Pop Culture / Speaking Out

Don’t get Carrie-d away: Freelance writing 101 with Carrie Bradshaw

. 10 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
Don’t get Carrie-d away: Freelance writing 101 with Carrie Bradshaw

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. But fairly recently when I sat down to re-watch SATC for like the umpteenth time I couldn’t help but wonder – just like how Carrie never fully understood if she loved Big or the drama that came with him, I couldn’t remember if I wanted to be a writer before I first learnt to obsess over the Carrie Bradshaw Upper East Side NYC life.

Lasting characters may come and go but there are very few as iconic as Carrie Bradshaw. It takes a certain kind of mettle to influence an entire generation of women into wanting to make it big as writers.

So I can’t help but wonder how many of us can confidently say that we’ve never thought of moving to New York, live in a brownstone apartment in the Upper East Side, wear Manolo Blahniks, write one column a week and marry a man like Mr. Big (or that last one maybe not so much). Love her or hate her, you certainly cannot ignore her.

Credited for almost being the first anti-heroine in pop-culture for her times, the character certainly hasn’t aged well in this era of woke-ness. But giving the woke debate a rest for this piece, Carrie Bradshaw was perhaps one of the very few initial proponents for the freelance life.

So here’s how to take that stiletto step into freelance writing. The do’s and don’ts of having a freelance writing career as Carrie Bradshaw would have it.

What not to do as a freelance writer: The don’ts

Write just one column a week

To start with the obvious, Carrie Bradshaw’s lifestyle was unrealistic. Period. No freelance writer can glide through New York by hailing cabs on a daily basis (or an Uber in Mumbai every day), buying designer couture and having fancy cosmopolitans regularly simply by writing a single column a week.

So to bridge that gap between fantasy and realism – write more than just one column a week? Maybe?

As a freelance writer that does not thrive in the SATC universe, the golden rule to sustain yourself is to constantly be on the lookout for work. Every successful freelancer I know would have several stories in the running at any given time.

And even when they’re not working out words by the second and typing their fingers to the bone, they’re constantly hustling. Writing pitches to editors, chasing up case studies or experts, or simply trying to find new work.

And if you’re anything like me – working in a space that requires you to churn out over 5K words a week and still wondering where all that cosmopolitan money is going since it’s certainly not hanging in your closet where you’d like it to be; writing less than a 1000 words in a week is the dream we can’t afford to have.

Because you can’t sip on fancy cocktails by simply writing one column a week.

Buying Manolo Blahniks at the drop of a Gucci hat

A basic life skill that becomes especially significant as a solopreneur – budgeting. Since we can’t afford to spend $40,000 on shoes and be the woman with no roof and the one who lives in her shoes, budgeting is a crucial ingredient of the freelancer life.

If I had a penny for every time I walked into a designer store with the bare minimum courage I could muster and then walked out of it in regretful shame and embarrassment – that is when perhaps I’d be able to afford couture.

So as easy as it can be to get carrie-d away, it is important to learn to budget and not splurge on accessories that cost almost as much as your rent. Because I don’t think any one of our landlord uncles would share the same love for stilettos as Carrie’s did. God knows how we’d instead get a lecture on how to “invest a part of your salary on FDs beta”.

Not be open to edits

Remember that scene when Carrie’s Vogue editor Enid gave a ton of edits and corrections for her story and she responded with getting drunk in her office? Your client would probably never hire you again after pulling a stunt like that.

While it certainly can be frustrating to riffle through the same thing over and over again, edits are inevitable. As a freelance writer, working on various projects, each with its own specifications of tone, format, and structure; it’s not difficult to lose sight of what you were originally going for.

Revised edits in this case can help you regain that idea you first started out with. It can help you get back on the track that was specially designed for the piece. And coming from the entity that hired you in the first place, a healthy discussion on what exactly is it that they’re looking for and how you can inculcate that better will most certainly foster good relationship and future network building.

Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, throwing a tantrum doesn’t come as organically to most of us. And we have things like work relationships, clientele and the prospect of future work opportunities to think about.

Not branch out professionally

Every time Carrie’s column narrated her and her friends’ wild sexcapades I couldn’t help but wonder three things as an impressionable teen; A. how much fun would it be to meet men and write about how they’re not worthy of me B. how much fun would it be to get paid to simply write from personal experience and no research and C. what a kool gang of girlfriends is this to share every minute detail about well… everything.

And the thoughts I had while watching as a fully functional (well almost) adult: A. with the amount of men I meet on a daily basis I can barely squeeze an Instagram caption out of that material – let alone a full fledged column B. how boring would it be to write about the same thing over and over again with no variations in writing styles, and no exploration into newer genres and finally C. thank God I have a gang of girlfriends I can share the most explicit of details with (girl talk is EVERYTHING.)

If you keep pigeonholing yourself into set writing styles and unchangeable genres then you’re bound to hit a point of stagnation very early on in your career. It is necessary to keep exploring uncharted terrains.

Fiddling with different genres, experimenting with different writing styles, writing for different platforms and distinct audiences keeps the writer in you challenged – and definitely not bored.

