Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Would You Like Chips and a Drink?
I have recently embarked on a career as a freelance writer. It's a bit of a challenge at times, but for the most part I enjoy it. I certainly can't complain about getting paid to do something I've been doing for free for years.
There is, however, a certain soullessness to it. Normally I write for myself and about the things I want. Now I'm writing per someone else's specifications and instructions. I'm given a recipe of sorts with the basic elements included and told to write a story within certain guidelines and in a predetermined length of time.
It sounds like a piece of cake, right? It is a piece of cake. A sad premade store bought cake with a generic "Happy Birthday" scrawled on the top in purple icing.
Wow, thanks... Who's Tracee?
Again, I'm not complaining. This is part of the process of me getting to where I want to be. I want to make a living as a writer, but for now that means cranking out these little formula stories for peanuts. I'm building a reputation and a résumé to back it.
It's still a bit spirit-killing after a while. What I'm doing and what I want to do are about as far apart as a chef is from a Subway "sandwich artist." The chef makes the menu based on the ingredients he decides and gathers. The customer doesn't get to choose or substitute menu items. He eats what the chef prepares. And he likes it.
Oh, you're Vegan? Foie gras it is.
The sandwich artist on the other hand just stands behind the counter and waits while the customer chooses everything from the bread to which kind of cheese and which veggies and how much salt. It doesn't matter that the customer wants meatballs with American cheese and mayonnaise. It's his choice and the sandwich maker's responsibility to give him what he wants and take his money.
That's what I am right now, a literary sandwich artist. Clients tell me what they want and when they want it and it's my job to put all the ingredients together in a way that makes some sort of sense. I give them their product and they give me money. It isn't a bad line of work and it's a means to an end. I certainly don't want to do this forever, but I'll do my best while I'm working at it.
Who ordered the "Bad Boy Rock Star Romance" with extra cheese and a hefty sprinkling of *UST?
I'm still writing for pleasure too, although I haven't had much time to actually write or type anything out. There are lots of ideas floating around in my head, I just have to find a moment to work through them. I know it's important for me to nourish myself, and so I've still been reading and formulating ideas for my own work. And to be honest, freelancing is pretty good daily practice. It's something I have to do almost every day in order to meet my deadlines, and that means I exercise my writing skills every day. Not a bad habit for a writer.
I get a bit depressed sometimes because I have friends who are way ahead of me in the game. They're having books published and doing readings and signings and I'm making the literary equivalent of a Cold Cut Combo. I know I'll get there though. I've taken a huge step just by putting myself and my work out there. After years of hiding my scribbles in notebooks and in code-named computer documents, I have pieces out there in the world with my name on them. That's something I never considered possible. I'm learning that when I override my near-crippling fear of failure and take a chance I can do some pretty amazing things. Sure, right now it's turkey on white bread with chipotle sauce, but not forever. I won't always be the sandwich artist. Some day I'll be the chef, and that'll be suh-weet.
*UST- Unresolved Sexual Tension