Monday, June 25, 2007


This weekend, I helped my daughter and grandson move across the country. That's where I am for the rest of the week. As soon as I get home, I help my son move to college. It is a rather busy, trying time in my life.

I do have a number of writing things I want to discuss in the upcoming days. I'm involved with a query challenge that is to encourage marketing and generating new work. I need it. A thought that has been on my mind a lot lately is when to cut ties with a long-time client. And so on.

Right now, my internal work clock is really messed up. My computer tells me it is 5:30 pm. But my watch says 2:30. I know I have plenty of work time left in this day -- not much else to do here but work right now -- but I'm having trouble concentrating. Right now, I'm alone in the apartment, listening to the planes overhead, so loud you can barely hear yourself think, rocking the baby in his car seat with my foot. I want to nap because I'm tired. Maybe I'll make more coffee.

I plan to get caught up with my blog reading soon. I miss you all.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


My lap top died on Monday. It was a very sad day. We'd been through so much over the past 4 years, lap top and me. I bought it with the money I made freelancing, and I was so proud that I was making enough money with my side work to splurge on my own computer. When I moved to freelancing full time, lap top was right there with me, separating my work from my family computer. I had the freedom to work on the back porch, to sit on the couch, or to work from anywhere. When I got my office situated, it sat proudly on my desk.

We were comfortable together. I knew its quirks. I knew how to coax it into doing things it didn't want to do.

But it was getting slower. I didn't have the patience to wait for it at times and I'd get frustrated. Then the new desk top came to live in my office. It was shiny and new and fast and fun. It got the prime spot in my work space. Lap top was pushed to the side, still used every day, but it became secondary to my work life. We'd still have our evening rendevous but that was short and sweet, an hour maybe, until the battery gave out.

On Sunday I got a web cam. I wanted the lap top to handle it, but it refused. Said I didn't have the right stuff. I put it on the desk top. Worked perfectly. On Monday, I tried to make the lap top compatible with the camera. But I pushed too hard. The hard drive began to sputter and a few minutes later, it was dead.

I rushed it to the Geek ER, but the Geek Squad said, no it was dead. It would cost hundreds of dollars to revive it long enough to restore its brain function. Was the life support worth it for personal email addresses and my accounting spread sheet? Everything else of major importance had been saved recently.

The husband has a computer guy who said he'll give it a shot at one last gasp of revival. A chance for me to say good bye. But I know the time has come to move on. A new lap top arrived yesterday to take its place. Faster than the desk top. Newest software. I fell in love. But I learned. I'm not making it my true love. I'm not risking making the desk top cranky. Hell, desk top has already sputtered at me this morning, something it has never done before. Like I said, I learned. I know how fickle the hard drives of computers are, especially when competition arrives.

I backed up everything on the desk top.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jump Start

Where has the morning gone? I actually was up a half hour earlier than usual, but it seems like nothing has been done today. Oh wait, I have done nothing today, except send an invoice and send a panic email to an editor of mine. This article I'm working on has turned into the article from hell. I wonder if I'll ever get another assignment. Sigh.

Freelance writers are nothing if not paranoid about every little wrong thing that happens.

I really expected to have reached today with nothing on my calendar for the next two weeks. That sure as hell hasn't happened. But everything has to be cleared off by Thursday. Which means I need to get to work.

I plan to have one article written by 5:30 today. Anyone want to keep me accountable?

Friday, June 15, 2007

All By Myself

I wanna be . . . all by myself . . .

Okay a little variation on the song, but I'm thrilled because I finally have a day with an empty house. Since the daughter moved home, my alone time has been an odd hour or so here and there. After the baby was born and the daughter was forbidden to drive for a week, she went nowhere. Then school ended for the son, and he's been home a lot. And of course, the husband took a week off. If I wanted any breathing room or working room, I had to lock myself in my office. That gets a little claustrophobic.

But today. Oh blessed today! The daughter, the husband, and the baby are out of town, cleaning the daughter's apartment and taking care of final business at her old place. I was supposed to go along but was asked to stay here because there was a possibilty the transport people would arrive to get the daughter's car. (They called to say they would be arriving today, too, so good thing I'm here) The son is working 11-4.

So it's me and the dog. She's returned to her familiar spot next to my desk chair. I'm enjoying the quiet outside my office door. No tv blaring. No cell phone ringing or text message alerts buzzing. No one popping in my office to say "Sorry for interrupting, but . . ." I love my family but I'm the type of person who needs alone time. I think that's why I was always stressed working in an office. After a couple of hours, being around people all day made me uncomfortable. I can't even begin to describe the way I feel right now, but it's like I'm bathing in emptiness. It's wonderful.

