Writing for Us Is the Most Awesome Thing In the World

Earlier this week my beloved boss Margaret Downing put out a call to you plucky young art commentators to come and do some freelance work here at the Houston Press. Like all her work, it was concise, well-written and informative. Just what you'd expect from a seasoned newspaper editor and writer.

Now let's hear from the psychotic lunatic division! That's me, by the way.

Folks, listen to me when I tell you that this is an opportunity to change your freakin' life for the infinitely better. Writing is literally the best thing in the world you can do. Stuck in a rut? It's time to unstuck yourself so hard that you catapult up into the sky and land on the old lady's roof next door... the roof of awesomeness!

First off, you may think you've got no talent and no place to start. That may be true. I was a horrible writer when I was ten years old, and only marginally better than when I started freelancing here in 2008. You can click on my byline up there and it will take you back through my archives. Don't, though; it's crap back in 2008. The point is you've got to start somewhere.

It takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something. I got paid to practice that right here because there are shows that need reviews, artists that need to be interviewed, and video game portrayals of Hitler that must be ranked against each other. The world cries out for those things, and they are what the makes the readers go clickety click.

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That's all you have to do to get started. You have to find something that you're interested enough to talk about for 700 words or so then do just that. It can be anything. I mean anything. I've written pieces about actresses on children's television I thought were hot, guys who built LEGO versions of the city from BioShock, and disturbing sex scenes from Stephen King novels. Whatever weird or wonderful thing I ran across while perusing Facebook or other sites that I thought I could talk about with some authority and eloquence.

Isn't there something out there you could ruminate on? The most racist old TV shows or the stupidest parts of the Miss America Pageant? Or maybe you know a local painter that could use some exposure because it's kind of hard to find people willing to include an oil painting of Rudolph taking a dump in a gallery show. I don't know, it's your life. Isn't there something going on in and around it that you can put in the blank space of your word processor?

You know what I wish sometimes? I wish that I could talk to 12-year-old me. I wish I could tell him that one day he'd get free video games in the mail every week. Enjoying Final Fantasy VI younger me? Just wait, in two decades Final Fantasy XIV will show up right at your door with a free three-month pass. All because one day I said to myself, "I wonder if Square Enix will answer an email from me." Now I just enjoy watching people's faces when I tell them I get games early and for free, all at the cost of telling the world what I thought about them... which I would have done anyway. That's what this job entails.

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I had this great moment about this time last year. I have a pair of friends who are embarrassingly more successful than me. One is a high priced oil and gas lawyer, and the other is one of the city's best surgical techs. We all went to the Renaissance Festival together, and while they were paying I just walked up, said I was Jef With One F from the Houston Press and boom, in I walked looking for things to write about while my friends looked on with envy.

Sure, they could have bought my ticket five times over, but that's not the point. The point is signing up to work in this industry means that you are officially afforded access. Writing on Art Attack has led to honest-to-God dreams coming true. John Waters took my calls, Peter Murphy answered my emails, and Neil Gaiman retweets my work sometimes. The people I worship as titans know I freakin' exist.

See also: 9 Tips on Being a Paid Freelance Writer

It's not easy, of course. You don't just waltz in and land an interview with whatever A-list star you want. It takes a lot of work to really get good at this job, and most of all you have to learn to be consistent. You can only turn in a story a week, but they won't care as long as they know that they can count on you to do it every week.

I never wanted to be a writer until I was one. I was just killing time until my next band when I saw an ad by Houston Press Music Editor Chris Gray asking for Rocks Off writers. Over the past five years I've gone from maybe a story every couple of weeks to one of the highest producers of content. I meet artists from around the world in a variety of baffling and wonderful disciplines. I get opportunities and acknowledgements coming at me every day.

Did I mention that I got tapped to host classic screenings of Doctor Who from this job? Personally approved by BBC America and everything. I. Get. Paid. To. Watch. Doctor Who.

And trust me when I tell you I'm nothing special. This is a shot for some of you to enter a world where you explore art and pop culture like you never believed you could. You may think you can't, but you're wrong. If I can, anyone can, and believe me, a writer is an amazing thing to be! Do think about joining up with us, won't you? Instructions found here.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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