Our Washington State Trip: Forks, WA and Ruby Beach

I’ve been meaning to continue my Washington State vacation posts ever since we got back from our trip, but there are simply so many things to say about it. I’ve had to wait until I had a good amount of time to sit and write about another one of our many excursions during that week.

So here I am on a rainy afternoon in North Carolina, exactly one month later, sitting at my writing desk while Alex is watching the Sopranos in the living room.

(As I think back to our trip, it feels so long ago and dreamlike that I can almost see the thought-bubble above my head showcasing all the memories, the edges of the background fading out into ripples . . .)

[Cue harp glissando]

After our adventures on the Spruce Trail and Hall of Mosses, Alex and I went off in search of a small, propane cylinder to use with our camp stove. We hadn’t been able to take ours on the plane due to safety restrictions, so we stopped at a little shop called Peak 6 Adventure Store in Forks for a bit of shopping.

The shop appeared to be run by a couple generation of women, and we meandered around for while, like the tourists we were. I had a great time talking with the bears out front and debating the merits of wearing a mask during an international pandemic.

“Yes, I assure you, good Sirs, you will still be able to own property even if you wear a mask. Yes, you can even still vote. Your rights are fine.”

Inside, the store was filled with typical tourist trinkets and a few camping supplies like bug spray and the propane tank we needed. I also used the opportunity to add to my earring collection, including these fantastic Tree of Life specimens:

Afterwards, we stopped by Blakeslees Bar and Grill, which was a restaurant just down the road. Our server was very kind, and the food was yummy. Alex got a “very good” elk burger that he rated an 8 out of 10 and informed me he would also recommend the Black Butte Porter to the general public.

I got the Irish nachos which were also good, colorful tortilla chips with sour cream, lots of cheese, and just enough bacon to remind me I was on vacation.

We also made a stop at Forks Outfitters Thriftway and ACE Hardware, which is apparently the place to be in Forks no matter what walk-of-life you take. If you can imagine a cross between a grocery store, ACE hardware, and a Wal-Mart in a vampire-filled town, you can probably get an idea of what the store sold – everything. So it isn’t surprising at all that we were able to find a rental bear box to store our camping food (and for just $2 a night and a $65 refundable deposit!).

As a side note, we saw a car in the parking lot that was decked out in Twilight merchandise and writing on the windows that mentioned the drivers were on a Twilight road trip. Even though the books weren’t my cup of tea, I love how much joy they obviously brought to the people traveling in the car. And how much fun to go on a road trip like that!

After our shopping spree, we decided to go down to Ruby Beach and relax (i.e., digest) for the rest of the afternoon. Ruby Beach is a beautiful, rocky beach with a great opportunity for sunset viewing (though our own weather was not ideal for it). The beach was covered in smooth, polished rocks that were easy to walk on. We passed an artist painting on an easel and a few photographers with tripods, so were not the only ones that enjoy the landscape.

There were some sections of the beach marked “impassable” on our map, as some parts of the shore that are accessible during low-tide wash out during high-tide. We didn’t have any issues, but we also didn’t stray too far from the crowd. Further ahead, we could definitely see some areas that the tide started covered during our visit, though. As black bears frequent the beach areas, we were especially keen on not getting stuck on the shore.

About 20 minutes before sunset, a huge crowd of people started drawing together (in a social-distanced way) to get a good view of the horizon. At the exact same time, the wind began picking up, and I suppose this is where the vampire thing came about. Within ten minutes, the temperature had dropped several degrees and a thick, lovely, and suspiciously-British fog started rolling into Washington State, darkening the skies dramatically.

The sun completely disappeared in a matter of minutes, and so did our hopes of viewing the sunset, but we still stayed on the beach until dark, enjoying the beach’s foreboding beauty,

That night, we camped again in Bogachiel State Park. We moved our campsite in hopes of a more secluded spot near the river (Site #38). I later deemed this specific site a definite “do not recommend.” If I thought the first night in the park was loud, the second was as if we were sleeping below an underpass yet somehow also in the midst of a college party. We didn’t mind too much as, again, we were so exhausted that we fell asleep quickly, but I think both of us would prefer a quieter location for our next visit.

The next day, we set out for our “big” (18 mile) hike. Details of which will be in my next blog post!


