Things I learned Growing Up Poor

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I grew up in the projects and still have a lifelong phobia of cockroaches. We never went on vacations and it was a pretty foreign concept for me at the time. People took weeks off work and traveled somewhere far away spending thousands of dollars for a few days or weeks of fun? That amount of money would’ve fed my family for weeks.

But it was fine. I didn’t know that we were “poor” until we moved out of our shanty neighborhood.

Even as a kid, I loved reading and instead of toys, I saved up my allowances to buy books during the book fairs at my school. Despite being poor, my parents were very frugal and they always managed to give us a small allowance every now and then.

I also had a teacher who had her own classroom library and would let us borrow from it whenever we wanted. It was what led me to my life long love of books.

I think that’s what saved me from ending up with the same fate as a lot of the kids I had grown up with. It was the books.

I wasn’t limited to the mindset of the people around me when I had books because that gave me access to the minds of some of the greatest thinkers who ever lived and that’s what books are. They share ideas.

It made me start to question the people around me. It made me realize that things don’t have to be the way they are.

1.Sometimes You Have to Breakaway

Most people never make it out of the social or economical class they were born in and that’s because it’s  hard.

Developing a new way of thinking and developing new habits when all of the people around you are doing the exact opposite is hard no matter what social class you were born into.

Few people can do it. It takes a lot of willpower, motivation and creativity to do something completely different from everything you’ve been taught growing up.

Some people live their whole lives in the town or city they were born in. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you choose to do.

But I knew I had to leave my hometown behind if I didn’t want to end up like everyone else there.

You didn’t have a choice in where you were born but you do have a choice in where you will end up.

If you’re born in a first world country, and you probably are if you’re reading this, then you can live anywhere in the world! Why limit yourself to one place?

It always amazes me, how many people dream of living in a different place. London or Tokyo or maybe the Himalayan mountains. If it’s your dream, do it. Grab life and take it along with you, you’re the main character of your own story.

Who wants to be the boring protagonist who never does anything?

2.Not Doing Things Just Because it’s Tradition

This one always gets me into trouble, usually with the wrong people, the people who are at the top, the ones who don’t want things to change.

Even as a kid, I often questioned why things had to be done the way they always were.

“Why don’t we ever take that road?” I asked my mother one day while were driving back home from the grocery store. I pointed to another road that branched away from the main highway. It looked fun, like it would lead to some adventure somewhere. (I had a pretty active imagination as a kid.)

“We don’t know where it leads,” my mom said.

That day, I told myself I would take all the unexplored roads when I learned to drive.

This tendency to want to keep with tradition is hardwired in us. It’s what enabled us to survive for so long as a species. It’s important, because we can’t have everyone going off doing their own thing or our societies and communities would break down.

But, there’s a limit. Some traditions and cultures are outdated and can even be harmful. It’s important to do away with traditions that longer make sense in our world.

3.Change your mind, change your look, change your life

They say the way you look doesn’t matter but it does. The way you dress tells who you are to other people. The way you look can attract or repel people.

You dress the way you do because you want to belong to a certain group. Whether you choose to have blonde highlights or dye your hair blue (or something else all together) it’s because you want to impress a certain type of person.

4.Everyone Has a Story

I learned to judge less. There’s always a reason why someone is the way they are. Even someone like Charles Manson. He had an awful, tragic childhood. It doesn’t excuse what he did, but it does shed light onto it. What if someone had stepped in at the right time? Could things have changed for the better?

I’m not perfect. I’ve  done my fair share of judging.

No one has all the answers. The truth is often somewhere in the middle.

Know that everyone has a story as intricate and complex as your own. You wouldn’t want someone else to judge you without know anything about you, so why do the same?

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No One Wants To Be Your First Client

Getting that first job is the hardest as no one wants to hire an unproven writer (as I’ve come to discover in the past few weeks). So you have to start somewhere, usually at the bottom, at least until you’ve gain some footing.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been working on finding my first writing job and adding to my portfolio. It’s been hard finding the balance between working on my novel and getting paid work for my writing.

