toward her to change so one day you just stopped messaging her back. Your steak at that restaurant was overcooked but you just sat there and picked at it anyway. Because of your silence and inaction, your friend has the reputation for being a pig, that girl will spend the rest of her life never knowing where she stands or what she did wrong and that chef will keep right on overcooking steaks. I for one, feel sorry for these people. Because they’ve been denied an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and are therefore doomed to repeat them. Seems kind of cruel doesn’t it? Kind of like, they’ve been denied an absolutely incredible gift? I can practically feel you guys starting to really get my point now.

Which brings me to another very important point that must be said. Feedback is not criticism. Feedback is offering meaningful suggestions for improvement, citing specific examples and giving the other person something to work with to be able to put to use for the betterment of themselves and those around them. Criticism is just putting someone down. And that is never ok.

So next time someone gives you feedback, take it with its intended spirit, as a beautiful gift. See it as an opportunity to learn and grow. And when giving feedback, remember you are handing this person a gift. So be kind about it. Gently give it to them instead of throwing it in their face. If you can master the art of differentiating between criticism and feedback, you’ll soon find yourself enjoying feedback as much as I do. And you’ll feel yourself becoming better every day.

A Freelance Employer to Avoid: A Cautionary Tale

I wasn’t originally going to publicly out this company. I was originally going to chalk the whole experience up to a mistake, learn from it and just move on. My blog was never meant to be a place that spoke badly of anyone. But I cannot allow the risk of what happened to me happening to someone else to weigh on my conscience. So here goes…

I have recently branched out into the world of online freelance writing, registering myself on a few freelance job sites and bidding on projects with the hope of earning some extra money. It started slow, which is fine. Getting paid a tiny $20 for my first ever real job of just 250 words was the best feeling ever.

Then I was contacted by this company and promised regular daily work for $12 per 500 words. My preferred rate is $15 per 500, but I’m always willing to make exceptions if the work is regular and long-term. I was assured this was the case. They carefully explained it all to me; payments would be on the 15th and 30th of each month, $12 per 500 words, and I could work whenever I wanted. All I had to do was commit to four, 500-word articles a day, meet my deadlines and all would be fine. I accepted these terms.

Cut to now, just over two weeks later. It had been great at the start. Every morning, I would log and greet them over Skype, be sent my work for the day, complete it, get told it was good and rinse, repeat the next day. When the 30th rolled around I was told due to the CVOID-19 pandemic, payments would be delayed to the following Friday. I was fine with this and kept on working for them.

I completed every single task they set me, either at deadline or ahead of it. My work was quality, passing plagiarism checkers and spun content checkers and scoring high SEO. I was hard-working, reliable and efficient.

When that Friday arrived, I asked them about my payment. They had sent me a very basic spreadsheet to fill in to submit as an “invoice” which I did. My first red flag was there was no column for cost, only topic, keyword and word count. After completing and submitting this and providing my payment details, they went completely silent.

It’s now been three days of no responses from them and still no payment. I can see on Skype they’ve been receiving, reading and clearly ignoring my very polite messages asking them what was happening, did my payment go through all right, did they have any more work for me, etc. Today I sent them a final message, informing them of my extreme disappointment at their behaviour. That I now see their offer of regular, paid work, was not genuine. I have written more than 35,000 words for these people and not been paid a single cent.

They call themselves “Creative Content” and claim to be based in Toronto, Canada. I say “claim” because really, who knows. I am sure several of the people I spoke to did not have English as their first language. They will communicate entirely over Skype. And they will work you as hard as they can then never pay you, and ignore you when you question them, no matter how politely. Do not do any work for these people. Please learn from my mistake and don’t ever let anyone take advantage of you the way these people did me. Creative Content – definitely a freelance employer to avoid.