Have you travelled to Forks, Washington or Olympic National Park? I’d love to hear your own stories, with or without vampires :).

Why This Fall is the Perfect Time to Write

I’ve noticed something very strange happening this year. With the onset of fall, I’ve actually felt happy about the season changing. Yes, I, the woman whose freezing point is 74 degrees Fahrenheit, is actually grateful for fall this year.

I’ve been trying to work out why this particular year is the first time I’ve really appreciated the season. After much consideration, I’ve decided it is mostly due to the general madness of 2020.

Thanks to the pandemic, this fall is a welcome sign of change from the slight sadness of Summer 2020. Summer is typically my favorite time of year, but since nearly all social events were either cancelled or significantly altered (Virtual Seafood Fests, anyone? Yikes!), it seemed especially cruel to have nice weather but nowhere to really enjoy the season – and no friends to safely enjoy it with.

Now that fall has arrived, however, it is much less abnormal to hole up in the house with my fiance (!) and spend hours reading and cooking warm meals. It’s as if we are all finally able to tell COVID, “Well, this is what we’d be doing anyway, so you don’t win on this one!” Cooler weather, cozy blankets, hot chocolate – it all sounds wonderful.

Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

While spring was defined by the initial shock of COVID, and summer was marked by my utter chagrin at the ridiculousness of the year, I’ve finally reached the acceptance stage this autumn.

Which leads me to my exciting discovery: This fall is perfect for writing due to COVID.

Think about it. As writers, what are some of our top complaints?

I don’t have time to write. Oh, yes, you do now. You also have time to try to debate the cost-benefits of cutting your own hair, time to reorganize your bookshelf for the third time this month, and time to re-watch that Gilmore Girls episode where Lorelei’s beeper goes off as she’s in freeze-frame as the Renoir lady.

I can’t focus. If you are like me and my friends, you’ve had several months by now to perfect your art of focusing. You can finish a book with ease and paint-by-numbers an intricate depiction of a lion within hours. You have found enough focus within your soul to finish not just one game of Monopoly, but also countless re-matches.

I’m not good at writing. You have so many opportunities to practice now. With virtually no social events going on, you can practice your poetry writing about how much you miss them. You can practice your short story skills by finally finishing just one story, from start to finish. And, you may just get so bored that you decide to share your writing with someone who reaffirms that yes, you are good at writing.

Writing is lonely. While writing can indeed be lonely, it doesn’t have to be. Consider participating in NaNoWriMo this year, whether you have done it previously or not. For writers new to the challenge, National November Writing Month is an annual event where thousands of writers attempt to write 50,000 of their work during the month of November. There are countless forums, online chats, and virtual workshops to keep your writing spirit going strong this fall.

I hope all of you writers out there find ways to jumpstart your writing and creativity this fall, as well. Even if you’re not a writer, this fall is still a great opportunity to reflect on how you’ve improved this year, and where you can go from here.


How is your fall writing journey going? Do you anticipate writing will be easier or more difficult for you this season? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Exploring the Fairy Tale Trails in the Hoh Rain Forest

On September 10th, Alex and I packed a daypack and headed over to Hoh Rain Forest, a temperate rain forest region about 30 miles southeast of Forks, Washington (If you’re trying to remember why you have an unexplained association with Forks, it is because that was the setting for the Twilight series).

The rain forest is named for the Hoh (pronounced “hoe”) River, which is formed from glacial runoff from Mount Olympus down to the Pacific. According to the National Park Service website, the origin of the word “Hoh” is still up for debate, but a possible source is from the Quileute word for “snow water.”

As the rain forest is in Olympic National Park, we were required to pay the $30 entrance fee, which is good for seven days. The extended validity is convenient when you are visiting for several days (as we were) since you can leave and return as often as you like.

We parked near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and made our way up to some of the short trails that begin just past the Center. We’d heard the area gets very crowded so we arrived early, around 10:00 AM. Luckily, we seemed to beat most of the crowd, which started trickling in around lunch time as we were heading out.

Everyone we did pass was very conscientious of wearing face masks and social distancing, and we abided the de facto COVID trail procedures of covering our faces when passing someone, and then uncovering them for a few minutes when no one was around so we didn’t pass out from the heat. It was in the high 80s, which was much warmer weather than we expected, especially with a mask.

