“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Crystal Nay

Last Updated on: June 20th, 2017

FITS Series Welcome Image
Today we are continuing with the F.I.T.S. (Freelancer In The Spotlight) Series on Wording Well, and the “Freelancer In The Spotlight” today is Crystal Nay.

NOTE: Due to my recent announcement, I’m going to be blogging my True Tales Tuesdays posts on Lorraine Reguly: Laying It Out There, so if you’re a reader who loves those type of posts, then please subscribe to my author newsletter. You’ll get a free gift when you do! 😉

Now please welcome Crystal Nay to center stage.

Take it away, Crystal!

Crystal Nay


Writing Perks?

There’s a perk to introducing yourself as a writer: people automatically think you’re smart. They also think you’re whimsical, an idealist, and uncommitted. But, then they think you’re an alcoholic, a pessimist, a paper-hoarder who unleashes nonsensical thoughts on Twitter because, well, no one can stop you from speaking your piece.

Well, joke’s on them. We’re not all alcoholics.

Hell, I’m not even on Twitter… yet.

If you haven’t figured it out already, the life of a freelance writer is an interesting one. But, it’s not necessarily because it is so, but because we make it so. Writers have a keen eye and a tuned ear that not only notices things others might not, but can also take seemingly mundane things and turn them into things worth noting.

Such is the power of words. Or a constant and desperate need to be entertained. Your choice.

And, let’s be real: sometimes we sound super awesome. We can’t even believe we wrote such amazing copy or prose. Sometimes we sound super idiotic. It’s all par for the writing course.

(Sometimes we even use lame clichés that, for some reason, we don’t bother removing even though we know we should.)

I don’t remember the first time I heard the word “freelancer.” I can’t recall when I first decided to pursue freelance writing as my work, let alone actually do it or introduce myself as such.

To be honest, I can’t recall exactly when I first began writing. I don’t want to be that person—the one who starts off with saying she’s been writing since she could first scribble sentences. But, guess what? I am that person.

I wrote a poem during class in the third grade. My teacher loved it; my mother loved it. Somehow, it ended up typed up and on the walls of all my teachers’ classrooms. (Thanks, Mom.) Without my pencil and a sheet of paper, I felt like I wasn’t me.

I was that kid who carried a backpack that was much too heavy because it was filled with binders of my latest masterpieces, each page handwritten on lined paper and inserted into a separate plastic sleeve. “Crystal, how many pages so far?” 42. “How about now?” 96. “How many now?” 217. My friends begged to be added as characters. They didn’t care if the story was about a princess who was now an orphan and running the streets. They didn’t mind that another was about a girl who gets lost in the woods while camping with her family and must learn to survive on her own.

They certainly didn’t notice I apparently had a thing for girls being badass and being able to fend for themselves.

Turns out, I would be able to relate to that more as an adult than I ever thought I would have to. But one thing remained my constant, and that was writing.

In keeping this—my love, my craft, the thing that occasionally causes me to forget to feed my sassy and independent young daughter—my constant, there were a few lessons I learned and feel would be handy pearls of wisdom for other writers.

4 Valuable Freelancing Lessons Learned

1: Be a Writer. No, seriously. BE a Writer.

If you’re going to walk around touting that you are a writer, you had better be a writer. Some fancy spoken words, and cute/handsome purple plaid scarf paired with and adorable/handsome gray pea coat and smart-looking glasses does not a writer make. Neither does someone who walks around whining all the time about how they just want to be a writer, but aren’t doing it. If you’re going to be a writer, BE a writer.

Writers are neurotic. They are crazy people who have strange observations and even more entertaining opinions. (Don’t deny it!) We scribble ideas on envelopes and napkins, on parking tickets and on our children’s foreheads.

For the longest time, I knew in my gut that I was a writer, but I always pushed it off. I always tried to ignore it, but it was the one thing that NEVER went away. I could never stop writing, could never stop thinking about writing. Even still, I sometimes try to push it away. It doesn’t go away.