Branching out ensures a much wider palette for a longer learning curve and it also gives you the opportunity to see what is it that you’re actually good at.

If you keep writing TMI details about the men you meet then you’re eventually not going to meet any men to write about. And it’s been well over two decades since the pilot of SATC aired and I still can’t help but wonder how the men she was seeing never fathomed that she was actually writing about them – in painful detail.

Write after a night of drinks

Or maybe try this one out for yourself once and see how it goes for you. Alcohol has different effects on different people and if it boosts productivity for you – what’s stopping you?

I remember being able to make it to 8.30 a.m lectures in college after a night of drinking and dancing (with my said girlfriends). Making it to my class and then passing out mid-way through the lecture I still considered showing up as my biggest achievement till date. And my most embarrassing failure till date? Having to push an article deadline one-hangover-morning because the only thing remotely related to words that I could muster was “shh!”

And I thought I could pull off a Carrie Bradshaw – typing words as I sip my morning coffee made Irish to survive a hangover. Bad decision.

In any case, it is important as a freelance writer to hold yourself accountable to a routine. Working from the comfort of your home, working in your pyjamas while you’re plopped on your bed can be productive – until the moment it almost suddenly is not.

Create a routine for yourself, dedicate a certain number of hours to your writing every day – or night whenever your comfort be. Take time out for yourself too – don’t write non-stop. Organise your day – spend time thinking about what you want to write about, how do you wish to research about it, what’s your hook, what’s in it for you, etc. As clichéd as these regulations sound, it becomes necessary to follow a routine that can help sustain your freelance writing career for long.

And if the cosmopolitans start working proactively on your productivity then do reach out to me on how is it that you’re making them.

What to do as a freelance writer: The do’s

Dress up for work

Now I don’t mean wear your most fashionable designer labels with the right makeup to just sit at home and cry over your laptop as you struggle to find the right words, but just get out of those pyjamas.

Dressing up can do wonders for your crappy mood. You feel the way you look. And this state of feeling fabulous is something that we can all learn a thing or two about from Carrie Bradshaw.

It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy but even a pair of cute pajamas with a matching t-shirt, or cute boxers with a boyfriend shirt (without the boyfriend, duh!) or even just getting out of your night clothes and going for a refreshing shower – anything that makes you feel good and puts you in a fresh state of mind.

Have the kind of friend circle that supports and inspires you

In Carrie’s case the conversations she had with her friend group gave her ample material to write about – considering girl talk was basically all that she wrote about. But surrounding yourself with people from fields that are very different than yours is a good way to seek ideas for what to write about next.

Having creative freedom and the unhindered discretion to write about whatever you want is all fun and games until you run out of topics. The people you surround yourself with can certainly have an impact in this process of deciding what to write about.

Sure, observing the world and people around you is a good way to start but I’ve started listening to the work and relationship stories my friends share with me a lot more closely now that I have to write three long form articles per week.

Carrie Bradshaw’s discretion in writing also reflects her idea of literally being the writer of your own story – the driver in your own life.

Listening to people, interacting with different audiences on a daily basis and simply spending time with your friends can steer you towards taking control of your own narrative – sharing stories the way you’d want them to be heard, helping popularise your thought process through these very ordinary stories.

Don’t feel guilty for spending on yourself

If there’s one thing that Carrie Bradshaw knows, it’s how to shop. And while excess of anything can put you in harm’s way, being a little spendthrift at times is simply a form of self-care.

Just how Carrie Bradshaw has no qualms in drowning her worries in a glass of cosmopolitan, you too shouldn’t feel bad for spending on yourself. You work hard and you earn for this very luxury that you’ve wanted. Don’t shy away from indulging in your pleasures every now and then.

Don’t settle for anything less than butterflies

Part of the reason why Carrie faces whatever challenges she does is because she never settles. Throughout the run of the show she is mostly hustling, one column to another, one man to another. And through it all, the only thing that helps her keep hustling – she wants the butterflies.

It is important to know your worth and demand what you deserve. The freelance world can be a vicious one and it’s not that difficult to be carried away by the dearth of paying clients in the sea of work.

With the perceptions that come with being a freelancer are being recognised for their inaccuracy only now, there’s still a long way to go for freelancers everywhere demanding their long awaited dues. Chase that client, pitch yourself to them, make them believe why you’d be good for their project and of course, don’t forget to quote the price exactly how you think you should receive.

It’s okay to fall off a runway – Just get back up

It is all right to mess up. There are several occasions in the show when Carrie is shown to have goofed up big time – being the klutz that she is. But what is more important and should be a lesson to us all is the manner in which she bounces back from every tough spot.

The opening credits of the show have Carrie gallivanting around New York looking as picturesque as the city itself but a bus with her perfect version plastered all over it passes by her splashing a puddle of water over her white outfit – this is a metaphor for the whole show.

There is no such thing as perfection.

If Carrie Bradshaw can fall off a fashion runway and pick herself up to walk the same path again – having a thousand eyes on her while she’s at it, then we certainly can chase that client and let them know why you deserve what you’re demanding. It is all right to fumble.