There are a couple of small trails that radiate from this spot, and we started on the Hall of Mosses trail, a short, flat walk no more than a mile long. This loop trail takes you through a gorgeous forest that is covered with – you guessed it – moss. Beautiful, flowy, elven, fairy tale moss that I resisted the urge to cover myself in and run through the woods like Queen of the Wood Fairies.

Specifically, the plant is called clubmoss, and according to the signs around the park, feeds on air and light, so it isn’t harmful to the trees it envelops. Moisture and nutrients for the clubmoss are provided by the rain forest’s atmosphere.

This section of the forest was the most crowded, but for good reason. The trees were gorgeous, and I, like everyone else, couldn’t stop snapping pictures.

All around us, we could see the forest both growing and decaying. I learned a new term (“nurselog), which refers to a fallen tree that serves as nutrients for new trees. Nurselogs are common in the rain forest, and once I knew what to look for, I realized so many of the trees around us were able to grow from the nutrients provided by the dead trees.

When the Hall of Mosses looped back, around, we picked up the Spruce Trail, a 1.25 mile loop that was also fairly flat, though with slightly more elevation in some places. It was still easy enough for plenty of families with small children, but the area was much less crowded than the previous trail.

The trail follows a former river bank and is mostly shaded, which was helpful as the afternoon sun was climbing overhead by the time we started our walk. The temperature shifted a lot as we walked, and I was glad I brought layers. It was noticeably cooler within the forest itself than it was near the banks of the Hoh River, which winds around a section of the trail.

Big leaf maples and Sitka spruces dominate the landscape, and there is no shortage of information about the plants in the area. We saw countless mushrooms which understandably grow abundantly due to the rainfall. Apparently, the rain forest gets around 12 feet of water each year (although we did not see a drop of it the whole time).

Alex does not share my appreciation of fungus. He said this one resembled a bloody tooth, but I guess he isn’t wrong.

We spent several hours walking around, taking our time. Both trails were peaceful, and the size of the trees around us recalled how old the forest is (some of the trees are hundreds of years old). Here is a picture of me standing beside one of the trees for perspective. A majority of the trees were of the same size, and even just looking back at the pictures, I am still blown away by the sheer age of it all.

Ferns are also incredibly prolific in the area, and some of them were even taller than we are. I found myself wishing I’d brought a guidebook for plants of the region or downloaded a good plant-identification app before my trip. Every few steps, I was wondering about the next plant I saw. Next time, however!

Even the scent of the area is relaxing, and we probably looked like the strangest East Coasters, as we kept sniffing the trees and plants because everything was so fresh and fragrant.

In case it isn’t apparent from all the pictures I took, I would definitely recommend this spot to anyone travelling in Washington. These two trails are perfect for a casual stroll one morning or afternoon.


Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to leave any questions or comments about the trails. I will do my best to answer any questions, but you can visit NPS.gov for more information about the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Trail.

Washington Trip: Flight to Seattle and Bogachiel State Park

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of days now, but life, as usual, has been a whirlwind.

Alex and I flew out of Raleigh on September 9th, headed to Seattle to start our vacation. Flying during COVID was an experience, but all in all, our air travel was uneventful. There were obviously many masks, a lot of disinfecting, and (predictably) testy passengers, but we felt adequately socially distanced from others, for the most part.

The airports were noticeably empty, which means we made it through security in record time. Ever since I missed my flight coming home from Denver a few years ago, I’ve sworn I will get to the airport hours early every time from now on. RDU and SEA were both a little eerie, though, due to how desolate some parts of the airports were. There were also several stores and restaurants closed indefinitely due to COVID cuts.

Both the RDU to ORD flight and the ORD to SEA flight were lowkey. I actually love the flying experience, and I am completely content with my tiny seat space among people from literally all over the world. We flew American Airlines, and due to COVID, the flight attendants gave us little goody bags of sanitizing wipes that resembled condom wrappers (SANI-X even sounds like a condom brand), the standard bag of brandless pretzels, and bottles of water.

I kept myself entertained on the flights with a notebook I’d brought to scribble notes in. I also used the opportunity to try on my Darn Tough hiking socks (super comfy and warm) and to finish up some freelance projects offline.

I originally intended to update my blog on the plane, but the in-flight WiFi prices were exorbitant (over $20 for each flight, and we had to take two planes each way). My cheap self couldn’t justify paying $40 for a few hours of internet, so I pestered Alex most of the way through his countless albums.