Why? Because I’m a writer.

Just own it already!    

2: Tell People You’re a Writer, and then Explain What That Means

Yes, it seems rather self-explanatory. If you’re a dog groomer, you must groom dogs. If you’re an office assistant, you must assist in the office. If you’re an IRS agent, you must… Anyway, if you’re a writer, you’d think people would put it together that you must write. Truth is, they often don’t. When you throw in a fancy word like “freelance” people get a little confused. So, without sounding condescending, explain it.

There’s good reason for this. I’ve had many referrals come from people who didn’t know what I—a freelance writer—did. But, once I explained it to them, these people would pass on my name and business card to their contacts on my behalf.

If you’re working another job, tell people you write. If you’re at a mixer, tell people you write. If you’re stuck house-sitting your best friend’s four dogs, tell the dogs you’re not a dog-sitter, you’re a writer. (That last example is purely cathartic.)

3: Your Least Favorite Clips Just Might Be Your Best-Showing Pieces

One of the first travel pieces I wrote was for the local newspaper of a small, coastal town in Oregon. I was introduced to the owner of the local—and only—used bookstore. It was a great spot with a lot of local, Oregon hippy history, and the shop owner also happened to be the guy who ran the paper. There was a whole lot of “localness” happening. I knew I wanted to write something for him, and I knew what I wanted it to be.

Before I mentioned anything to him, he said to me, “You know, I’d love to have you write something for the paper. I think it would be neat if you wrote something that juxtaposed our coast with your coast.”

I instantly liked this man; he had read my mind exactly. And, he used the word “juxtaposed” in casual conversation, which can make any word enthusiast swoon.

The bookseller featured my piece for quite some time. It garnered favorable reviews, but also criticism simply because it was written by a Californian. But, I always use it as a clip. It’s different from the clips I usually include, and while I always think editors won’t much care for it, they often come back to me saying that was the piece they most enjoyed.

4: Carve Your Own Path, for You

This, I think, has been one of the hardest things I’ve learned—and probably you, too—simply because there is only one way to learn it: the hard way. Two writers might end up at the same magazine or newspaper or TV show, but no two writers arrived there the same way. There is SO much information out there for writers, from how to get started to how to get clients to how to retire off writing the best skywriting copy.  Well, maybe not that last one, but I think I may be onto something…

My point is, there is a lot to filter through, and you’ll quickly realize that a lot of it is contradictory. Write what you know; don’t write what you know. Tech is the place to be; healthcare is the place to be. White papers are awesome; white papers suck.

No one else is living your life, and no one else is navigating your career. Both belong to you. So you scramble for a bit trying to figure out where your niche is. So what? So you can’t pay all your bills on time right now. Neither can most people, and A LOT of successful writers went through the very same thing. Your path won’t look like mine, nor mine like yours. Or any other writer’s for that matter. And, honestly, we’re all probably better for it.

So, tell people you’re a writer and let them think you’re smart. Be whimsical and idealistic and uncommitted. Be a pessimist, a paper hoarder, and drink responsibly. Unleash your nonsensical thoughts on Twitter. Come read mine. We can share our writer neuroses.

Hmm… guess I should join Twitter…


Do you think you have to follow someone else’s writing path to obtain one of your own?

What does your writing journey look like?

Do you have clips you hate – but others simply love?

Share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the comment section!

Check out the other freelancers in this series:

Some Life Updates and Info about Freelancing from #freelancewriter Lorraine Reguly

An Interview With “F.I.T.S.” Series #freelancewriter Elna Cain

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Candace Simonson

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter DD, an Addicted-to-Heroin #Freelancer

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Alicia Rades

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Corinne Kerston

F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Ali Luke

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Joe Warnimont

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Brian Morris

F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Janine Ripper

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Harleena Singh

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Christy Birmingham

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Tom Bentley

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter William Ballard

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Deevra Norling

Freelancing Tips From Kirsty Stuart #freelancingtips for #freelancers

7 Reasons for the FITS Series on Wording Well (with results!)

If you want to raise your freelancing rates, read How to Ask for a Raise (and Get One!) from your #Freelancing Client.