Of course, I've done little work. I don't usually start writing until 2 or so. I don't write well early in the day, especially after being up all night with the baby. But I did send out a letter of introduction and did a few writing related things. Working was another reason I was left behind today. They all figured I had work to do. And I do. And I will. I just want to bask in the aloneness for a bit longer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This and That

Yesterday I turned down an assignment from one of my regular editors. It was a rush assignment -- she wanted it today -- and I had another project on my desk that had to be finished yesterday. It killed me to do it because the money is always good and in general the work is easy. But realistically, I didn't have the time. It's the first I've turned down an assignment like this. Turning down money is painful.

On Monday while I was trying to concentrate, the house phone rang. It was for me. A voice began speaking to me. It took a moment, but just a moment, to realize it was a person from my past. She never said who it was; she just assumed I knew. I did. Part of me wanted to ask her a million questions and part of me wanted her to go away. I was rattled for the rest of the day. Actually, I'm still a little rattled.

I finished a big assignment yesterday. There is still work on my plate but not nearly as stressful or time consuming.

This afternoon I'm going to watch baseball while I work. It's a wonderful benefit of freelancing. Only bad thing is I'll be working in my living room, not at the ball park.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No Talent? No Problem.

On one of my email lists, someone mentioned not having enough talent to pursue larger markets. Talent is one of those words that sets me on edge because too many people look at it as the be all end all. Talent is nice to have because it allows to do things that normal people can't do. But talent only takes you so far in life. More important is drive, ambition, practice, hard work -- you get the picture.

People say I have writing talent. I don't know if that's true or not. What I do know is the writing part comes very easy to me and I can punch out a pretty good first draft on the first go round. Editors seem to like the work I produce. But I know a lot of successful article writers -- and even some fiction writers -- who have minimal writing talent but are high on the qualities that make a good writer.

To those thinking about writing as a business venture, rather than worry on whether or not you are a good enough writer, I have a few hints on how to make yourself a better writing businessperson.

-- improve your interview skills
-- learn to organize your notes
-- focus your marketing to one or two specific genres (for the record:
parenting and women's topics are the most popular writing genres and hence have the most competition)
-- there thousands of publications out there so look beyond the 10 magazines at the grocers check out rack
-- if you want to be a professional, approach the business professionally.
-- don't take rejections personally
-- ask for help. I have goal buddies and I used to have critique buddies. When I first started out, I worried that everything I wrote was awful and would get rejected. I think that happened once, and it wasn't bad writing (I later sold the article elsewhere) but mixed signals between me and the editor.
-- don't be afraid to fail. We all make mistakes and we all worry about offending editors or doing something stupid. It's rarely as bad as it seems.
-- talent is nice but will only take you so far. To paraphrase Ben Franklin (I think): Good writing is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Manic Monday

I've been up for an hour and everything is out of whack. It doesn't bode well for the day or week.

-- One of my work email accounts is down (yes, I have two -- long story).
-- There are no messages anywhere from someone in regards to an interview I need to set up.
-- Our last guest from the weekend festivities is still here. My son won't get out of bed and the other members of the family aren't home at the moment. I'm the only one who has to work today and yet I'm supposed to be entertaining her, too. (But I'm in here writing because I'm not a morning person, and entertaining people before I have coffee is too much for me.)
-- Friday's power outage messed up a few of the electronic gizmos in my office. Not my computers thankfully.
-- And my email is still down.

It seems like there is so much swirling about right now. There are days when I feel nervous about my career. This is one of them. I'm having trouble finding interview subjects for a big article that was due today, but I was given an extension, in part because of the trouble finding sources. It's an elite group I'm looking for: Hispanics who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering since 2004. I need 8. I have 6.

My editing project due last Wednesday is still on my desk, only 1/3 done, largely because of all the work that got shuffled from Friday the 1st to the week of the 4th. Friday evening we had a major storm and a huge power outage. Our guests who were staying in hotels had power so didn't come to visit, which meant that maybe I could have done a bunch of editing except we had no power (luckily it all came on before our festivities the next day). And now I have another.

I have 3 articles without deadlines that I hoped to have done in April still sitting on my desk to write, interviews done, and 2 without deadlines waiting to be researched. This is the problem of not giving me deadlines. Deadline material comes first.

Ah, but may it is looking up. The family has come home. I got an email on that cranky account. And the coffee is starting to kick in.

Friday, June 8, 2007


One thing I miss about having a "real" job is vacation time. The other thing I miss is the ability to leave work behind and possibly have someone else help me out if I need to finish something.

I have a home office. It sits in the far corner of my house, usually away from any action. But yesterday was nuts. My son graduates high school tomorrow, so we're expecting a house full of company starting later today. So my husband took off work to help prepare for that, since he has to be out of town today. Every five minutes he was popping his head in my office, to tell me this, that or the other thing, or bring me the baby.

