Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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With great power…

Here we are, one month into my new and exciting life as a freelance writer. It’s still amazing, and most days I still feel like I don’t deserve this kind of opportunity. It’s not that I don’t have any confidence in my writing, hell, if anything putting myself out there more has increased my confidence. It’s really just that as I put more work out into the interwebs I start to wonder about the type of work I’m making. This opens up all sorts of scary self-critical thoughts.

See, right now I have maybe three steady gigs. None of which pay much on their own, but between the three of them I make just enough to cover my health insurance so that me working from home isn’t a financial burden on my family. I get to pick my own topics, mostly, which is great, but there is more potential in writing a certain way.

One of the places I write for pays based on shared ad revenue. For those uninitiated that means that the more people click on and read your piece the more you take home at the end of the month. Here’s my conflict, do I write stuffy, but impartial journalism, or do I go overboard on editorializing to drag in readers?

At first I scoffed at the idea of using potentially libelous headlines, but as the editors modified mine and I got more hits as a result I saw the value. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable and I try to pick topics that won’t generate as much anger from the comments, so the ones that don’t do as well.

This got me to thinking, I’ve spent all this time wanting to be a writer, but now I finally have to figure out what sort of writer I want to be. It’s tempting to take the moral high-ground, but even though the husband keeps us fed and sheltered I don’t want to leave him solely responsible for our income indefinitely. I want to be successful, but I’m not sure what I think that looks like just yet.

One of the nice things about working for yourself is that you can restructure your job on the fly. Every week so far I’ve tried a slightly different approach to my craft. Shifted my focus from one outlet to another to see how much of a difference it would make to my overall take-home. Now, I’m feeling unsatisfied with fighting over ad clicks to make a buck when I could be doing more to hone my craft.

Ultimately, I need to figure out what my overall goal with this job. Do I want to be a jack-of-all-trades freelance blogger who’s work is scattered into the digital wind. Writing bits and pieces here and there just to make budget each month? Maybe I should just go off the deep end and embrace the new wave of salacious reporting that drives ad numbers. Do I want to make my mark as an author? Write actual books and have some sort of legacy?

Truth be told none of these options would be wrong. I might harp on the current mainstream media for deviating from what I was taught journalism was, but they are a product of their audience and I can hardly fault them for that.

Maybe my answer lays someone in the middle. I guess I don’t really know yet, but for now I’m planning to just take it one week at a time. Each morning I’ll refocus my efforts on the direction I’m trying out and most importantly, I’ll keep writing.

 

Image used under Creative Commons

writingonbed

I am officially a freelance writer now! Cue parades, confetti, and, oh hell I don’t know, champagne? Look, I’ll work out the grown-up celebratory obligations later, for now, I’m just happy to be here. You might be wondering what ‘here’ looks like, and only three days in, so am I.

I’ve been struggling for years to figure out what I wanted out of life and how to get it. For a while things got pretty dark and scary, mental health is a real issue, don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Eventually, my husband wondered if I wouldn’t be happier making money from writing. My knee-jerk reaction was, well duh, of course I would, but we live in the real world and need things like shoes for the kid, dog food, and electricity. Then we really sat down and started hashing out the details of what exactly it would take for me to be able to work from home. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope.

I spent the next few weeks looking for places that would be willing to pay me to sling words at them. I had a few close calls where I thought I was onto something, but ultimately I was only able to pull in one steady commitment. I’d like to say there was some sort of divine inspiration that hit at this point, but really I just wanted out of the life I was finding myself trapped in. So I gave my two weeks notice and started looking for more freelance gigs.

Two weeks passed and now I work from home. I get up with the husband and kiddo everyday as usual, but when they leave I retreat to the office and spend the day writing, or reading about writing, or emailing people about maybe paying me to do writing. This new life is everything I wanted, and nothing like I expected, all rolled together.

shufflecards

Lose this hand and I have to pawn the dog.

I’m spending more time with my son again. Can’t afford to send him to daycare if I’m not doing “real” work, so after school he comes right home. Throwing caution to the wind I went ahead and volunteered to help coach his soccer teams (yeah, teams plural). Soccer is kinda my lifeline with the outside world at this point. Don’t want to give in to my hermit tendencies too much.

The hardest part of working from home? Convincing myself that it counts as work. It doesn’t help that I’m just starting out and not really bringing in the big (or even small) bucks as of yet. It’s stressful to feel like the race started without you and now you’re playing catch-up.  These things take time, and speaking of time, learning how to best utilize yours once you have only yourself to answer to is disorienting. Suddenly, I have the option to do everything or nothing, all within the same day. It’s motivating and overwhelming all at once, but honestly, there is a part of me that loves it.

