I hated English class. In fact, I hated it so much that I skipped my first 28 days of English my senior year of high school. The maximum time you can miss is 29 days, one more and I wouldn’t graduate. From that point forward I never missed another English class. I read every required piece of literature; I thought it was a punishment worse than death. I graduated with 100% in English that year, but I still hated it. What’s the point in reading a book when you can just wait to see the movie?
On a warm summer day years later, I went looking for some information on playing video games with a disability. Having a form of muscular dystrophy, my disease advanced to the point where I was no longer able to play the way everyone else could. I found one site, ablegamers.com–a nonprofit group that helps people with disabilities get back into playing video games after traumatic injuries from war or overcoming terminal illnesses–which gave exactly the kind of information I was looking for.
It was quite a find, but there was a problem.
From experience, I knew one of the posts on the site was wrong. So, I commented correcting the author. Later that day, I received an e-mail from the site owner thanking me for my contribution with a quote from a user who was to be able to play for the first time using that information.
I was hooked and I didn’t even know it.
The owner of the site approached me shortly after to ask if I wanted to write for the site. He explained in great detail how I could help people using my experience.
“But there’s a problem,” I said. “I’m not a writer.”
After some persuasion, I reluctantly agreed to take my first shot at writing an article. One word turned into a sentence, which turned into a paragraph, and 10 paragraphs turned into my first article.
It was published later the next day. The article, explaining a new piece of technology that operates a computer using your brain, received the fifth most hits an article ever received and a dozen comments asking questions and thanking me.
I was hooked, only this time I knew it.
Four years, more than 1000 bylines, and several nationally published articles later; I’m now the editor-in-chief of ablegamers.com. I’ve been published in all the major gaming magazines and multiple internationally received journals on the topic of accessibility.
None of this would’ve been possible if I hadn’t started writing for a nonprofit foundation. I believe many authors overlook the possibility of writing for free, but finding the right nonprofit opens doors you can’t imagine.
Getting a job writing for a nonprofit is as easy as searching the Internet and e-mailing the editor of your favorite site. Most nonprofits are begging for competent volunteer content writers and won’t require previous experience to get started. This is an excellent way to display your talent by writing high-quality articles on subjects you are extremely passionate about. The experience you gain writing under an editor coupled with the clips you receive from publishing articles goes a long way towards getting your foot in the door of that paying gig you always wanted.
During my time as editor-in-chief, I’ve seen writers go on to be paid editors at online magazines, featured columnists in print, and one is now the editor-in-chief of a national gaming magazine. Each of them started out with zero bylines and tons of passion.
(photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevepj2009/)
Originally published in Total Funds for Writers 2011