In complete opposition to an earlier post
A couple of years ago, my dad tossed out an arbitrary financial goal for me in terms of freelance income. I nailed it in 2013 when combining writing and editing. Just writing—as per my 1099s, which are now all in—I missed it by a handful of assignments (or a couple, depending on who is doing the imaginary assigning).
So, here you go, Internet: 2014 is the year I meet that goal on writing alone. Will I whisper past? Will I crush it? Stay tuned.
The thing I forget most often
Because I love my work—both writing and childcare—and because both of those things come relatively easily to me, I sometimes forget that they’re both actual work. And then I’m exhausted at the end of a day of work and can’t figure out why I don’t have the wherewithal to do more work. And then I get all up in my own gear, and I’m like, all you did today was hang out with a baby/kid and interview someone (which is really just more hanging out) and write a story (which you do with the television on), so WHY CAN’T YOU WRITE ANOTHER STORY?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! And then I assume that people are judging me for not being able to work 16 hours a day (even though sometimes I do, though really not all that often). Because all I can hear are the voices who assume that both writing and childcare aren’t actual jobs and just playtime. And while there are people—I’m looking at you, coffee-and-rainsticks—who accidentally validate me, I still feel the absolute pressure that my work not looking like other people’s work is the exact same thing as not working at all.
My crazy talented cousin Katie is having a magical experience in Italy right now. She’s setting up shop in a museum—easel, canvas, paints and all—during its closed day and painting the Renaissance masters, learning their techniques by going looking, looking, looking, and doing.
For years and years, since AP Nelson in high school, I’ve disassembled the “finished” works of a great many masterful writer. As a child, I copied books by type and by hand (because kids who are future writers are a weird lot). As an adult, I’ve typed long passages just to see what the words feel like under my hands.
Now, I know exactly nothing about painting—Renaissance or otherwise—but I like to imagine that a painting—especially original and within reach—is more like a marked manuscript than an endlessly recreated typeset publication. Writing is revision and while the published work feels beautiful against my fingertips, I wonder what it would be like to take pads and pens and write Mrs. Dalloway alongside Woolf. To have ideas and change my mind. To scratch in the better word choice.
If you copy a painting, do you copy the mistakes hidden in the oil crevices? Do you work so your own match that of the artist before you?
Remember that writing is to put love in the world, not to use against your friends. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
Having a prepping-to-take-over-the-world kind of night by updating my publications list and collecting PDFs for a digital portfolio. You know what? It’s been a pretty good couple of years. I could probably find a million people who have done a lot more, but let’s celebrate here instead.
My high school journalism teacher once taught me to get twice as much information as I think I’ll need and the story will write itself. I’ve been an ardent follower of that advice for fifteen years, but 7,300 words of interview notes for a 250-word story is probably a bit excessive.
Harriet looked at him with wonder. He was a writer. A real writer. What did he think? What was in his head? She forgot Sport altogether as she stared at Mr. Rocque. She couldn’t resist a question for the notebook. Would he answer something profound?
'What does it feel like to get paid for what you write?' What would he say? She waited breathlessly.
'It’s heaven, baby, sheer heaven.'
Amy Whipple’s Guide to Meeting Your Deadlines
1) Clean all the photos off your phone
2) Convince yourself that your audio interview files are nonexistent and/or inaudible
3) Panic until you get heartburn
4) Down a glass of water
5) Refresh Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Feedly
6) Stare at the notes you took during the interview
8) Mint is good for heartburn, right? Eat mint chocolate cookie ice cream.
9) Cry about how you’ll never be able to do this and the last twenty years of your life have been a series of terrible decisions that continually lead to moments exactly like this one
10) Write the stupid story already
11) Feel great and wonder what all the fuss was for. Immediately forget everything that just happened so it’s a complete surprise next week when it happens all over again
Things I Got in the Mail that Are Not a Check: A Freelanced Life
It’s hard to imagine why I don’t have a Pulitzer with notes like this.
I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning and been at work for the better part of the day/night since five (and there I remain) and all I want to do is funnel this VERY JAZZED WRITING ENERGY back at this story.
What I’m really saying I guess is that it’s going to be a long night, and I’m really sorry if you have to interact with me tomorrow.
You can learn a lot from this Laskas lady.
That thing where you check your word count half a dozen times without actually having written or deleted anything since the last time you checked.
One hundred years ago this month, Virginia Woolf turned 31. It would be another two years before she published her first novel, The Voyage Out. And another two after that before the founding of Hogarth Press.
Just a little New Year’s reminder to self—and others—when thinking about writers who accomplished most, if not all, of their work (and life) prior to turning 30. (I’m looking at you, Sylvia Plath.)