When Damian Trasler’s first child was born 14 years ago, he decided to stay home with the baby while his wife went back to work, since her career was further along than his own. He had always had an interest in writing, so Damian decided to use the opportunity to pursue his dream, and his eldest daughter was very obliging by “sleeping or sitting quietly in her rocker, requiring only the occasional interaction or outing each day,” giving him time to establish himself in his new career.
Damian began by taking a correspondence course that covered a variety of writing styles. “Because of that, I revised my original plan of writing a brilliant novel and tried some of the alternatives first – looking to sell short stories to magazines and non-fiction features too.” Once he had a few stories written, he began sending them out to magazines. His second story and first article were both picked up for publication, which was a huge boost for his self-esteem. “Being a stay-at-home dad was not a positive thing for most people: they implied that I was loafing, taking time out, living off my wife’s earnings. Bringing in income through doing something I loved seemed an ideal response.”
Since then, Damian has also added playwriting to his repertoire, something he got into more or less by accident. Although he’d originally intended to move on to novel-writing, he joined a local drama group, and upon learning that he was a writer, the group asked him to compose a play for them to use in a competition. “Though I knew nothing about writing plays, I cobbled together a one act play that won an award at the competition, and has since gone on to be performed all around the world.” He and some friends then formed a writing partnership, selling their work through Lazy Bee Scripts.
One of his favourite jobs so far was also the first full-length play he’d ever written. Speaking to a drama group in his hometown of Vancouver, he got the idea to create a play “that began with a bare stage and the characters built the set as they came on.” It took two years of work, but he managed to capture the idea with his play Merely Players. “I incorporated that idea of the set being built piece by piece as the actors come on, turned it into a minor murder mystery/time travel piece and had the actors deconstruct the set as they exit. It was a lovely example of a small idea growing into something much greater.”
To Damian, the best part of being a freelance writer is the time it gives him to be with his family. He appreciates being there when his daughters finish school for the day, and the flexible schedule that allows him to take them to events and activities in the afternoon. The biggest challenge lies in being able to find enough work. “Although my plays are lodged with a publisher and I receive a monthly royalty cheque, I’m still always working to find new ways to connect with new customers, to publicize the other type of freelancing I do: editing and proofreading.” He points out that while social media is a great tool for building a community, it’s more common to link up to other freelancers than sources of work. “That’s going to come in time, when more traditional avenues of employment filter through to online activity.”
For those just starting out in the profession, Damian recommends that you “make sure you’re writing because you want to write. Writing to make money is a great way to lose heart and soul. Write the things you want to write, the things you would be writing anyway.” When it comes to getting things done, he finds it beneficial to set targets for himself: “I hate the idea of having to write every day, but when I set myself the challenge of writing at least 1000 words every day I was surprised how easy it was,” he explains. He finds his netbook extremely useful in keeping him on-task, especially since it’s powerful enough to run Microsoft Office but not so powerful that he can install “time-wasting games” on it. “With the netbook I can write almost anywhere, and I can write when someone needs the other computer in the house.”
Along with writing and reading, juggling is one of Damian’s favourite hobbies, and he’s started offering local classes and workshops in Circus Skills. You can learn more about him and see samples of his work on his website.