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Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

Should you ever write for free?

Caption 'Should you ever write for free' above dollar bill

The question of whether a professional writer – or an aspiring professional writer – should ever write for free is one that comes up regularly in online groups and discussion forums, and it always provokes healthy debate.

One camp says no, never, absolutely not. A writer should never write for free: we should value our time and expertise; by completing work without payment we’re undercutting other writers; and besides, no-one can pay the rent with ‘exposure’.

The opposing camp would say that writers – especially those who are new to the business – need to build their experience and portfolio and writing for free is often a good way to do that.

Ever keen to find a compromise, I find myself sitting somewhat awkwardly between the two camps. Continue reading “Should you ever write for free?”

Reading

Reading makes me a better writer: here’s why

Stack of books and caption 'Being a reader makes me a better writer... here's why.'

It’s no great secret that I’m a big reader. I’ve published several posts on this blog about my favourite books, and over on Instagram I run an account called @ruthreadsbooks which functions as a visual reading diary.

You can imagine then how pleased I was to find this recent study, which concluded that reading makes you a more empathetic person.

I’ve long-believed that being a keen reader makes me a better writer, and developing empathy is a key part of that. Whether you’re writing creatively and trying to put yourself in the position of a reader who wants to be engaged and entertained, or whether you’re writing copy and trying to make sure what you deliver keeps your client happy, the ability to see other perspectives and viewpoints is crucial. Continue reading “Reading makes me a better writer: here’s why”

Copywriting, freelance life

Getting Digital Ready for 2019

Laptop on Table captioned 'Getting Digital Ready for 2019 Ruth Dawkins'

It has been a busy November and December here. I know that in the northern hemisphere, a lot of writers find this a quiet time. From Thanksgiving onwards, a lot of organisations and publications slow down for the holiday season. Then, come January, it’s back to business as usual.

Here in the south, it’s almost the opposite. January is when everything shuts down for the summer so there’s a mad rush to get things tied up before then. The Tasmanian school holidays start in less than a fortnight, so I’m desperately trying to get my desk cleared (and invoices submitted!) in that time.

I’ve just finished a really interesting piece of work for a tourism organisation: ten short pieces of writing focusing on different activities around the state. It made me realise that even after five years here we have barely scratched the surface. It also made me slightly embarrassed to realise that when we have travelled around Tasmania, most of our focus has been on beaches, wineries and short walks, rather than anything more adventurous. Perhaps 2019 will be the year when I finally go canyoning at Cradle Mountain, or mountain biking at Maydena. Or perhaps not… Continue reading “Getting Digital Ready for 2019”

Feature Writing, freelance life

From brainstorm to byline: the story of a story

washington-post-logo-white

Last Friday, I secured what is undoubtedly my biggest byline to date: The Washington Post. I had an essay published in their Soloish column about being catapulted unexpectedly into the role of Agony Aunt for couples all over the world.

You can read the essay here.

Along with the New York Times, WaPo is probably the ultimate publication for most op-ed and essay writers. It is a well-respected, prestigious newspaper with a huge readership and fantastic editors.

The acceptance email from the Soloish editor Lisa Bonos – which I read on my phone as I was making my son’s school lunch – prompted me to do an actual happy dance around the kitchen.

Was there whooping?

There may have been whooping. Continue reading “From brainstorm to byline: the story of a story”

freelance life, Reading

Helsinki… and a whole heap of books

Ruth Dawkins freelance writer blog image

I’m just back at my desk after three weeks of travel with my family in Europe.

We started with a fortnight in Scotland, visiting friends and relatives in the Outer Hebrides and Edinburgh, and then to break up the long trip back to Australia we spent a few days in Helsinki. What a wonderful city! We loved the friendly people, the beautiful food, and the fantastic architecture. I’m definitely keen to visit again in future.

