This week, we are getting to know freelance writer Nicole Dieker to find out more about her world.
Hi Nicole, how are you today? What are you working on right this moment?
This interview, of course! This is the last to-do item I have to complete before the weekend. Today I have written three articles, edited one article, participated in and uploaded The Billfold’s Friday Chat, created and uploaded a video for my Patreon supporters, and written my weekly This Week in Freelancing column on my personal website.
You are a successful freelance writer. How long did it take you to establish yourself in the field?
This all depends on what you mean by “establish myself.” I began earning a liveable income as a freelance writer almost from the very beginning; I wasn’t earning much, but it was enough to keep me fed and pay my rent. However, I don’t feel like I started to get my name out there until I began writing for sites like The Billfold, The Freelancer, and Boing Boing. Once I began getting regular bylines in reputable publications, I began to feel like I was establishing a career, not just writing articles for money.
Where are you originally from and has your home town shaped you as a writer in any way?
I was born in Portland, Oregon, but I grew up in Canton, Missouri. Growing up in rural Missouri shaped me as a person, for sure. I’m not sure if it shaped me as a writer, except that I write about it often. Would I have been a different writer if I had lived in Portland for my entire life? Maybe. It’s interesting to think about how different my life might have been, but it’s hard to say exactly how different my writing would be. I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always been a writer; I started making “books” on scraps of paper in kindergarten.
What’s a typical day like in the life of Nicole Dieker (if there is such a thing)?
I am all about routine, so most of my days are typical. I wake up at 7:30, do yoga practice, and am at my desk between 8:30 and 9:00. I spend the first half of my day working for The Billfold, then I take a lunch break and a 30-minute walk. I spend the second half of my day working on projects for a variety of other clients, and I try to end my workday by 6:30 p.m. if possible. I’m in bed by 11:30 p.m. at the latest, though I usually try to go to bed a bit earlier so I can read before it’s time to sleep. (Reading is still my favorite leisure activity.)
Do you have any heroes or heroines in particular that inspire your work?
I used to try to write like my favorite writers, and that never goes particularly well. It’s much easier if you learn to write like yourself. So I won’t say that these people inspire my work, but I will say that they inspire me: Anna Quindlen, Meg Wolitzer, Ann Friedman, Anne Helen Petersen, Roxane Gay, Heather Havrilesky, Cheryl Strayed, Lev Grossman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, David J. Peterson—and the entire team at The Billfold, who constantly inspire me to be a better writer and person.
Your novel, The Biographies of Ordinary People, is currently available on Patreon. How is the project going and could you tell us a little more about it?
I’m getting close to the halfway point of my novel, which is very exciting! The Biographies of Ordinary People is modeled after novels like Little Women, Betsy-Tacy, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and so on—stories where the writer uses her family as inspiration while writing a fictional story about growing up in a specific time and place, taking her characters from childhood to adulthood.
In my case, the time and place is rural Missouri in the late 1980s and 1990s. The novel spans the years 1989-2016, and includes all the change we’ve seen over that time period. But really, it’s about the characters. I love thinking about what makes us human, and why we do the things we do. I also love thinking about family and relationships and writing about how these relationships shift and mature over time.
You really know your stuff. Do you have any pearls of wisdom for any budding freelancers out there?
Never stop hustling. You can always pitch a new story. Always read the publication before you pitch. Also, read my Ask A Freelancer advice column and my Pitch Fix advice column. Lots of wisdom in there.
And last but certainly not least, do you have anything up your sleeve for the not so distant future?
If it were up my sleeve, I couldn’t say anything about it, could I?
Honestly, I’m very happy with my career right now. My goal is to keep doing what I’m doing for the not so distant future… and beyond.
Well said Nicole, thank you.