[Note: The following article was published in Code Red magazine. I wrote it a couple of months ago and I wasn’t really planning on republishing it here, but I am in the midst of making yet another tough career decision and it just seems relevant, for me at least, to be reminded of what I wrote in this article. I suppose I’m reminding myself of what I still want to do and, at the same time, sharing my thoughts with you, as well as the message that, most times, all it takes is the right attitude to get what we want in life.]
It is strange that I am writing this article on this day and at this time. For the first time in a long time, my Code Red assignment fell due on the same day as my Tuesday column for Manila Standard Today. I knew it was going to be a tough weekend and an even tougher Monday when both articles were supposed to be submitted. To complicate matters even more, my younger daughter had her birthday party on the Saturday before the articles were due. And if that wasn’t enough, I was asked to conduct a three-day digital photography workshop to be held on the same week the articles were due, and I said yes.
No, it’s not about money. No one gets rich writing freelance in this country. And the digital photography workshop was gratis. I was offered payment but I declined. If you’re wondering why I take on so many jobs knowing they will never pay enough to cover the bills, the answer is simple – I agreed to do them, I enjoy doing them and that means they will get a hundred per cent of my attention and focus.
It has nothing to do with heroism or martyrdom. It has nothing to do either with playing the sucker. It has, however, everything to do with being pragmatic. It is also an exercise in developing foresight and doing some long-term planning. What do I mean? Simply this – a string of jobs excellently done, even when you earn little or nothing from them rarely goes unnoticed. And if you create a track record that exhibits the quality of the work you can deliver, the next offer or the next assignment can be the road to better pay and better opportunities.
I don’t say all of that from a theoretical point of view. I am talking from experience. Some eight years ago, I retired from law practice and was a fulltime homemaker. But the itch to write and create was something I couldn’t deny. Blogging was a new thing in the country, I discovered it and found a platform for my opinions and ideas. I was spending up to fourteen hours a day reading and writing and I wasn’t getting paid to do any of it. In fact, I was spending to get my writing published online. I paid for my internet connection, my webhosting, the domain names and all the accessories I needed to upload and publish.
What did I expect to gain? I had previously decided I was going to be a professional writer and a book author, and I was going to make a reputation for myself. Make a reputation for myself? Yes, meaning, I wasn’t going to pull strings and beg editors to get published. I would publicly display what sort of writing I could do and let them find me. When you love what you’re doing, giving it your all comes easily. Not only did I accumulate writings I feel I could bequeath to my great-great grandchildren, I gained a readership too and the print media started to notice. Not quite the book editors and publishers I was targeting but definitely a good prelude.
It was a totally unexpected twist because getting noticed by the print media was not something I expected to happen until after I’ve published my book. But that’s one of the things that can happen when you create a track record that people consider an achievement of sorts, even if it’s not the bestseller I had in mind. People wanted to put a name and a face to the words that they read everyday. I agreed to be interviewed. Half a dozen feature stories in local publications and an article in Conde Nast’s Gourmet magazine later, I was offered a bi-weekly column in a national daily. A year later, I started writing for this [Code Red] magazine. After that, I was writing life and travel feature stories as well. Paid writing jobs that meant I was finally a professional writer. The first part of the goal had been accomplished albeit different from the way I anticipated. And there was such sweet icing on the cake too — I made history as the first Filipino blogger to cross over to print media.
I am not saying all of this to brag or to gloat. But if I have to convince you that the best opportunities are the ones that we ourselves create, then, there’s no better way to do it than by sharing how I have done it and how I am doing it still. It’s not something to be shy about. False modesty doesn’t figure in the equation either. It takes a certain amount of narcissism to be a success at anything because belief in one’s self is the first step towards any goal. My motto? I believe in me and I believe in my power to reach my dreams.
I know. It’s an attitude that makes a lot of conservatives balk. Most parents I know teach their children to be happy and thankful for things that come their way but I teach my daughters more. Be thankful, yes, but never measure your worth against what other people throw your way. Success is not manna dropping from the skies nor is it defined by what others had previously accomplished. Success means knowing your worth. Success means having the courage to explore unchartered waters. Success means having the strength to rise up from failures until you reach your goals. Success does not come to whiners and pessimists. It is the reward for those willing to work hard and take calculated risks.
Many people think that good opportunities come with the ability to concoct an impressive-sounding resume that extend to several pages but mostly because it includes lists of membership in organizations that say nothing about person’s true skills or talents. Resumes are self-serving advertisements that a prospective employer or business partner can choose to believe or not.
On the other hand, track records are like evergreen trees. No one can deny their existence and no one can argue against their quality. Plant your chosen seed, nurture the seedling and see it grow into a sturdy tree. Then, enjoy the fruits of your labor. You deserve it.