Friday, June 29, 2007

For Entertainment Purposes Only

Okay, so I'm not a medium, psychic, or Tarot card reader. But many professional horoscope writers aren't (I know... I was paid to write one once upon a time...)

Consequently, I'm offering next week's predictions (July 1st-7th) for fellow freelancers:

Aries: You may be an active ram, but you need something to keep up your energy. Try heavy doses of sugar and caffeine interspersed with long naps.

Taurus: Expect a bullish week, but avoid producing too much bulls*&t. It's good for your garden but bad for your reputation.

Gemini: Your cat will spit up a fur ball loudly while you're on the telephone negotiating a better rate with an editor.

Cancer: No one is watching, so scarf down that gallon of Haagen-Daas at 2:00 a.m. while desperately trying to meet a deadline. You can always work it off later (yeah, right.)

Leo: Let procrastination guide you this week. Surf the 'net. Read made-up horoscopes. Google yourself. It'll be like a mini-vacation.

Virgo: Expect the unexpected. (I don't know what that means. But you should probably back up your files.)

Libra: Are you "balancing" your work and home life? Nah? No problem. It's overrated. Let the dust bunnies accumulate and write instead of cooking dinner. The kids can fend for themselves.

Scorpio: Screw it. Take up a bad habit this week. Why not? You deserve it. Dammit.

Sagittarius: Learn to love your thunder thighs this week by using your ample lap as extra desktop space. A potbelly makes an excellent temporary armrest.

Capricorn: Food remnants are destined to become stuck under your laptop keys. Invest in some forced air, or merely blow hard (to save money) to dislodge. Use this as an excuse for missing a deadline.

Aquarius: You'll wrestle with a number of dilemmas this week, including whether to take a shower on a daily basis. Be adventurous - see how long it takes until your family begs you to bathe.

Pisces: This week will bring a temporary lull in your hectic lifestyle. Use it to kick back and reorganize your mounting pile of rejection slips.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ode to My Boss

My boss can be a real pain in the derriere.

There. I said it. You heard me right.

My boss is, at turns:

  • supportive
  • demanding
  • arrogant
  • childish
  • professional
  • immature
  • flattering
  • nasty
  • downright mean
  • evil
  • angelic
  • grumpy
  • hilarious
  • cocky
  • rude
  • passive aggressive
  • cool and collected
  • bitter
  • jolly
  • helpful
  • selfish
  • cool
  • thoughtful
  • smart
  • ignorant
  • idealistic
  • pessimistic
  • realistic
  • nihilistic (not really, but it seemed to fit from a poetic standpoint)
  • cute
  • ugly
  • reasonably attractive

Well, I could go on and on... but you get the point. She's a total beast.



I forgot the most important fact of all...

I work for myself. : )

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Dream of 72 Hours

I have a recurring dream involving 72 hours (or, if you prefer, three whole days) all to myself.

My 72-hour dream mini-holiday goes something like this:

  • First 12 hours - sleep
  • Hours 13-15 - write
  • Hours 16-18 - exercise
  • Hours 18-21 - read (for pleasure! no, really!)
  • Hours 22-24 - write
  • Hours 25-72 - repeat cycle with slight variations

I think I'd wind up very happy.

(For those who might be wondering, eating would be scattered throughout the "awake" hours. I'm kind of a "nibbler" anyway, so that suits me just fine.)

Isn't it a beautiful fantasy?

But back to the present. I think my almost-four-year-old is destroying the fabric of the universe...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Balancing the Tightrope

I might as well be in a circus today.

I have many "urgent" articles and assignments due, and I'm not quite certain how I'll complete them all. I know they'll be finished come heck or high water, but right now I'd honestly like to find out some little elves completed them as I slept! (That being said, I would still seriously edit the pieces for clarity. I don't know if elfish literary skills are up to par these days.)

Ironically, I kind of love this stress of being a writer. It's challenging, and it forces me to prioritize like I've rarely had to before. Sometimes, I feel like an ER doc. Most critical writing first! It's triage at its finest, and it's kind of exciting.

I know this is nothing new.

Most writers have walked this crazy tightrope, trying hard not to fall off into the net of a bad reputation ("S/he never does what s/he says she will. Don't work with him/her anymore.")

It's just interesting, that's all.

Back to the grind...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Giving Away the Store

Remember what it was like, starting out as a freelancer?

(Maybe you're already just beginning your writing career, in which case this posting will be even MORE relevant!)

Do you recall how every job seemed so special, so amazing? Any amount of money, any copyright agreement, any assignment was the "right" one.

That was pretty cool... until the day you were thumped on the noggin by a falling anvil with the word "SUCKER" printed all over it.

Such an occurrence happened to me recently.

I was innocently Googling one version of my name (yes, I admit it...) and came across literally dozens of hits. Excitedly, I started surfing the many seemingly-unrelated sites, only to realize that an article I had written a while ago had been somehow promoted everywhere.

It was great PR... for the publication's website.

Yes, I got my little old byline, for which I should be eternally grateful. But I also got zero in terms of payment for all those times my article was being used.

Know why?



I messed up.

To their credit, the client paid me quite well for the writing I initially did. And I suppose I can use the continuing publicity to my advantage in some ways which I haven't yet considered.

But dang.