When we landed in Seattle, we picked up a rental car and drove to Bogachiel State Park, a small state park a bit west of Olympic National Park. Along the way, we stopped in Montesano at El Rancho for some Mexican food.

Los Charros, our favorite place to eat in our hometown, serves as our North Star for Mexican food. We compared the two restaurants, and pitted against one another, the rice, beans, and chicken flautas at Los Charros won hands down, but the steak flautas at El Rancho came out on top. (Sorry Los Charros, we still love you!)

The drive to our campsite took about four hours from the airport, and by the time we arrived in Bogachiel, we had been traveling for 17 hours that day. Needless to say, we set up the tent as quickly as possible and fell right asleep.

Our tiredness turned out to be a good thing since we slept relatively deeply. When I did wake up, it was to the sounds of semi-trucks seemingly driving into our site. It turns out a main road borders an edge of the park and couldn’t have been more than 50 yards from our tent.

Despite the noise, we slept through most of the night, but I’m not sure that would have been the case if we weren’t so tired.

We also used our inflatable sleeping pads because the ground was extremely hard and covered in gravel. I tried out my new REI Joule 30 sleeping bag for the first time, and it worked wonderfully. We even slept with the rainfly off, and I didn’t get cold, despite the temperature getting down to 49 degrees. I am extremely cold-natured (73 is chilly for me), but I was incredibly comfortable.

While I’m not sure I would choose to stay at Bogachiel State Park again due to the road noise and lack of privacy with the campsites, we were grateful to have found a site to sleep in for two nights. There are dozens of campgrounds in the area, but the ones that visitors can reserve were completely booked throughout our stay. The Bogachiel sites were about $40 each night, which were possibly the most we’ve ever paid for a campground, but there were clean restrooms, token-operated showers, and water spigots everywhere.

On the morning of the 10th, we went to the Hoh Rain Forest, which I will write about in my next post, so stay tuned for lots of pictures of . . . moss and ferns!

The Countdown Begins: Finishing Up Last-Minute Writing Projects and (Still) Dehydrating Hiking Food

Olympic National Park via Jake Blucker on Unsplash

This three-day weekend has given me a little extra time to prepare for our camping trip. It is amazing how one extra day to ourselves leaves us so much more time for self-care and our personal lives.

I am still working on dehydrating food for our Washington trip. I am currently dehydrating orange creamsicle fruit leather and berry breakfast smoothies so that we don’t have to worry about venturing out for food while we are hiking. As Alex pointed out, our kitchen smells like a bakery since the dehydrator has been running fairly steadily for three days now, piping out berry smells at 130 degrees ’round the clock.

The recipes are taking a little longer than the instructions say (going on 15 hours for the smoothies), but I think they are going to be really good. I would definitely spread the mixture much thinner next time, as I think that is the reason they are taking longer than the recipes call for.

The “very berry smoothies” in their liquid form. Reminiscent of Ivan Ooze’s slime from the Power Rangers movie . . . but yummy.

I also made some simple granola bars with gluten free oats, coconut oil, and a few other ingredients, following this recipe. It is easy to modify, so I tried to steer away from the sugary add-ins and opted for macadamia nuts instead. The recipe also calls for butter which I’ve used in the past, but I substituted coconut oil to extend it’s “shelf” (i.e., backpack) life while we are in the damp forests of Washington State.

In terms of my writing projects, I’ve been busy trying to finish up my freelance projects this week before heading out for vacation. Last night, I submitted a 2,000 word article on the Eno River State Park in North Carolina which I had a ton of fun writing. If you’re ever in NC, it is worth spending an afternoon walking its trails. I am so happy to be working with this client, as I am able to write about hiking, animals, plants, and the fresh air as much as I want.

I’m also planning to complete three 500-word wellness posts for a client, so I will be working on those tonight to send to her. Wellness is also a topic that is near-and-dear to me, so these pieces hardly feel like work at all.

For my personal writing projects, I am still outlining my Olympic National Park pieces. I am realizing a conundrum with writing while traveling, as I normally prefer writing on my laptop since it is much easier to edit as I go.

