Writer’s Block Philippines in “The Manila Times”

The texting starts at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

“Hello ladies, I’ll see you in a few minutes. I’ve e-mailed a list of our deliverables for today’s meeting.”

That is the usual text message that signals the start of the weekly meeting of Writer’s Block Philippines, a group formed by Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou and Nina Terol-Zialcita, three freelance writers.

The Writer’s Block: How to jumpstart that freelance writing career

Text by Veronica Franco
Photos by Ena Terol
Published on April 11, 2010 in The Manila Times

PHOTO - 2010_03_20 Nina,Ana,Nikka Shoot Serendra1

The texting starts at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

“Hello ladies, I’ll see you in a few minutes. I’ve e-mailed a list of our deliverables for today’s meeting.”

That is the usual text message that signals the start of the weekly meeting of Writer’s Block Philippines, a group formed by Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou and Nina Terol-Zialcita, three freelance writers.

The “see” in the text message is actually a misnomer since they won’t actually see each other. Most Writer’s Block meetings are done through Skype teleconference.

“People think that freelancers have all the time in the world, but that isn’t always the case. Like us, our common availability to meet about the workshop was a few hours on Sunday mornings,” says Sarthou.

Santos, Sarthou and Terol-Zialcita were all taking a professional blogging and Internet marketing techniques class at the Asian Institute of Management under Anton Diaz when they discovered that they were all freelance writers with close to a decade and a half of combined experience.

The three decided to put up a writing workshop because they were always asked how they got started in freelance writing and wanted to share their experience and practical knowledge with the writing community. Entitled, “How to Jumpstart Your Writing Career,” the one day and a half workshop will discuss practical tips on getting started in freelancing, building a network and ultimately establishing a credible byline.

Deciding to put up a writing workshop was easy, it was meeting and putting it together that was the more difficult part because of their schedules. They had no idea how hard it would be to get together during the week mainly because their schedules never aligned. They found only one day—Sunday—when all were available, and as others in the group had family lunch obligations, the meetings had to be done on Sunday mornings. Doing the meetings on Skype allowed them to get up at 8 a.m. and log—on versus waking up more than an hour earlier to make an 8 a.m. meeting.

“I think it’s a testament to the discipline that is needed as a freelance writer. You have to use your time productively, otherwise you’ll starve if you just slack off. So no matter what time we stayed out the Saturday night before, we would all get up and log on for our 8 a.m. Skype telecon. It’s a good thing we could still be in our pajamas for our meeting,” says Terol-Zialcita, who is a poetess, political communicator and changemaker.

Sarthou agrees, “Freelance writing is not as easy as it seems. It actually entails a lot of hard work and sometimes working during weekends, too.” Sarthou’s byline is mostly read in travel magazines like Mabuhay. She also manages corporate accounts, which gives her the flexibility to pursue her passion for traveling.

“When we thought of this workshop, we thought of setting things straight when it comes to freelance writing. Being a freelance writer is like being an entrepreneur. The service that you are marketing is your talent and the brand that you are managing is your byline, which is essentially your name. You need business acumen to complement your writing skills,” says Santos, a sex and relationship columnist and sexual reproductive health advocate. Santos, who also writes about armed conflict in Mindanao, has had her work published in international publications like Integrated Regional Information Networks News under of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The perspective on freelancing as a combination of creativity and business strategy proposed by Writer’s Block Philippines has gotten the support of other partners like PowerBooks and Lifestyle Network, who are their major partners.

As the three know, it’s not easy to break into freelance writing. It’s a slow process that requires networking, business skills and making the best out of opportunities that come along.

READ THE FULL STORY IN THE MANILA TIMES ONLINE