If you ever find yourself in Helsinki, we would highly recommend the hotel we stayed in: Hotel Katajanokka. A converted prison, it is well situated near the ferry terminal, and is within easy walking distance of the city centre. If you don’t fancy walking, there is a tram stop right at the front door. The hotel also has a wonderful restaurant, spacious rooms and a fascinating history – it was a great find!

Travel is always so much fun, but as a bit of a homebody I’ve got to confess that I love sleeping in my own bed again, and cooking in my own kitchen. I’m even enjoying being back to work and slowly sifting through a very full inbox! Continue reading “Helsinki… and a whole heap of books”

freelance life, Social Media

15 creative women doing great things online

Ruth Dawkins writer suggests 15 creative women to follow online

One of the things I’ve really appreciated over the last year of freelancing is discovering what a supportive community of creative women there is out there. In addition to all the Facebook groups and websites for writers, some of which I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, there are some wonderful individuals who regularly share their knowledge and experience online to help others.

If I’m having a difficult day in the (home!) office, it’s an absolute gift to know there are several people I can send a quick message to who will understand whatever mini crisis I’m going through. And, if I’m struggling for inspiration, there’s an absolute multitude of newsletters, websites and social media feeds that I know will always give me a boost.

To celebrate that spirit of sharing, I thought I’d collate some of my favourites here for you: creative women doing great things online. Continue reading “15 creative women doing great things online”

Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

Freelance Life: One Year On

Ruth Dawkins blog post: Freelance Life One Year On

It’s a year exactly since I launched this website and this phase of my writing career.

Although freelancing has its challenges, barely a day goes past when I don’t take a moment to consider what a privilege it is being paid to put words on a page. I may not be an award-winning novelist or playwright, but 15-year-old me is still pinching herself and feeling very lucky indeed.

The last few months have been my busiest yet. Continue reading “Freelance Life: One Year On”

Reading

10 Books that Changed my Life

Collage of life-changing books

There’s a great meme doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment, where people share their 10 life-changing books. I’ve loved seeing the diverse range of books my friends have included in their lists – you all have great taste!

My friends and fellow writers Penni Russon and Becky Goddard-Hill both tagged me to take part, and while I haven’t shared mine on Facebook (frankly I didn’t think even my immediate family would have the patience for a post from me 10 days in a row), I did share them over on my bookish Instagram account (@ruthreadsbooks).  I posted my last book this morning, and then thought it might be worth collating them into a blog post.

I would love to know your own choices – feel free to leave me a comment below!

1. The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy. In my final year of high school, I had a fantastic English teacher who introduced our tiny class of six to Carol Ann Duffy. We read Anne Hathaway from this collection, which is still one of my favourite poems. The World’s Wife was my first, gentle introduction to feminism and the moment when I realised how many stories have another side to them – so often a woman’s perspective – that is never told. It took a good few years more before I started to intentionally change my reading habits to include more women writers, but I’m still grateful for the ‘ah-ha’ moment this book prompted in my late teens. Continue reading “10 Books that Changed my Life”

Reading

My Top 10 Books of 2018… so far

Top 10 Books of 2018 So Far Ruth Dawkins

My husband and I were lying in bed reading the other night and I could feel him giving me a sideways glance.

“Is that another new one?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Why?”

He made a face at me.

“You read so much. It’s like… it’s like an OBSESSION.”

I can’t understand is why that’s supposed to be a bad thing, can you?!

I read much in the same way that I eat: quickly, and with great delight. But I’m much more choosy about my reading material than I used to be. Whereas I used to wander into a bookstore and choose whatever was included the 3 for 2 offer, now I only let myself buy things from a carefully curated wishlist. Life’s too short for bad books.

So far in 2018 I’ve read 28 books: 18 fiction and 10 non-fiction; 21 by women, 4 by men and 3 anthologies that were a mixture of both. Two of the books were slightly disappointing – not because they were bad, but because they weren’t what I was expecting – but the others have all been fabulous. I thought I would recommend some of my favourites here.
Continue reading “My Top 10 Books of 2018… so far”