Obviously, hauling a laptop around everywhere is not ideal when backpacking, so I’m debating bringing a notebook and pen (which can be heavy as well, even when they are on the light end) or using a writing app on my phone. The phone would be an obvious choice except we also need to conserve battery charge, so paper and pencil is most likely going to win out.

As the days creep by, I am getting more and more excited. I will keep this blog updated with more of our preparations as our departure date gets closer.

Happy Writing (and Hiking!)

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Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts/suggestions/advice on writing (or hiking)!

Preparing for a Week of Hiking/Writing in Olympic National Park

My boyfriend and I have always loved to hike together. With 2020 throwing our lives upside down, we have not had as many opportunities to go on hiking trips together. A few months ago, however, we both requested several days off of work for September, planning to hike a segment of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in our home state, North Carolina.

We were hoping to get some fresh air and time away from the craziness of work, but as we started planning out our hike, it became apparent that the campsites we needed to stay at along the way were not open. They had all been closed due to a series of unfortunate events, including a lightning strike, burst water lines, and COVID closures.

Although we were disappointed, we ultimately decided to postpone that particular hiking trip. However, we then used the opportunity to think bigger in terms of our experience. I am actually glad our original trip wasn’t possible, because we came up with an even better idea.

We tossed around several trip ideas and decided on camping and hiking in Olympic National Park in Washington State, a few hours west of Seattle. Neither of us have been to any part of the Northwest, so we are thrilled to have the opportunity to explore a new region of the United States.

I decided, too, that I am going to use the opportunity to do some travel writing about the park. I recently started a freelance gig that involves writing about state and national parks, so I’m using this trip as a chance to do some freelance research.

Alex and I checked into flights to Washington and found a phenomenal deal on a flight/rental car combination. Flying during COVID times is of course a concern, but the airline is taking the right precautions that we feel comfortable with. People I know who have taken flights recently mentioned how empty the planes and the airports are. I honestly feel better about flying right now than walking into our local Wal-Mart when half the town refuses to wear masks.

Last Minute Purchases

Today, we spent a good portion of the day stocking up on items at the local REI, since they were having such a good Labor Day sale. We bought a few odds and ends, including a map of the area. I needed some good hiking socks, especially since the last time we went on a major hiking trip (Section 10 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail), I got phenomenal blisters that left me hobbling for weeks after the hike.

Seriously, I had blisters on top of blisters and had to stop at mile 65 because I literally had no skin on the bottom of either of my feet that was not blistered.

Alex is insanely brand loyal to his camping gear, and seeing as he somehow managed to hike all 77 miles of the Section 10 segment without a single blister, I took him up on his suggestion of buying Darn Tough socks. Here’s to hoping . . .

Meal Preparation: Dehydrator Recipes

I am currently working on dehydrating some meals and snacks for us to take on our trip. We bought a dehydrator a while back and have only used it for a few super simple things like drying basil leaves from our garden and drying bananas. We’re using this hiking trip as an opportunity to get more creative with dehydrated food.

Dehydrated meals are a great option for us because they are incredibly lightweight, cheap, and easily customized. I am gluten intolerant, which means I have a pretty hard time being able to find prepackaged meals I can eat, so making my own meals is by far the preferable option for me.

I prepared a wild rice and red bean pilaf in the pressure cooker earlier today and dehydrated several trays of it. I followed this super simple recipe from ThruEat and made a few modifications like using tomatoes with green chiles (my New Mexico years still live on through my palate) and using beef bouillon rather than chicken since that’s what I had in the pantry.

Not too pretty dried out, but tasty once re-hydrated!

For an easy snack, I am also making some trays of dehydrated cinnamon apple chips using a recipe on Trail.Recipes. It’s just sliced green apples topped with brown sugar and cinnamon and dehydrated for half a day. Most dehydrator recipes take at least six hours, but you don’t have to watch the food too closely since it dries out so slowly, so you can put it in the dehydrator overnight while you sleep.

Technically I was supposed to “sprinkle” the topping. But I really like cinnamon. And I *love* sugar.

So far, this Labor Day weekend has proven to be quite labor-intensive, but it is worth it. I can’t wait to update the blog with our plane trip (an adventure in itself) and the actual hiking/camping.

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Share links to your own travel writing pieces or camping recipes in the comments! I love hearing your thoughts!

