Something about spring, the more agreeable weather and the additional daylight gets me back on the motivation train. The last few weeks have been marked by significant progress on the new novel, Mystery White Boy, and a couple of great events where people responded well to work both old and new.
It’s almost back to school time here in southeastern Pennsylvania, which means the kids will be terminating their summer brain dumps, rushing to catch up on assigned reading and trying to remember how to convert improper fractions to mixed numbers. That usually means time for the grownups to start getting their acts together, too.
I admit that I’ve slacked off this summer in a few areas – writing every day being one of the biggest. But where spring has always been the traditional time of renewal for nature, back to school time is, for kids and adults, typically the start of something fresh. It’s an opportunity to establish new routines and actually stick to them because so many other scheduled events depend on things running smoothly.
Yeah, this summer my word count for Novel #2 has fallen off, but I’ve also gotten the chance to do some things that will help make that book better even though I’ve spent a few weeks not actively banging away at it. One of those weeks was spent at our family’s own summer place, this one deviating from past years by switching the Outer Banks of North Carolina for Folly Beach, S.C.
New places equal new inspiration, so in lots of respects it was a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping it ends up as a salable travel story for the freelance writing side of my work, and there are always little details I can pick up from somewhere new to add into a story. Plus, as someone who sets his books in South Carolina but is based full time in Pennsylvania, it’s good to get back once in a while and get in touch with the people you’re writing about.
It’s also been good to go down some roads in my own reading that I don’t often travel. I tilted more toward the fantasy side of things with Fran Wilde’s Updraft and delved into the world of the Mafia – particularly as it relates to Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. – in Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses (look for an upcoming story on Charles and the forthcoming film version of his book in September’s Out & About magazine).
Novel #2 includes more of a criminal enterprise subplot, so it was great to read Brandt’s book and get a window into mob life beyond that provided in the Mafia film pantheon of The Godfather, Goodfellas, etc. And it’s always interesting to see what styles other writers adapt. Wilde’s is lean and tight, which keeps her sprawling, world-building tale to a reasonable and accessible length. While I’m not creating new universes out of whole cloth this time around, I’m trying to keep things leaner myself, so reading other writers who can do so is a bit like taking a master class in how it’s done.
So, here’s to parlaying my non-writing experiences and unassigned summer reading into some good, solid work on Novel #2 once everyone in the house gets back to their school year schedules. It might not be lounging on the beach or by the pool, but there will be plenty of that again next year.
With the new year, lots of folks cast their minds to a life change. For many, that change involves leaving the 9-to-5 working world and becoming a freelancer.
A while back, I was supervising my son at a birthday party for one of his elementary school classmates. The birthday boy’s father and I got to chatting about work, as dads often do in social situations, and he revealed that he was an engineer. He asked what I did, and I told him I was a freelance writer. When he probed for details, I shared my relatively flexible, work-from-home lifestyle as his eyes widened in awe.
“Oh, man! You’re living the dream!”
I demurred, as I often do when confronted with others’ disbelief, because I know in my heart that as good as freelancing sounds to people who don’t do it, it can have some pretty big ups and downs for those of us who make a living without being tethered to a single employer.
Sometimes I’m asked what the “secret” to a freelance career is. Truth: There is no secret. But there are a few commonsense steps you can take to prepare yourself if you’re seriously considering breaking free of the corporate cubical farm and going out on your own. Here, then, are my five things to do before you become a freelancer. Continue reading → 5 New Year Resolutions for the Aspiring Freelancer
Time and space are funny things. I know this sounds like a Dr. Who quote, but stay with me.
For example, It never seems to take as long returning from a distant destination than it does getting there in the first place. Get head down in work you love and it almost seems you can accomplish superhuman feats of productivity with baffling speed. Then again, pause to check Facebook for 10 minutes and you might find you’ve frittered away an hour without realizing it. Colors and perspective inside buildings can make rooms seem far larger or smaller than they actually are. Continue reading → Here’s to a Surreal Start to Your Week
Summers for the freelancing parent mean two things – more time enjoying the warm weather and time off from school with the kids, and more late nights working on all the assignments that normal people would be doing during the daylight hours. The result is some groggy mornings, particularly when the work to be completed wasn’t finished until 2 a.m.
Thankfully, there’s coffee (or carrot juice, if you prefer) and plenty to resume working on today. Because when there isn’t more work is the time to become worried.
In 1974, when this song came out, I was 6 years old, and yet I find that memories of it playing on AM radio still bubble up from way back then.
It was one of those songs that, in retrospect, should have told me that I would eventually become a huge fan of the source material the Raspberries tapped, which was really Rubber Soul– and Revolver-era Beatles.
It’s also a reminder, at least for me, not to do anything half-assed. Granted, that sort of going all the way isn’t exactly what the song is about (you can read about that in another posting), but it never hurts to have little musical cues throughout your playlist reminding you to take care of business … as in actual business, rather than the other kind of wink-wink, nudge-nudge business.
One benefit to having an “office” career that largely consisted of doing cool and unexpected things or meeting interesting people at any given moment – then writing about them – was that since I finished school I’ve only infrequently experienced the typical “Monday dread.”
You know – that Sunday evening feeling where it’s impossible to enjoy anything later than 4 p.m. because you’re already feeling the crushing weight of week’s first work day bearing down on you like a ravenous warthog. It’s like the tick-tick-tick of the 60 Minutes stopwatch is there to remind you of just how little of the weekend you have left. Continue reading → It’s Monday! Shout Geronimo and Leap Into the Void
This is how you should be celebrating today, the 50th anniversary of what we today call the office cubicle.
I’m sure the guy who invented this now ubiquitous bit of office furniture never dreamed it would engender such deep and abiding hatred. Instead he probably thought he was doing something good for the workplace, like helping offices maximize their usable space and encouraging collaboration between co-workers.
Freelancing is a constant hustle for the new gig to both pad the revenue stream and have something to fill in the blanks should an existing client decide to bail or inexplicably run out of work for you.
I spent the last couple of days not feeling so well, so trying to gin up new work was about the only thing I was good for. And in doing so, I was reminded that people really have no concept of the fact that “artists” (a category that working freelance writers unfortunately fall under) are actually trained professionals deserving of pay on par with their similarly trained and experienced – but non-artistic – peers. Continue reading → After a Week Under the Weather, an Unrelated Complaint