I'm the first person to advise other writers to seriously consider the consequences of giving away all rights to a work, even if it's just a 1,000 word article, for crying out loud. And here I am, eating my words (which would be better with a side order of greasy fries, by the way.)


Next time, I'll not only read the fine print but also mull over what could happen down the road.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Side Effect of Writing

Fourteen hours ago, I gleefully discovered that tons of writing pays off in unexpected, delightful ways.

A Little Background: I was asked to address a crowd of around 150 persons on the topic of professionalism yesterday. No biggie - I used to be a public speaker, I have 25+ years experience as a performer, and I enjoy motivating and educating others.

That being said, I commonly have "brain burps" during my presentations, moments where I just cannot find the right word(s) to fit the situation. Though those occurrences aren't earth-shattering, they are certainly annoying (probably to listeners, too.)

But last night's speech was very different. Incredibly, I was able to consistently pinpoint the correct word without affecting the flow of the talk. I felt like I was writing aloud.

It was lovely and somewhat surreal.

I can only attribute this new-found ability to focus to all the freelancing I've done over the past three years. Searching for the perfect way to phrase a sentence or make a point on paper or computer screen must have increased my capacity to do so while speaking, too.

Again, I know this isn't breaking news worthy of a press release. But it does deserve a big nod.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

When Objectivity Goes on Hiatus...

"Am I still any good at writing?"

It's a question I ask myself almost every day, longing for an answer but unconvinced that I'll ever truly know if what I'm composing is concise or appealing.

Part of the problem (though it's a good one to have) is the volume of work I've undertaken. If I'm not writing, I'm sleeping (or daydreaming about sleep.) Or I'm driving to the gym to work out (while thinking about writing.) Or I'm playing with my son (while thinking about writing.) Or I'm shopping for groceries (while thinking about writing.)

With all this focus on constantly creating fresh, relevant, and interesting copy, I've lost my objectivity. In fact, I sometimes look at sentences and articles I've written and wonder, "Is this even worth what I'm being paid?"

In my heart, I know I can write. And I know that my writing is still acceptable to 95% of the population (or at least 90%.) But the seeds of doubt are sprouting into weeds of destruction.

Quickly! Somebody throw me a trowel so I can dig 'em up before they take root!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Searching for the 25th Hour in the Day...

I love to read.

Not exactly shocking, right? After all, I'm a writer. Most writers love to read. Case closed.

But here's the problem: I almost never find time to read.

Oh, sure, I pick up the newspaper in the morning and plod through local, state, national, and international garbage that makes me angry, resentful, delighted, worried, or just plain sad. I also search online for job postings, so I guess that counts as "reading". Occasionally, I even allow myself the freedom to surf my favorite blogs for insights and/or laughs (check out CraigslistCurmudgeon for some funny tidbits.) And I can't forget to mention that my son and I love to share some of his youth-oriented books during our days and evenings.

But I don't read for fun anymore.

I'm almost ashamed to say that. But it's true.

Case in Point: I have a wonderful book sitting beside me at our dining room table (my writing desk most days), The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier. I want to read it with every fiber of my being. I want to get lost in its pages. I want to know Poitier the man, the actor, the husband, the father, the writer. I want inspiration.

Dammit, I just want to read a couple of sentences before passing out from exhaustion at the end of a long day!

(Phew. That was a lot to unload in a small space.)

Anyway, I'm wondering if any other authors share this dilemma? I find that I write copiously, but read little... and, ideally, I believe there should be a 50-50 balance to help me continue with my literary evolution.

For now, though, I'm hopelessly salivating at the very mention of the Pointier book that was a Mother's Day present and remains untouched. Maybe I'll read it for Father's Day...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Daily Dilemmas of a Writer

First, let me say that it's GOOD to write. It's GOOD to have clients. It's GOOD to make enough money to pay estimated taxes on a quarterly basis. (sort of...)

That being said, it's a bummer when you regularly encounter the daily dilemmas of writing-dom.

Take, for instance "The Never Ending Rewrite".

Scenario: You agree to create a unique 800-word document for a flat fee of $100. It's due in two weeks. You turn it in on time. The editor praises it, but does need a little more in some areas. You happily complete a rewrite. Now, the editor asks for even more. Skeptical, you add a bit here and there, certain this is your LAST rewrite. But wait! The editor AGAIN has changes...

This happens over and over to me, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps my writing isn't strong enough and the problem lies with me.

Or maybe the writing is decent, but I missed the point.

Or... and I think this is more likely in most cases... the editor wasn't quite sure what he/she wanted UNTIL he/she saw the completed article. At that point, the editor had a brainstorm and decided he/she wanted something different... and that it wasn't necessary to pay extra.

In any case, I know I could easily "tamp down" on such endless rewrites by adding a clause in all contracts and emails that I will only complete ONE rewrite and no more. But what if the editor legitimately has a problem and decides to ask for a second rewrite?

It's a conundrum, isn't it?

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Haiku

I'm not going to pontificate for long on this subject, but I just had to write it:


For some reason, this deceptively "simple" art form really gets me excited, and I'm planning on challenging myself to try some haiku of my own in the future.

If anyone has written haiku and wants to send it my way, go for it! I'd love to read what you've penned!

Until then...

Haikus Rock!