Returning to Reading in 2020

This past month, I found myself revisiting one of my lifelong pleasures more than usual – reading. I’ve always loved reading, but the older I’ve gotten, the less time I’ve dedicated to it.

As a child, I read voraciously. I secretly read fiction books under my desk during math class, read from my seat on the school bus, even read into the early morning hours of the day when I should have been sleeping. Reading was the classic escape, a way to numb my mind to the anxiety that my life dealt me. In the most difficult years, I skipped class a couple times, hiding in the library to read, either unnoticed or understood by the school librarian.

When I grew older, reading became more difficult as I found it increasingly hard to focus. It was no longer a cure for anxiety, and I would find myself reading the same page over and over, not comprehending. For a long time, it felt like I’d lost my gift for reading, a part of myself.

Happily, that issue was temporary. I’ve regained my ability to concentrate as an adult, although I don’t typically devote as much time to reading as I would like. That’s why, when COVID life started lending me more downtime than normal, I naturally turned to reading again.

I’m reading much more than I have in the last few years. Without many social activities available, I am reaching for books more often on the quiet weekend afternoons. Weeknights, after work, I am reading before going to sleep, finding it a good way to relax and clear my mind a little.

I signed up for the Book of the Month, which gives you a handful of newly released titles each month to choose from for $14.99. I’m not a huge fan of online shopping, but I do look forward to my monthly book arriving in the mailbox (and the packaging is minimal, basically a small cardboard box, which I – and the environment – appreciate).

My friends and I are still doing our virtual book club. This past month we read Gods of Jade and Shadow which I’ve been raving about to anyone who will listen. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a gorgeous writing style that is full of metaphors and symbolism, and I found myself eager to finish the book when I had spare moments in the day.

Once again, I’ve found myself thankful for my ability to read, grateful for all the talented writers out there in the world, and inspired by the stories I’ve experienced.

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Are you catching up on your “To-Be-Read” pile? Do you have any COVID-times book recommendations? Leave me a message in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

Cultivating Creativity: Steps I Am Taking to Weed Out Writing Barriers

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Photo by Simon Hesthaven on Unsplash

Here we are in the midst of summer. While certain things like our squash plant and our tomato plants are growing at exponential rates, I’ve found that in the last two months, my creativity has wilted. COVID has inched its way into my world, a garden pest that latches onto one part of my life and drains energy away from the other parts.

Luckily, like many things in life, I’ve found that with a little extra attention, my creativity has begun to perk back up. As I’ve done in the past, I’m beginning to reassess my current situation and determine how to keep my life filled with writing.

What steps am I taking to help my creativity grow strong during the pandemic?

  • I’m taking care of my mental health. – This step includes limiting my workload. While I am happy to have picked up some regular freelance writing opportunities over the last few months, I am still working my full-time day job. With much of our staff on furlough or laid off, my day job responsibilities have grown.

In the midst of this change, I started receiving more writing jobs and was accepting them left and right. I am now at a point where I am choosing to slow down and acknowledge that there are only so many hours in a day, and yes, I actually do need to sleep more than five hours. I will limit the amount of work that I am taking on so I have time to foster my own creativity. In doing so,  I will prevent my forever friend, Anxiety, from visiting.

  • I’ve begun journaling in the mornings. – I’ve been trying to go to bed at reasonable times so I can get up a little earlier in the morning. I squeeze in some journaling time, usually about 15 minutes, while drinking my coffee. It helps me to slowly wake up my thoughts and to develop a focus for the day ahead of me.

I curl up with a blanket and my dog and write on the couch, rather than at my desk. Instead of seeming like “work,” my journaling time has again become a quiet retreat, which is why I started writing in a journal in the first place.

  • I’ve joined a (virtual) book club. – I miss my in-person writing sessions with friends. I’ve tried writing online with others, but it doesn’t have the same effect for me. However, creating a virtual book club has been a helpful alternative.

The members of the club all suggest titles we would like to read each month, and then we vote on them. So far, we have read:

Verbalizing why I did or didn’t like certain parts of books helps me better understand what writing styles I appreciate. I also enjoy hearing my friends’ commentary because it gives me other readers’ perspectives. I can use this knowledge to inform my own writing.

Accepting that life will not be the same for the foreseeable future has been a relief. I wanted to cling to last year’s writing patterns because they were so effective for me, but I have entered another season of the times, along with everyone else.