 

For the first time I feel like I’m getting a peek at my most authentic self. The one who is free to be creative and unconventional. I can finally follow a dream and see where it takes me. It’s scary to have so many opportunities open all at once and know that if I fail now I have only myself to blame, but there is freedom in being able to fail. Having the choice to get up in the morning and do something that matters, if only to me, feels amazing.

Maybe a few months from now I’ll be back to trying to find a “regular” job that pays me to do ordinary work, but at least for now, I get to try to really be me, and damn, I’m lucky to even get that chance.

Photo Credit: JosephGilbert.org via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: JosephGilbert.org via Compfight cc

The words won’t come. I try to coax them out into the open. Sweet sing-songy platitudes call them forward, but they remain just beyond my sight. I know they are there somewhere, but the miasma has engulfed them. Frustrated I call louder, more urgent, insistent. Still the words won’t come.

I give up the pretense of being calm or rational and slam my fist as I demand they answer me. I know they are out there and now I can feel them laughing and mocking my building rage. I feel them, but I cannot hear them, they won’t even give me that much.

So many times they have lead me by the hand, feeding me reassurances that I possessed a measure of talent. They enticed me with visions of worlds yet explored and tales unconquered. How could I have not been made to think this was what I was called to do? My whole life believing, with a sense of entitlement, that these words belonged to me and me alone. Knowing that one day I would hold them close and they would tell me all of their secrets. I would wield them like a well sharpened sword and cleave a path to my destiny. Only now, they refuse and I can see my path crumbling like over-baked clay. The more I struggle to collect them the less substance they hold. Soon they will blow away and I’ll be left alone.

I thrust my hands into the darkness and flail helplessly trying to find some small purchase to take hold of. I almost think I’ve got something, but I’m overeager and loose my grip before I can even begin to reel it out into the light. I feel the anger rise up in my throat like bile and I spit it out into the air around me letting it fill the room like a heavy fog. With no vent to escape the dense clouds instead double back on me causing my eyes to tear up as my self inflicted hatred wounds every exposed part of me.

It is in these times I know the terrible truth of myself. My fraudulent nature, my unfulfilled desire to be more than I am. I know and I mourn the things I can never allow myself to want because in these moments I know I do not deserve them.

The cursor blinks on the empty screen, still waiting for me to begin. The words won’t come.

in-the-beginning-logo

It’s that time of the year once again, when we finally stop a minute to take stock of our lives and realize we want to do so much more than we have been. A lot of people seem to scoff at New Year’s resolutions, claiming they are doomed to fail because there is nothing magic about a new year that will make salad and gym visits any more appealing then they were last year. I get that, but at the same time, it’s just nice to feel like you can push all the disappointments and setbacks from the previous year aside and tell yourself, okay, this time I’m gonna do this right.

So maybe that’s what I’m doing here. I had a small handful of goals or ideas which I wanted to pursue this year. I tried to keep them attainable, without being so vague as to make them meaningless. Firstly, I wanted to write more. I’m always saying I need to stop “being a writer” and just actually write something. Tada! Here I am. To help facilitate this a bit more I’ve signed up for a Blogging 101 Course over at The Daily Post. My first assignment? This post here, introducing myself, or rather reintroducing the purpose behind this blog. As for my great and glorious purpose, well let’s come back to that in a minute.

In addition to setting myself up with two nights per week devoted entirely to writerly pursuits, I’ve also decided to spend the following two nights working on my mad crafting skills. Yeah that’s right, I used to have a handmade toy business, but it was a tough uphill battle with all the new regulations coming in after all the lead scares. Plus, most of my favorite things to make were custom pieces for grownup collectors. I’ve been kicking around the idea of slowly building up a new business, but this time with a clear focus on nerdy, geeky, fandom loving custom works. Everything I love to make, from plushies to clay figurines. I missed crafting, this feels like seeing an old friend again. Like, an actual friend you liked, not the ones you put up with because your parents made you.

Aside from these two main goals I am of course doing the ‘yay fitness’ kick again. I’ve opted away from the boring “try to lose weight” plan and instead I’m focusing on actually doing cool fit person things. Last year I managed to run three 5k’s. This year I’m already planning my first 10k and want to add at least one more race than last year. If you’ve read around my blog in the past you know I am not a fit person by any means. When I say I ran a 5K I really mean that I managed to plod along without dying while making vaguely running like motions with my legs and arms, occasionally at the appropriate intervals. I’m not fast. I will never be fast, but I will finish and I will sign up for another race. I gotta represent my pudgy brethren.

Since I can only feign so much optimism about doing something I’m terrible at and don’t enjoy much I’m also taking up archery so I can be a badass. Just got my recurve bow in today, as such I am a fresh beginner in unmarked territory. Should be interesting to see if I shoot my eye out.