My daughter is here, with that precious baby. How can I refuse saying yes to holding him or watching him when I'll have him for only a few more weeks before he moves 3000 miles away.

The son had friends spend the night and more showed up during the day. My office is next to his bedroom, so there was a parade of teenage boys going in and out of that room.

And all the while, I had a backlog of work, trying to get caught up from everything I missed on Friday and over the weekend, doing that on top of what I already had scheduled for this week. Yesterday was packed full of work and I got little done. I ended up writing an article due today at 1 am. I planned to write it yesterday afternoon. The editing project I wanted done on Wednesday -- not even close. Every time I got settled, someone in this very full house decided I was needed.

I planned to take a vacation day today. The work due today was meant to be done by the time I went to bed yesterday. Yet here I am, at my computer.

The bottom line, if I don't do the work, I don't get paid. There's no back up to support me. There is no money coming from a bank of vacation days. If I have something else planned on the day of a deadline, I have to get it done early. I guess that would be my vacation pay, huh?

I'm not complaining about it. It is one of the trade offs for all the other wonderful things about writing life. The trick is figuring out how to make my family understand that when my office door is shut, I'm working. And when I get behind, it makes my life a little more stressful.

When my coffee cup is empty, I'll be off to "enjoy" my vacation day of housecleaning and preparing for tomorrow's party. If I can finish cleaning by 2 or 3, I'll sneak into my office for a bit to work on my vacation day. It's the only way I get paid for today.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Finding Time to Write

I feel like I have no time to write anymore.

That might sound odd, considering writing is what I do for a living and in the next couple of hours, I'll be banging out an article.

But a friend asked me the other day, have I written any essays lately. I haven't written an essay in over a year. They are in my head. I think I've started one or two, but then work steps in and the essays get pushed aside.

As I'm still getting my feet wet in this career, I still take a few jobs that pay okay but not great. I put in more leg work than I'd like, sometimes. It isn't the writing that wears me out. It's the leg work. All the interviews. The research. The phone calls.

And then there is the marketing.

All part of the job. I'm not complaining mind you, because I love what I do and if I can help it, I'll never return to the grind of an office or a boss. But there are days when I don't get to write at all, let alone write for fun or write to experiment.

I'd love to learn how other writers balance that time -- writing books, writing essays, researching good query letters that aren't part of their deadlines.

This week was a good week for writing actually. I didn't feel rushed, even though I was. The words fell from my brain to the page. Every day I invoiced something, each invoice one that would lead to the elusive six figure income (elusive for me yet anyway) if I wrote like this every day. And it still left me time for interviews and, if I really wanted, to write some other things for fun.

I need to have more weeks like this.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Don't Be Afraid of Your Editors

Coming from an academic environment -- I worked at a university for over 15 years -- I got used to a rigid, unbending hierarchy. Professors could be okay, but once you got to the department heads and higher, your place was defined in the sand. I worked in departments where there was no rule bending for any reason and administrative people wanted you to have some fear in them. Deadlines were set in stone. Miss them and you had to deal with the wrath of angry faculty -- nevermind your work sat on their desks for ages and got lost and they in turn blamed you for missing their deadlines. (Disclaimer: not everybody works this way, of course, but I sure did see it a lot.)

Now I work for myself and I have a lot of freedom to set my own rules. But I still have to answer to editors and deadlines. I'm good about making my deadlines, mostly because I believe that's my job, but also because of my work background.

I was in the middle of a deadline when my daughter thought she was in labor. My husband drove her to the hospital while I tried to write. It was too difficult for me to concentrate on anything. They came home a few hours later and I regained my composure and finished.

However, my writer friends told me to contact my editors and tell them what was going on. Editors understand. Editors build into their schedule for such emergencies. You won't lose any jobs.

So I did email the editor of the above deadline and explained why this article was coming a little later than planned. The next day, I got another assignment.

When the real labor started, I had 3 deadlines that day. The articles were either partly written and needed to be typed up or I had just gotten the interviews finished the day before. Writing them wouldn't have been an issue. At 5 am, I was on email, explaining that nothing would get done this day. Maybe over the weekend. I'd try.

Hours and a new grandbaby later, I came home to find emails from my editors, totally understanding and telling me to concentrate on my family first.

Today I'm getting caught up. I finished article #1 yesterday and sent it off in the midst of the other stuff I already had on my calendar. I'll finish articles #2 and #3 this afternoon.

I learned a valuable lesson. Editors are people, too, and they do understand that sometimes life gets in the way. Better to tell them as soon as you know something in your life has gone differently than planned so they can work with you.