Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

How to get out of a writing slump

Image of crumpled paper in a bin and wording 'How to get out of a writing slump' by Ruth Dawkins

Write a content calendar, they said!

Plan a year’s worth of blog posts in advance, they said!

So, I did, and yet somehow it’s May 7th and I’m only now publishing the post that I’d planned for early April… I’ve had two big copywriting projects on the go, both of which required me to work through the school holidays, so when I did have spare time it felt much more important to spend that with my family rather than tinkering away in the back of my website.

However, school is now back, my diary is a little more under control, and I’ve got a chance to share this post that has been sitting in note form in my drafts folder for several weeks.

Somewhat ironically, given how busy I’ve been, I decided that in April I would write about how to get yourself out of a writing slump. Continue reading “How to get out of a writing slump”

Feature Writing

SBS feature on Antarctica

Screenshot of SBS news piece on sexism in Antarctica by Ruth Dawkins

I was really pleased to have my first piece published with SBS a couple of weeks ago. I’d written a couple of pieces for their lifestyle section – SBS Life – a while back, but never for the news section.

Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, it was a reported piece about the gendered barriers to conducting Antarctic fieldwork, pegged on a study that was led by researchers at the University of Tasmania.

Even though the word count grew significantly from the initial commission – from 1000 words to 1600 – there was still a huge amount that I was disappointed to leave out. It was fascinating and very inspiring speaking to a number of women who work in Antarctic research – some in humanities and social sciences, others in biology and climate science – and I hope I can do a follow up piece further down the line.

If you’d like to read it, it’s here: SBS News – Even in Antarctica, women are experiencing sexism.

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”

Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

Mothers Always Write

Mothers Always Write front page image

A very quick blog update from me to share a piece that I’ve had published this week.

Mothers Always Write is one of my favourite sites to visit for beautiful poetry and non-fiction about parenting. I did an essay writing bootcamp with them a few years back which was hugely valuable in terms of the resources they provided for background reading and the one-on-one feedback on a piece of work from one of their editors. It was very reasonably priced too – I’d highly recommend it if they run another in future.

Continue reading “Mothers Always Write”

Copywriting, Feature Writing

6 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing

Ruth Dawkins: 6 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing

One of the biggest differences I’ve found as I’ve started to expand my writing life to include copywriting as well as features is that as a copywriter you need to be your own editor.

Obviously if you want to make a living from writing you always need to submit your most polished work. Regardless of whether you’re sending it to an editor that you have a longstanding relationship with or a brand new corporate client, you don’t want it to come back covered in red pen.

But while an editor will have a lot of experience helping writers shape their work, copywriting clients often don’t – they’re hiring you to get the words right – so you need to develop the ability to cast an editor’s keen eye over your own work.

There are a few tricks and tips that I use to help with this, and I’m sharing them with you below. Continue reading “6 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing”