An expatriated Canadian, Jenny de Miranda got her start freelance writing when she was giving classes at a language learning centre in Lisbon. A woman at the centre needed help with writing, and knowing that Jenny had come to Portugal to pursue that dream, she gave her a start in the field.
Jenny has now been freelancing for about two and a half years, and still considers herself at an early stage in her career. She’s willing to write on most any subject provided it pays, and she says, “I really enjoy writing about health and wellness. I really dig that topic; the broad spectrum of it. It could be food, it could be exercise… I really dig that. So right now, that’s my goal, to score a gig as a consistent contributor for a health and wellness publication.”
She particularly enjoys the learning aspect that comes with researching a story, and then to be able to present what she’s learned through the written word. “Even writing an article on, like, bar stools, you can find information about it. I like the research, I like the learning part of it, and I like being able to present all that information that I get to acquire.” She also likes that she can write from anywhere in the world, because she likes to travel. “It’s nice to be able to just take your laptop and sit in a hammock in Bali.”
Wherever in the world she may be, Jenny says that she can’t live without her dictionary, because words have such nuanced meaning, and it’s important to use the right one for the situation. “Words are complex… If they meant the same thing, we wouldn’t need two words for it. So it’s important when you write, to choose the correct words and make sure you’re using them in the correct context.”
One of her favourite jobs so far was working on a series of articles about diet and cancer. She was assigned eight articles about food and its effect on cancer, in what was a very objective series. Although her “brain hurt by the end of it,” she found it really interesting to research, and appreciated writing for a website where she could use a very practical writing style.
The hardest part about freelancing is staying motivated, says Jenny. “I definitely had it pretty romanticized. I’d think, ‘I want to be a writer, I want to be a writer.’ But it’s hard work.” There’s so much to do, including maintaining a blog and website, querying, researching and writing. While it’s great not to have to answer to a boss, it also means there’s no one there to ask either. And especially in the beginning, it’s hard to stay motivated when sending out so many query and pitch letters and often not hearing back.
She finds it works well to set a realistic writing schedule for herself, and to even give herself a word count to attain. It’s important to be patient, “and to write, and to write, and to write. Writing is, I think, more of a craft than it is an art. You get better and better the more you write.”
To those just starting out, she says, “be relentless.” If you want to be a writer, it’s important not to give up. There’s plenty of information out there, and reading about writing is good, she explains, “but for me, I guess the bottom line is you have to write. Just keep writing, and writing and just write.”
You can learn more about Jenny and view her portfolio and blog on her website, The Write to Be.