Swimming in the Ocean – Brenda Rush On Being a Writer

I sat on a bench with Brenda Rush one beautiful morning at Women At Woodstock last October and listened to her explore the possibilities of life as a writer. It was one of those suspended days: balmy, a slow breeze, blue sky. Is it spring? Is it fall? In what I have come to know as Brenda’s signature style, she weighed her options with careful deliberation. Bottom line though was this: Brenda was going to write.

Well, she made it happen. She’s been published more than a few times since that day, and it’s been only five months since we sat together. Brenda wrote to me about her writer’s life to date. Here’s what she shared: 

Swimming in the Ocean

by Bren Rush

Brenda RushWading out tentatively to test the waters a step at a time allows one to acclimate to the temperature, sounds, waves, and even some of the sea life. Being able to swim in a pool doesn’t insure success in the ocean, but loving the water accounts for a lot. This is how I recently approached freelance writing.

With the encouragement and patience of two successful ocean swimmers, I found myself not only equipped with a suit, sunscreen, and a swimmer’s cap, but also with as much excitement as they had about my upcoming launch into moving water. We began meeting together twice a month as a critique group. I learned about The Writer’s Market, editorial calendars, pitch letters and the lessons continue to come.

We push ourselves to bring worthy writing samples and share possible markets for our articles. Gilda has been writing professionally for 18 years and is in high demand by editors to write articles for cattle, farm, and ranch publications. Karena began freelancing two years ago for a wide range of magazines and is writing a book. I write human interest stories, the stories needing to be told, which make us think and hopefully make us better for having read them.

Support from my critique group gave me the resolve to commit to freelance writing, so I stood at the edge of this new adventure waiting for the right moment. Then I heard it. A timely story of friendship presented itself and I knew it was the one strong enough to go with me into the water. It was a timely tale about an early relief effort from our town to Houston victims of Hurricane Harvey. Fortunately, the local magazine I pitched it to hadn’t yet received another about the disaster. It was snapped up! The rush of success prompted me to stop wading and just dive in headfirst, but my instincts suggested otherwise. That saying about life being a marathon, not a sprint applies to freelance writing too.

The next step was to deliver two small article ideas to the editor of a magazine for members of an international philanthropic sisterhood to which I belong. I was told there was only “limited space for member-written articles.” So I wrote the first piece about an educational fundraiser dear to my heart and I got a phone call from a column editor. He told me the story was well written and it would appear in the next issue. In regard to my second idea, he suggested we have a phone interview so he could write the story in his column. I suggested that wouldn’t work. Instead, I wrote the story and now it also has been accepted. That means I’ll have an article in back-to-back issues of this magazine. While guest writers receive no payment, this publication has a circulation of a quarter of a million people in the US and Canada. My resume can now mention that I have been “internationally published.”  

When my neighbor decided to donate a unique military hat to a museum, the fourth story presented itself. My writing mentor suggested I pitch the story with accompanying sidebars to the magazine who bought my first story. What a great idea! Apparently the editor thought so too, since she wanted it in two weeks. As for my fifth idea, she said she “loves” it and will accept it if I tell it from a different angle. So, we are currently discussing options.

For three months now, I have been wading a little deeper into this new ocean of written words to get acclimated and gain strength and confidence. So far, timing, patience, relationships, study and a desire to impact others through story has been working for me. Some suggest my percentage of acceptance bodes well for a future swim, but percentages can be misleading. For now, I’ll measure my success by the joy of being in the water with others who challenge themselves to go deeper and return to shore with more than sand in their suits.

One last observation: I find it interesting that Brenda is a person of such measured thought and careful action, yet she’s moved with lightning speed into the life of a writer. Note that she found her “tribe” right in the begnning, and she immerses herself in it regularly. Everyone needs a tribe; especially writers, who by definition are lone rangers when they work. Do you write? Do you have a tribe?

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