Mike Long is a D.C.-based writer, educator, and dramatist. When he's not writing speeches, he's teaching in the master's program at Georgetown University, where he lectures on speechwriting, PR, and other writing-related matters. He's also often on the road leading seminars on writing, and is working on a textbook on PR writing that will be published by Pearson in 2013. On top of all that, two of his one-act plays—"Hostages" and "Arithmetic for Art Majors"—have been produced by the Players Theatre in Greenwich Village, and his screenplay "How to Save Your Own Life" is currently a semi-finalist in the Vail Film Festival. For even more about Mike, check out his website or find him on Facebook.
What led you to become a writer?
I've loved writing since I was a kid, but I didn't think you could actually make a living doing it, so I pursued science, and followed that career for a decade. As I got out into the world, I discovered that there are all kinds of writers-for-hire out here, a realization that coincided with my growing dissatisfaction with being a systems analyst and programmer. Finding that many speechwriters had the same disparate interests and non-writing education backgrounds as my own, I made friends with some of them, and they opened the door to a career change. I've been ridiculously happy ever since.
What have been some of your favorite projects?
Can't tell ya. That's part of being a ghostwriter: pride in the work has to take the place of public credit. But I can say that I'm especially proud of a couple commencements I wrote for delivery at big-name universities, and I wrote an inaugural address for a governor, which was pretty exciting. Oh—I wrote the liner notes for the DVD release of Jerry Seinfeld's documentary Comedian. That was cool.
What do you do when you're not writing?
Ha—when I'm not writing for a client, I'm writing for my own amusement; I'm working on more stageplays just now. And I always have a lot of things going on: I like hacking around on the guitar, I'm a computer nerd from way back, I'm a stand-up comedy junkie (I did stand-up, long ago), and lately I enjoy grilling and smoking meats. I suppose the unifying idea behind all of it is that I like learning how to do new things.
What makes a client good to work for?
I appreciate clients who pay well and pay on time. Maybe that's crass, but for a freelancer, it matters. As for the kind of work experience I like, give me someone who trusts me. I want them to call on me because they see that they can give me an assignment, work with me to figure out what it should be, and then I'll go away and work, and bring them back just what they're expecting. A clean experience for all concerned.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Get into this career only if you know for sure that you enjoy the act of writing; don't mistake that for the good feeling of "having written." Writing is work. It's not taxing like digging a ditch, sure, but it does take concentration, patience, and thick skin. Another thing: Be curious. Give yourself permission to investigate anything that interests you. What you furnish your mind with is what comes out on the page. You can't help it. That's how writing works. So if you want to be an interesting writer, be an interesting person. Most of all, be interesting to yourself.