Dr. Merriam agreed to sit down with us on a Thursday afternoon and we talked about various aspects of writing, professionalism, commitment, hard work, and discipline.
How did you get to a place where you could select the type of work and assignments you did?
- I started out doing free work on the side while having a full time job. A lot of the time I was volunteering my work, and building integrity by volunteering my work, and when people had projects come up they would contact me because the volunteer work I had done.
- Networking. Volunteering is one of the better ways of getting your name and integrity established in your field.
- Take what writing opportunities and look out for potential jobs
- For grant writing, write good grants and have a winning track record (professional, on-time, under-budget, and correct)
What makes a good all-around professional writer?
- A good writer is a good listener, and is able to translate that information, and really convey it to the audience.
- Being able to meet deadlines, time management, is one of the most valuable skills a professional writer can have, and that goes for any kind of writer.
- Knowing your capacity to complete work. If you say you are going to do something, and have it done by a certain time, you have to be able to do that, or advocate and be able to justify before you start that you need more time.
- Stylistic versatility is better than grammatical and syntactical.
- You have to know rhetoric to understand and reconstruct a document.
What are the options for remote work?
- Not a really clear cut answer. The type of remote work was not applicable to what I had in mind. So really, the options seem to be working from home is a viable expectation, but writing from the road depending on public hotspots and coffee shops probably is not a very ideal way to make any sort of professional career as a writer.
Is a B.A. enough?
- You know that’s a good question, and I’m not sure. (Jenny Sheppard walks into the room), you might want to ask Jenny her thoughts.
- It certainly couldn’t hurt.
Have you been involved in the hiring process for professional writers, and if so what do you look for?
What is your favorite kind of professional writing?
- Writing that is done about things I am passionate about.
How do I limit being exploited in the early stages of professional writing?
- That’s a really good question… I guess set careful boundaries to start.
- Be able to say “no”
- Establish parameters of scope of work.
- You have to know your limitations.
- Meticulous details to time and resources.
- A lot of this stuff really just comes down to experience, and unfortunately you gain experience from underestimating.
How do I market myself?
- Volunteering and pro bono work.
What should we avoid?
- Writing about things we are not passionate about.
Do you have any experience or suggestions as to going about blogging, funding, advertising, partnerships in freelance electronic writing?
- Not really much experience; I’ve never blogged. Use rhetoric and target an audience. Produced well researched and well written articles. Hope that your demographic is able to attract a company who finds value in paying you for marketing space on your blog and do reviews of products to gain attention from those companies or something of the like.