There you have it, all the things I’m starting to make myself the best version of me I can be. That’s pretty much what I think this blog is about this year. If you have any interest I’d love to have you along for the ride.

new-years-resolution-list

I get why people turn up their noses at the idea of trying to start fresh each year. You don’t really get a blank slate, all your baggage and stress is still there on January 1st, ready to ride into the year with you.  I get their point, but I still think they are wrong.

It’s not about having to start over every year, it’s about letting yourself have a new beginning. Remember that great and glorious purpose I mentioned earlier? The point behind this blog? Just making a little place where I can go to remind myself that falling short or failing isn’t the end, as long  as I begin again.

(Too hokey?  No worries, I have all year to work on it.)

Read and loved this. Tells you what to consider when you strip down your writing to it’s very heart.

Sandra Chmara Editing & Writing

Want to kill your chances of a writing career? Write inauthentically. Write generic dreck that anyone in the literate world could duplicate. Draw from a shallow pool teeming with small ideas. You may think that really memorable stories are pulled from the air, the same air you breathe, but they aren’t. They come from the very core of a writer’s being. Do yours?

So what’s the difference between writing stories and putting in writing the stories you were born to tell?

And remember, you are not trying to compete with Tolstoi or Tom Clancy. Your greatest competition comes from you – yesterday, ten years ago, or a minute ago. You are the bar you must surpass. Every day.

Here’s a way to find out what you already have inside you. Don’t worry about all the stories you ever want to write. Scrap everything you’ve already written. Just think…

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2013 Mardi Gras: Krewe of Mid-City Mardi Gras parade

Don’t go quietly into the brass section. Fight!

The husband and I have always enjoyed many varied interests. While gaming seems to get the most attention the truth is that we are both creative types at heart. He loves music, photography, and all manner of woodworking. I like to make characters out of different mediums and dabble in drawing. We keep busy and up until now I’ve never seen a downside to having multiple talents to draw from. Until I learned about flugelhorning.

Context; I was talking to a co-worker the other day. She was a bit distraught that she was being passed from department to department since she was capable of helping in multiple places, while other people who only had one particular skill set got to stay put and focus on their primary job. She told me it reminded her of being in band and volunteering to learn the flugelhorn. She said that she basically got stuck always doing the flugelhorn parts since everyone else had the good sense to just stick to the trumpet.

This story set off flashing lights in my brain, a sure sign that I was about to have an epiphany of sorts (“epiphany” “epilepsy”, you get the idea). See, until now I had always considered my ability to take on multiple tasks to be an asset. In all the jobs I’ve had I’d always though it useful to know, not only my duties, but also how to perform the tasks of others so I could always be counted on to jump in and help out in a pinch.  Now I realized that I had flugelhorned myself.

Now, the linguists in the audience are probably throwing up their hands in frustration by what they incorrectly perceive as me  trying to make unnecessary words a part of the common vernacular. Why not just use “shoehorned”? Doesn’t that mean relatively the same as what I’m trying to say? Not at all, and here’s why;

shoe·horn  (sho̅o̅′hôrn′) – To squeeze into or as if into an insufficient space,to force into a limited or tight space.

When you shoehorn something you force it into someplace where it doesn’t quite fit. In a work place example this would be like taking the company accountant and putting him in charge of counting widgets because he’s good at math. Great, your widget count is going to be spot on for the next inventory, but that guy is going to notice at some point that he could be doing real math elsewhere. Nobody aspires to be a widget counter.

Conversely, flugelhorning someone is just as limiting, but far more deceptive. Let’s take our accountant and put him back in charge of accounts receivable and payable or whatever the hell it is accountants do with their fancy adding machines. Okay, good he’s doing accounting and he’s content. You know what? I bet he’d be good at doing the ordering for the company too, since he’s so good with the numbers and all. Excellent, now if only we had someone who could make sales calls. Hey, why not the accountant, he already knows what supplies we have in stock since he’s doing the ordering. How difficult would it be to have him selling as well? Eventually this poor bastard is doing the work of seven different people.

Woman-Wearing-Many-Hats

Dude, WTF?

 

Perhaps his company isn’t run by total jerks and they give him a little additional monetary incentive to now throw himself off a bridge. They are still saving loads of money on all the employees they don’t have to hire to help out. Meanwhile, our jack of all trades feels like he’s starting to get somewhere in the company since he’s wearing all the hats that have been flung his way. Eventually he works up the nerve to ask for a promotion, only to be told that that isn’t possible at the moment because they’d need to find 2-3 new employees to pick up the slack if he were to move to another position. Here he thought he was making himself more useful only to find out that he had flugelhorned himself into doing everything for relatively the same amount of pay as if he’d just done ‘only’ his job really well from the get-go.