I’ve done a lot of  research about becoming a freelance writer, the ins and outs and the problems I might come across, etc.  Of course, there’s no ONE way to do it and that’s part of the beauty of being a freelance writer. You will have to carve your own path.

If you haven’t already, I’d suggest reading a few books about freelance writing.  Start & Run a Copywriting Business is a good place to start if you’re interested in getting into copywriting.

1. Content Sites

Onespace

After having seen some good reviews about OneSpace (previously known as Crowdsource) I decided to sign up with them first. They have tests that you need to pass to be accepted so they sounded more legitimate than other content sites I’ve come across but… it was a massive fail.

After passing the two prerequisite tests, I found out they weren’t accepting any new writers at this time  so it was disappointing to say the least. I’ll probably check back with them later but for now it’s a dead end.

Zerys

Zerys was also another content site that had decent reviews by writers so I signed up with them and turned in my writing sample. For the sample, I got a writing score of 4 out of 5 stars…but again it didn’t really go anywhere as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of work available.

Skyword

I also signed up with skyword. It works differently from the other two content sites as you have to fill out your profile and wait for them to match you with assignments. If they ever do.

So these content sites seem to have the same problem of not having a regular stream of work available. I’ll still check back with them regularly but it seems to be pretty slim pickings for now.

2. Nonprofits

Nonprofits are also a good way to build experience. I used to volunteer quite a bit but I haven’t been able to do so for the past few years and I would like to take it up again. It’s always been something I enjoy doing so I signed up to do some volunteer writing work for UNV.

If that’s something you’re interested in it’s definitely worth a look to help build your portfolio.

 

3. Short Stories/Novellas

I’m a storyteller at heart and it’s what I enjoy doing most.  It’s definitely an avenue worth looking into if you’re a fiction writer.

Novels are great but per word short stories can actually make you more money (unless you’re the next J.K. Rowling).

So here a few good publications to look into to help you start out.

Fantasy and Science Fiction
As the name goes, they accept fantasy/sci-fi fiction. They do require the entire manuscript up front though so be sure your story is edited and ready to go.

Apex Magazine
They accept horror, sci-fi and fantasy and pay 6 cents per word. Not too bad if you’re just starting out.

Heroes and Heartbreakers
They say romance pays and it’s true. At $1,000 per story, it’s a pretty nice rate. It’s great if you enjoy writing romance although they do require longer submissions at 15k to 30k words per story.

Starting a Portfolio a.k.a. Doing the Boring Adult Things You Must Do

If you want to be a writer, it’s a good idea to start a writing portfolio right away. It serves as a morale boost and it also serves as a starting point.

There are quite a few sites out there that offer services for writers. Some are paid and some are free.

You can choose what you’re comfortable with but, because of my extreme frugal nature, I went with a free one.

I tried out two portfolio sites before deciding on one. The reason I chose them was, again, because they were free.

The first one I tried was clippings me.It’s a portfolio site aimed at writers, mostly freelance journalists. Initially, I had a few problems with the interface and… decided against it. It’s still a great site  but it wasn’t for me.

The second one I found was journoportfolio. It’s free for the first ten articles. As a new writer, that wasn’t something I was too concerned with as I had few enough pieces as it is and I could always upgrade it later if I wanted to.

Well, now that you have a portfolio, how to fill it up?

1. Things you already have

Research papers, blog posts, anything you have that showcases your writing style would be okay initially. You have to start somewhere and starting with something you already have is a good starting point.

But I have nothing strangemuse…

Well, that’s fine too. If you really have nothing at all, zip, zero… then I would suggest…

2. Job Boards

Pitch to a few jobs that you want to work on. Choose ones that are lower paying if you don’t have a lot of experience and work your way up. You can find anything there and you can choose projects you’re comfortable with.Upwork seems to have more range of job types than places like problogger.

3. Write for a List Site
There a few places like Listverse that will pay you to write articles for their site. It takes a little more research and work but they have a large viewership and can lend better credibility to your portfolio.

4. Your Own Projects

Last of all, if you’re an introverted writer like me, you can always do projects for yourself. Although, this is a last resort as it’s always better to showcase projects you’ve done that has been vetted and published.