Meet JJ Murphy, freelance writer, professional photographer, “tree-hugger,” and author of her own website, Writer By Nature.
Murphy is that rare individual who successfully blends professional skills with personal interests. “Perfection” is one her trademarks.
I recently caught up with Murphy and here’s what she had to say:
DD: Hi, JJ. First, thank you for doing this interview. What can you tell readers about yourself?
DD: Can you share why you became a writer?
M: My mother loved to read. Children imitate the adults around them, so I was reading before I even started school. I remember my mother laughing at a little story I wrote in second grade. Growing up in Guilford, CT, our teachers placed a great deal of emphasis on writing well, not just in English class, but in history and science as well. My first writing award came when I won $100 in a high school essay contest on a local Revolutionary War hero.
DD: Can you tell us a little about the clients you serve?
M: My clients come from various walks of life. As one business client said, “JJ cleans up my writing without taking my voice away.” This client relied on me for ghost writing. Some clients are authors who need proofreading services or manuscript editing. Some clients count on me to provide relevant content for their websites or blogs. Some clients need resumes, professional biographies, or curriculum vitae. Sometimes, the muse visits me and characters speak in voices that often surprise me. Yes, I have published fiction.
DD: Your website is interesting and very informative. I had trouble choosing a favorite. But, I especially like your free writing tips. Please share with readers a little bit about that.
M: The writing tips were part of a weekly series I had created in an effort to create relevant content that would encourage repeat visits to my site from people who enjoy playing with words. [In addition,] as an environmentalist interested in sustainability, the idea of working online appealed to me, so in 2000 I started a virtual assistant business, figuring if I couldn’t sell my writing, I could sell my typing, resume writing, and administrative support skills. Then, in 2005, a casual conversation about tweaking my website resulted in an extreme makeover.
DD: Who created your site?
M: Angela Allen Parker asked me what I would do if time and money were not an issue, and I said “Hang out in the woods and write.” It only took a little bit of brainstorming to come up with Writer By Nature.
DD: I’m certain other writers feel as you do and would love to know who maintains your site.
M: Jodi Diehl maintains the technical structure of my website. She has guided me as technology changes and tools for building websites have evolved. Technical terms like “PHP” and “SQL” look like alphabet soup to me, but Jodi has mastered “geek” language.
WordPress allows Jodi to custom build each client’s website. All I have to do is add my photos, articles, hot links and moving pictures. I would not have lasted online without her support.
DD: Can you describe what a typical writing day for you is like? Do you have one?
M: Until this past year, typically, I’d hike first thing in the morning in mild weather, come back and work, and then get back out on the trail. In winter, I’d work early and hike during the warmer hours,and then come back and write. This year I joined a consumer-supported agriculture garden, took several classes in mycology, wild foods foraging, and winter wilderness survival skills. Being literally in the field for work and study meant that I had to allocate my writing time differently. It also changed what I wrote about.
When gasoline prices skyrocketed, I looked at the number of miles I drove to get to hiking trails and decided to walk or take public transportation, when I could. Even if gasoline prices plummet to 29-cents, I still won’t drive as many miles a week as I used to. The impact on my writing is that I’m spending more time making sustainable choices (like working in the garden) in the hope that this effort will preserve more of the natural world in the long run.
DD: Finally, JJ, what words of wisdom would you care to share with readers about writing, freelance writing, photography and journaling?
M: Words have power, so be mindful of the words you hear and read. I always liked that line in “Desiderata” that goes: “Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.” Get rid of the TV and the inflammatory images and words that masquerade as journalism. By sustaining a fear-based message, they are toxic, even if you’re not paying full attention. Give the best hours of your day to writing. Whether you’re writing for hire or for a devoted fan, well-written work resonates with the reader.