So now that you are aware of the flugelhorning epidemic, how do you make yourself immune? By specializing your talents. Here’s the thing, people who do one very specific thing extremely well are rare and usually well paid. Anybody can have passable photoshop abilities, but someone who is actually talented at the program can charge a premium for their skills. In the same vein, doctors might expect to make some cash, but not as much as specialists in a particular medical field. This is why a neurosurgeon makes more than a general practitioner, specialization.

The more specialized and unique your skill set the more you can charge for it. If you can build scale replicas of famous cities that is awesome, if you can do it using grains of rice and unicorn tears, well guess which one is more valuable? The trick is to figure out what it is that you want to be most excellent at and focus on that like a man possessed. Then find the tiniest subset of that category and cater exclusively to that niche.

To be honest I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to follow my own advice here. I can absolutely get behind the idea that being flugelhorned is a real thing and if anyone would like to go ahead and send word to the Webster’s people about this, it would be most appreciated. Trouble is, the reason I have many hobbies and skills is because I like doing lots of different things. Still, at least insofar as my future career prospects are concerned, it might be time to figure out where my best abilities lie and throw everything I have behind them in the smallest niche possible.

Feline flugelhorning is still a viable option

Feline flugelhorning is still a viable option

 

typing

Back when I was a kid there was a TV show called, Doogie Howser M.D. For those of you young enough to have been spared this time in history it’s basically the story of how Barney from, How I Met Your Mother, was a kid doctor. He spent his days learning about life, love, and horrible diseases. At the end of every episode, Doogie would sit down at his trusty computer (with super hot DOS interface) and write up his thoughts about the day. Doogie made keeping a diary cool, even before the advent of the internet.

Seriously, daaaww

Seriously, daaaww

I bring this up only because I’ve come to the realization that this blog has basically become my own little (not at all) private journal. As such occasionally you guys are gonna be on the receiving end of me rambling inanely as I try to make sense of things. Apologies in advance, but if I just sat around talking to myself all day my family would have to have me committed. This is by far the cheaper option.

Currently I’m wrestling with the problem of finding fulfillment. See husband and I have both been feeling a bit unmotivated at our jobs as of late. This happens to everyone, you wake up one day, look around, and shudder in horror at the sheer mundaneness of your life. When we are children we dream of being artists and astronauts, then we grow up and sell office supplies and answer phones. It’s a depressing thing to realize that the life you always dreamed of having somehow got lost along the way to growing up and being able to pay your mortgage. The question I’m battling with now is whether to just come to terms with this or fight back.

There are countless inspirational quotes flooding the world about the importance of never giving up, of finding something that makes you happy and doing it for the rest of your life. These are warm, fuzzy thoughts, but how realistic is it to expect to find happiness while you are bogged down with a life of responsibilities? Husband secretly dreams of making a living with his woodworking. He’s very talented (seriously, check out the blog he just started), but he knows it’s just not feasible for our family for him to just up and quit his job and hope for the best. I wish I could tell him to just go for it, that we’d find a way to make it work, but since he’s the one who keeps up with our finances he knows better than to believe me.

I come here and lament to you guys about how I want to make a living with my writing, possibly doing some awesome nerd crafting on the side (seriously, I make damn cute things), but what are the odds of that ever actually happening for me? Probably far less if I’m so worried about failing that I can never beat back my own self-doubt long enough to try.

The thing is, I want us both to have the chance to do the things we love. We only get one shot at life (unless you’ve got an awesome religion that grants additional shots) so it’s only fair that we go all in and do whatever it takes to make it worthwhile.

We had tried a business once before, back while I was a stay-at-home mom. After two years we called it quits. It wasn’t really a failure, we did learn a lot during that time. I think given the chance we’d be able to skip most of the missteps we made the first time around. Now we’re both dreaming of trying something new and it’s daunting and scary which is the main reason I think we might actually be onto something. Great things don’t just come from accepting the status-quo. Mediocrity and safety don’t yield amazing results.

Sometimes I think I’ve been mislead and my occasional bouts of idealism are entirely unfounded. As children we are all taught that each one of us is a special little snowflake, capable of achieving anything our little hearts set out to do. As we grow up we find out that many doors were never open to us at all and most people don’t give even a token fuck for our happiness.

two roads

This is the crossroads I find myself at now. Looking down the road I’ve been traveling and wondering if I should just keep going to the end because I’ve already gone so far, I’m too old and tired, most importantly I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going. Hell, the other road could be a dead end for all I know. Yet still, I look back over my shoulder at where another road branches off from this one and I can’t help but wonder if I should double back and try again.