Think of Dear Ellie as your very own kitchen table, where you can discuss the things that are on your mind. Now that the boomers are turning 60 and those in the Greatest Generation are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s—we are all blazing new trails in the third third of life. So, have a cup of coffee and let’s talk about life: the past, the present, and the future. [Editor's note: Dr. Greenberg no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
This recession has impacted my income as a writer so severely that I don’t know what to do. For more than 30 years, I have been successful as a freelance writer. I enjoy an excellent reputation in my city and have had continuous contracts with newspapers and a wide variety of magazines. Now newspapers are shrinking or going bankrupt, and many magazines have simply stopped publishing. I have recently been writing for some medical magazines and have experience in the restaurant and travel industries. I have not had a new contract for a number of months, and I am getting desperate. I am over age 65 and cannot survive on Social Security alone. What do you advise? Lois
This is a very difficult time for writers. A number of major trends are affecting the world of publishing, as you know: electronic media overtaking print media, newspapers being offered for free on the Internet, organizations using the Web instead of mailing newsletters and magazines, and the general economic slowdown affecting every industry.
I have a few suggestions. First, contact some professional organizations and nonprofit agencies in fields in which you may be known, and ask if they need writers for their Web pages or print publications. Also ask who is doing the technical work on developing their Web pages. Then contact those Web developers, as well as others, and find out if they need writers or if you could develop new contacts for them. Suggest ways they could expand their businesses, and follow up on a few of those possibilities.
Second, investigate various aspects of the travel and restaurant industries. Think about all the types of vendors that serve those industries. For example, travel vendors include airlines, cruise lines, rental cars, travel agents, luggage manufacturers, food suppliers, resorts, hotels—there are so many components. I think that you should research all these dimensions, make contacts at their corporate headquarters, find out about their print publications and Web pages, and try to get onto their supplier lists.
Third, I suggest that you contact your colleagues and writer friends and find out how they are getting along. You might want to go to lunch with a few of them and even consider forming a small company that could market multiple writers. It’s not so hard. All you need is a company name that you register with your Secretary of State. I advise against forming a complex corporation. Operate from your homes, use your computers and telephones, make a timeline of goals and activities, and see what you and a few good friends can accomplish in a few months.
Fourth, don’t forget editing if you are a good writer. You may need to begin to think of yourself as an editor for others’ writing. Every writer needs an editor, and all publishing companies employ editors.
And fifth, have you done any teaching? There are so many schools that hire writing teachers. Community colleges are experiencing growing enrollments, and English courses are required of all degree candidates. Noncredit continuing education entities are growing, and many are teaching older people how to write their memoirs. Churches and synagogues are also offering writing courses to help their members write their family histories. Think about all these new roles.
These are difficult times, especially for print journalists and writers. However, all organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit, need writers for their various publications. And we are communicating more than ever over the Internet. The key here is to begin to think about writing for the electronic media and to begin to build your professional network in those arenas. Think about those new roles that require writing skills but may not be the same roles as the ones you have played in the past. Now is the time for creative thinking!
Good luck! Please keep us posted about your progress. Ellie
By Elinor Miller Greenberg, EdD
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