A welcome diversion in a time like this

I’m one of those people who’s career has been spent working alone most of the time. I quickly realized I thrive in isolation when it comes to going to meetings, making phone calls, meeting deadlines and all the other required tasks of a journalist.

So now in this time of pandemic self-isolation, I seem to have adapted pretty well. To be sure, I wish this novel coronavirus had never came to be. I just wanted to mention that my past — along with thousands, maybe millions of others — helped prepare me for this situation.

Shortly before the virus spread from China, my most frequent freelance client called to tell me he was shutting down the small monthly newspaper I had written for over the last few years. I wasn’t surprised, given the current state of the news business, especially with the always-declining numbers of print newspapers.

Shortly after that, another client — whose busiest time was coming up — told me that due to the virus, I wouldn’t likely be seeing any story assignments from them. It’s a community college system and the stories were to be about a number of soon-to-be graduate students. Like all of higher education, they had cancelled on site classes and graduation ceremonies, so they apparently decided not to pursue those types of stories.

But on the heels of that development, I learned a specialized online 6-week course geared toward freelance journalists such as myself was being offered. I had been aware of this course but, for whatever reasons, had never paid for and signed up for it. The timing was very good this time.

FWB screen shot 200330Two weeks in, it’s been what I hoped it might be and maybe more. It’s designed to focus on how to “pitch” editors of print and online publications your story ideas. I’ve written a little bit about that practice previously. But this was my chance to actually learn all I could about crafting story pitches, researching the publications and sites and getting the assignment.

So I’ve watched all the videos, logged on to some Zoom and Facebook Live meetings with the instructor and course mates, taken copious notes and reinvigorated my fondness for learning. It’s also renewed my motivation to use what I’m learning to develop good story ideas, write effective pitches and send out my first pitch.

Once I get an assignment (notice the positive outlook), my self confidence will lead to another pitch, another assignment and on and on. I know there will be many more rejections than assignments, maybe especially as I begin this stage of my career. This course includes lifetime access to the materials, the instructor and other alumni of the program. I can seek advice and answers to my questions.

I plan to use my initial success to show publications and sites that pay higher rates what my skills and talent can bring to their efforts. I’ve set some tentative goals several months ahead to help keep me on track and moving forward. Hopefully, in about six months I’ll have earned enough to cover the cost of the course and then some.

This course has helped keep my mind engaged on things other than the virus, although I do spend time each day reading the latest news about the situation, too. The virus and the COVID-19 disease is something that’s never appeared in most people’s lifetimes and it has ramifications on every aspect of daily life across the world. There’s natural fear and trepidation, among other reactions, to this crisis.

So I appreciate the chance to have something positive and hopefully rewarding to occupy my time. I hope everyone can find something in the same vein and come out of this as positive a person as possible.

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