I've enjoyed writing for various blogs, papers and websites over the past few years. The way it works is I'll have an idea, write the piece and then send it to the publication that seems to be the best fit.
I have a few "Visionary Influencers" in my life. It's a term I've coined for people who have a vision for who you are and what you can accomplish, who influence and inspire you to act. You see, my nature isn't to hustle unless I have a real reason to do so, and that reason usually manifests in that fire underneath me or boiling blood sensation, which I wrote about last post. In opportunities to make a big move or really put myself out there, I'll tend to make excuses. You're not well-known enough, you're not established enough, you haven't made it enough...
One of my dear Visionary Influencers urged me after my Hevria article last spring to expand my horizons, to get out there more, to aim higher. While flattered, I chuckled at her suggestion to pitch religion pieces to Vogue and Oprah. Too big, too way out there. She also suggested this:
Why not a regular column? It looks like most of the "regulars" are men...time to have a regular women columnist who can contribute on the issues of the day. (Most of the women who appear each issue are the food editors.) I'm thinking of Mishpacha and Ami.
I just needed a push, and a vote of confidence. I did send an email to one of the aforementioned publications, but nothing came of it.
I then emailed a columnist at one of these magazines sharing my goal and asking for advice. I wrote:
I am looking for an opportunity to have a regular column in a national publication. As you can see from my Cross Currents articles, I address issues facing contemporary frum Jews. I think having a voice of a woman in Mishpacha or Ami -- and not in the women's magazines only -- addressing relevant communal issues is valuable.
The columnist kindly responded:
My first reaction was that you were shooting pretty high, and should build up a brand by writing op-eds in a variety of places, unless the first one becomes to enamored that they offer you the first slot...
Like any other profession there are a certain amount of dues that must be paid. Your job now is to write to editors and find out what the dues are.
Don't ask, but the non-hustler in me won and it took me another four months, from July until November, until I reached out to Mishpacha Magazine with my official pitch to consider me as an op-ed writer.
It took so long because I was discouraged. Again, it was the same voice. Who do I think I am? Have I established myself enough? Have I published enough articles in enough places? Am I really just a rookie who hasn't paid my dues yet? Have I earned this?
The good news is that the email from the columnist pushed me to write more. That summer, I did my best writing. I published in a wide array of places and published my most successful pieces yet. So when I reached out the editor at Mishpacha in November, I felt I had paid some more dues. And maybe I was right; she had actually already read some of my articles online and was familiar with my name.
I have published one piece so far at Mishpacha and my second is getting ready for publication. The verdict is still out if I will be a regular columnist at Mishpacha Magazine. Much depends on their reader feedback. And, no doubt, having an article which is authored by a female writer who is no rebbetzin or well-known personality, and is stuck between Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum's and Sruli Besser's pieces, is charting new territory for both editors and readers at Mishpacha. After all, who do I think I am? Have I established myself enough? Have I earned this?
During Chanukah, when I found out the good news that I would have a chance to write a column for Mishpacha, I emailed that dear Visionary Influencer of mine. She responded:
Now THIS is what I’m talkin’ about!! YOU GO GIRL. You are MEANT to do this.
I’m volunteering to be your sounding board on subject and tone...though you do just fine on your own...Your total commitment to Jewish issues burns brightly and wholeheartedly...you have walked the walk...
Whether or not I actually did fully pay my dues, I'll never know. Maybe they're just taking a chance on a rookie. But I do know that I won't let my doubts and insecurities about myself as a writer stop me from shooting high. Because -- why not? There's really nothing to lose.
Until next time,