I hope you other writers out there are finding your own ways to cultivate creativity! Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments section.

My Experience Freelancing Using Upwork

As those of you following my blog know, I jumped into freelance writing this past year. Early in 2019, I made a commitment to myself to spend more time on my writing. I wanted to take active steps to transition into getting paid for my writing.

I work a full-time (non-writing related) job, and I was looking for a way to get some paid writing experience under my belt. My dream is to one day freelance write full-time. I Googled some ways to pick up small freelancing projects on the side and stumbled across Upwork, a freelancing platform that connects freelancers with clients. I’d heard hit or miss things about it, but I figured I had nothing to lose with giving it a try.

A friend of mine I met in Peace Corps had mentioned using Upwork to pick up writing projects while living abroad in multiple countries, and she told me that she’d made enough money to live off and to fund her traveling adventures.

I’ve now been using Upwork myself for several months now and have actually had a fairly good experience, overall. In today’s post, I want to share some of the tips I’ve learned and guide other writers on their own journey into the world of getting paid to write.

General Structure of Upwork

The idea behind Upwork is that freelancers and people looking to hire freelancers (clients) can seek each other out, removing the need to cold e-mail potential clients. As a freelancer, you will create a profile and provide a description of the specific work that you do (i.e., content writer, general editor, fiction editor, blog writer, etc.). Once Upwork approves your profile and deems your skill set a benefit to the site, you can begin to browse the job postings.

There are a multitude of jobs listed on the site, and in terms of writing and editing work, you will find yourself in a sea of diversity. Each job post describes the project in detail (theoretically) and lists the client’s budget. Some examples of types of work I’ve seen are:

  • Blog post writers for topics ranging from cars and politics to makeup tutorials and yoga
  • Speech writers
  • Website editors
  • Novel/short story proofreader/editors
  • Memoir proofreaders/editors

Proposals

When you see a job that interests you, you can choose to submit a proposal using “connects.” Upwork connects are basically virtual tokens that you have to pay for to apply for a project. New users get a certain amount of connects free, but then you have to pay a small amount for them once they run out. Currently, you can buy 20 for $3.00.

While I was initially wary of having to pay for connects, I think the connect system is actually helpful. Apparently, the purpose of requiring connects is to keep too many people from blindly applying to all the jobs and creating an overflow of competition. You’ll find that you have to apply to jobs immediately after they are posted to even have a chance at receiving an offer. There are lots of freelancers out there with the same idea of gaining experience and making money.

When you submit a proposal, you clarify how much you want to be paid for the project and when you’d like to get paid, whether it be per milestone (for example, per chapter or article) or at the end of the project. You will also be required to include a cover letter and optional sample work via attachments. You may have to answer a few client-specific questions, but most clients don’t seem to use this feature, thankfully, as I feel it is redundant.

Interviews and Offers

If clients are interested in considering your proposal, they will offer you an invitation to “interview.” Upwork’s version of interviewing means the client messages you through the Upwork messenger, giving you the opportunity to ask questions and giving them the opportunity to explain more about their needs for the project. Keep in mind that clients can interview multiple freelancers at once. Usually people make their decision on a freelancer that day.

All but once or twice, when I’ve made it to the interview stage, I’ve been offered the project in the end. Of course, an offer isn’t guaranteed after you’ve interviewed. You’ll be notified of an official offer both via e-mail and through the messenger. Be sure to review the offer in its entirety – confirm the payment amount, project details, and due date. By accepting the offer, you are agreeing to all the conditions listed.

Contract

Once you accept the offer, your contract will officially begin. You can contact the client with any questions through the messenger as you work on the project. Keep an eye on the agreed upon deadline, and make sure you submit your work according to the client’s time frame. When you’ve submitted the finished work, the client will either approve the work or ask for additional edits. I haven’t yet had someone ask me for revisions, but I’ve heard other people say it isn’t uncommon.

When the contract is ended, both parties have the option to leave feedback which is a great way to boost your reputation as a freelancer and to help other freelancers who are considering working with that same client.

Payment

When the client accepts your work, they will be asked to submit a payment, whether that is for a milestone or the whole project. This payment goes into your Upwork account, and you can specify that Upwork transfers these funds automatically to your personal bank account as often as once a week. If you don’t want to wait a week before having access to the payment, you can always withdraw the amount at anytime, but there is a small processing charge to do so.