If you want to know why you should be gathering testimonials you can use on your website, read about The Power of Client Testimonials.

Crystal Nay is a freelance writer, tree-cloning enthusiast, and mother to a hilarious and sassy miniature version of herself. She loves to learn about people by asking them things she probably shouldn’t. She has never dyed her hair. Ever. You can visit her website at http://www.crystalnay.com/ and check to see if she’s finally joined Twitter. 😉

6 thoughts on ““F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Crystal Nay

  1. Hi Lorraine; thanks for bringing us Chrystal. I’m really starting to look forward to these posts. Chrystal; it seems you and lorraine have something in common. she did an interview with me so she could ask questions of a blind person that she had always wanted to ask but didn’t know one of us well enough to feel comfortable doing so. and I have always been one of those people who can seem to ask that question that the other person wasn’t prepared for. I like your style in this post. I noticed you talked a lot about being who you are and claiming it. when i was part of a family carnival i never shied away from telling people i was with the carnival. my brother michael would avoid the question. my brother patrick would tell people he was a driver or chauffeur. later i started a business as an amusement equipment broker. I didn’t want the negative stigma of being a broker so i refer to myself as an amusement equipment reseller. of course I have to explain that; so I tell people I help people sell their new and used amusement concessions and confections equipment. patrick likes to say i run the isle of misfit rides because so many of my listings are older hard to place items. 🙂 I do believe it is easier to tell people you are a writer than it is to tell them you are a blogger, podcaster, website designer, etc. and I am just getting used to referring to myself as a coach and mentor. I also want to do public speaking as I now believe sharing my story could be inspirational and motivational to others. thanks for sharing with us. Take care, Max

    • says

      Max, I’m glad you are learning some tips from these freelancers… and trying to win some free editing! 😉

      I hope Crystal decides to reply to the comments left for her. Thanks for chiming in!

    • Crystal says

      Wow, Max! What a great-sounding story! I’ve always been curious about the inner workings of that sort of thing.

      Of course, the world is full of different people, and some of us own who we are a lot easier or more wholeheartedly than others. But, that’s okay, too.

      I, personally, look at everything in life as fodder for writing. It sounds like you have a lot to draw from, and I would encourage you to do so. There are people like me with the response of, “No way! A family carnival? That sounds way interesting. Tell me all about it!” And if you kept this to yourself the way your brother does, those interested would never get to know or learn about it. So, yes. Just own it!

      But, seriously. That sounds super interesting. [Getting a cup of hot tea and getting comfy in a chair.] Tell me all about it!

  2. says

    This is one of the best articles I have read in a long time.
    I started writing in college, did freelance for a national daily for a awhile. Sometimes when I read an article I have written I feel greatly amazed.
    I want to be better but don’t know how to go about it. I have read countless books about writing but that has not helped because I still feel empty compared to what I want to become.
    Please do I have to have a degree in anything ‘writing-related’ because I am science inclined. I think my little ability to even hold a pen comes from the inside.
    Please I need your advice, Crystal and Lorraine.
    Thanks very much.

    • says

      Chris, many people are writers, and many don’t hold degrees.

      Have you ever heard of the saying, “Fake it ’til you make it?”

      This is one of the saying popular freelancers like Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli advocate for newbies! 😉

    • Crystal says

      Hi, Chris.

      Thank you for the kind words.

      I think a lot of us are learning or have learned the hard way that degrees are not always necessary. If you’re science inclined and truly enjoy science, then just write science-related pieces. The way to really get better at anything is to just keep doing it. If you truly believe you have an inclination towards writing, keeping writing. And, if you’re truly unsure (and even if you’re not) have someone read your stuff. Have a few people read your stuff. Listen to the common notes and individual opinions. Take them into consideration, and if they make your work better, use them. If not, don’t. Just use your better judgement when it comes to stuff like that.

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