Tips I Wish I Knew Before Freelancing on Upwork

  • Don’t bother applying to a job if 5 or more people have already applied. I rarely hear back from clients at that stage, so save your connects. You can see how many people have applied for the job already by looking at the bottom of the post for the “Activity on this job” details.
  • Keep in mind that Upwork charges a fee for its services. If the client pays you $50 for the article, Upwork will take a certain percentage of the amount in fees. Currently, the amount is 20% of the first $500 you make with a client, which is pretty steep. After the initial $500, it is reduced to 10%.
  • Know your worth, and don’t sell yourself short. The bad reviews of Upwork often (correctly) comment on the surplus of jobs offering ridiculously low pay for writing or editing (i.e., content mills). No one deserves to be paid such an absurd wage, even without experience. Determine your rates and stick to them. You may have to turn down jobs or pass on even applying, but it is worth it. Otherwise, you risk getting stuck in a cycle of low pay for equally minimal quality jobs.
  • Ask clients questions. A lot of my (unpaid) work time is trying to discern exactly what the client wants. Do they want their website edited with no major content changes? Do they want you to completely rewrite all the content to fit a new layout? Do they want you to use a formal or informal tone?
  • Try to finish your project a day or two ahead of the deadline. This promptness will reflect well on your work ethic and will also give you some buffer time if you run into any challenges. For example, I’ve had trouble opening client files at the last minute or had questions in the middle of editing or writing something hours before I need to submit it.
  • Be realistic of your expectations. I personally would not use Upwork as a sole source of income due to the competition for jobs, but I do think you can use it as a reliable source of supplemental income, and the more time you can dedicate to finding, applying for, and completing jobs, the more money you will make.

Upwork, like all job sites, has its pros and cons. In my experience, freelancers can make some quick cash through this platform, with project quality and pay depending on the individual client. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back immediately from clients when you are first starting out. I heard nothing back from the first five or six clients I sent proposals to, but just when I was going to give up, I received an offer, and additional jobs started coming in quickly after that initial one.

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If you have any more tips to share about finding writing and editing opportunities on Upwork, leave them in the comments section!

Writing Throughout All “This”

It is a beautiful day at our little home in North Carolina, and I am writing this post outside under blue skies and in 70 degree weather. I’ve set up a comfortable spot with my extra fuzzy blanket at the base of the sweet gum tree in our yard. Queso and I are shamelessly watching Alex work on the garden while we sit and enjoy the sunshine.

It’s a lovely day, and of course, at the same time, it isn’t. The past couple weeks have been difficult as they have been for most everyone I know, and while Alex and I are both very fortunate to still have our jobs, my company has been forced to furlough and lay off the majority of our staff.

Although I’m still going into work, all of our patient visits are telehealth and there are just a handful of employees with me throughout the day. Life is much quieter and much slower these days.

Everywhere I go, there is a sense of unease, and even on a sunny day like today, I can’t help but notice how few cars are passing by in the neighborhood and the lack of planes flying overhead. I should be inside since the pollen has been affecting me a lot, but I can’t bear to be indoors anymore, and especially on a day like this one.

I have been writing a lot more over the past week or two, a combination of journaling and freelance assignments. With the job market as unsteady as it is, I have been trying to pick up more writing projects here and there “just in case,” and the projects have kept me entertained in my hours at home.

Surprisingly, my anxiety has not prevented me from being able to write, which would have been a major hindrance to my past self. Somehow, I’ve actually found it easier to write under a bit of pressure, along with being fueled by a dose of morbidness (i.e., “maybe I won’t get to write this at a later time . . . “).

It seems strange to be carrying on like normal, but I’ve concluded that is the best thing to do right now, and really, just about the only thing to do. Honestly, I self-isolate fairly frequently under typical circumstances, although I usually balance that side of me with an out-going streak that appears here and there.

With nowhere to go, I’ve been at home sitting at my desk much more than usual throughout the week. With nothing else to do, I’ve been happy to turn to writing for some entertainment that is not Netflix.

So for now, as always, writing continues to be a source of comfort, a cure for boredom, something to look forward to, and a habit that remains necessary throughout all of “this.”

How are you other writers dealing with life right now? Are you getting more or less writing done as the days go by?

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