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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

And the winner is...

Mea culpa. Torainfor sent this in on-time, but I got bogged down by other things and didn't get it posted Sunday evening.
First things first: the chocolate chip cookies were to be delivered to my doorstep--not your stories. The only ones I received were handed to me by my rent-a-kid (only child of friends same age as my son). But she didn't write a story this week. Although she could have. She's not quite eight, but she's in fourth grade.

Funny how all three stories had dreams.

Oh, BTW, my fuzzy bunny slippers were yellow.

Lady Quill: Oh, I so want to pick this one! The story was so gripping. And you integrated the objects so smoothly. But then it ended. And I didn't get it.

Vidad: I'm sorry. I was unaware of the ability of a list of random things to completely randomize your plot process. If surrealism had been in the list of things looked for...yeah. Poor Bingo.

Al: How did you know my grandmother grew roses? Loved it. Wonderful. You win. Even though you didn't give me cookies.

Ergo, the winner of the 3/6/09 Friday Challenge is Al, although I still don't have Door #3 up and working, so you'll just have to hold that thought in mind for a few more days.

Some meditations on the First Rule...

Meanwhile, Henry is providing me with an excellent excuse to bring up this topic. While I've phrased it in many slightly different ways over the years, owing mostly to my both never formally codifying it and my rarely feeling like taking the time and trouble to look up the way I stated it the last time I cited it whenever I want to cite it again, I usually put it something like this:
The First Rule of Being A Professional Writer is:
Paying work on deadline always takes priority.

This, along with carpal tunnel syndrome, is an occupational hazard. Writers are always tempted to steal time from other projects and commitments in order to "just jot a few notes" about that really interesting idea for a story that occurred to them while they were commuting in to work this morning. As a result, they are forever looking up from their jottings to note with some surprise that it's already 10 o'clock, and they still haven't started doing what they're being paid to do today.

Don't try this at home, folks, and don't try it in school (some of my college lecture notes had the most amazing marginal notations), and especially, don't try this at work. This is one of those self-defeating behaviors that greatly contributes to the popular perception that writers are flakes, or at least always walking around with their heads in the clouds and never fully in the here and now. When you're a full-time professional writer, it's bad enough; as a creative person, the siren call of the project you haven't fully envisioned and started yet is always much stronger than the nagging obligation of the one you just have to finish and deliver.

But this temptation can be even more destructive for the aspiring writer, who's not working as a full-time writer but still trying to carve the time to write out of his or her life. Edgar Rice Burroughs may once have written that he became a bestselling novelist only because he'd been fired from every other job he'd ever had, and that may sound terribly romantic in some demented way, but as it was happening it must have worked a certain hardship on Mrs. Burroughs and the kids.

Which brings us in a roundabout way to the rarely stated Zero Rule, which remains rarely stated because I've never found a sufficiently pithy way to state it. The gist of it is that the writing life can be incredibly toxic to marriages and families—again, because the writer is never fully in the here and now, but always has some bit of his or her mind off somewhere else, and always has that itch to steal a little time to just jot a few notes.

All I can say to this is: resist the temptation. Whenever you make commitments to your family, keep them. In the long run, it's much better to have good relationships with your spouse and your children than to have an award-winning out-of-print book listed on your curriculum vitae. Trust me on this one.

Sorry for the inconvenience...

Just a minor editorial note here: sorry for the recent absence of content. I had Other Commitments that consumed most of my weekend and it didn't occur to me that Henry might be in the same position. I should have anticipated this possibility and had a column or two in reserve; if nothing else, I've got a pile of questions here from Leterren that need to be answered, and any one or two of them would make a good column. I promise to be more conscientious about this as we move forward. There are other slight adjustments I need to make in the way I'm running this show—

But there is not time to explain them now, so they'll have to be explained later.

Speaking of Opportunities...

Four interesting items have come in over the transom in the past few days, two of which I can talk about. The first is from Lady Quill:
Hey Bruce, when I was posting my Saturday update, it occurred to me that a writer's group is a good place to recruit writers. I'm the managing editor for Brighthub.com, Google Channel.. I know Friday Challenge is a fiction group, but I know there a few geeks in the mix and frankly I'm desperate for a couple of GOOD tech writers who will do their jobs and write quality articles. The pay is fairly low.. $10 per short article (300- 500 words), but they do pay on-time, and it looks good on a writing resume. Writers can write for more than one channel, so that helps increase potential income a bit.

My point?? May I post this to thefridaychallenge?

And.. along the technical writing lines.. I have need for a writer who can write short articles explaining various Google services on a more technical level. Currently, I have a lot of "how to" articles, but not much for the technically savvy. If you know JavaScript, all the better. It's a paying gig -- pay is not great, but it's regular and on time, and there is the potential to write for other channels, as well. Shoot me an email for details.

Know anyone who might be interested? Thanks!
The Lady then kindly provides her real name and phone number, but this being a public blog, I'll omit them. If you're interested in either of these writing gigs, post a note here or drop an email to Lady Quill.

The second comes in from old chum Mike Finley, who used to bill himself as America's Best-Loved Business Writer but lately is billing himself as America's Best-Loved Unemployed Business Writer:
As you may or may not know, I was one of over a million Americans to lose their jobs in the first three months of this year. I have been busy trying to get a new one, but as you can guess the pickings are pretty slim.

That being the case, I decided to start a new online column on the subject of getting laid off, and the psychological experiences we are all having, whether we are doing the laying or the one getting laid.

The column is available at this link: http://www.examiner.com/x-4930-Minneapolis-Unemployment-Examiner.

It's not the greatest deal in the world; in fact, it's a form of pyramid sales. The Examiner hires hundreds of writers like me in every city, sells the ads on the basis of Google search data, and isn't really that interested in doing journalism or creating a good experience for readers.

But I am, and this is one of the few offers that has come my way in the last three months. And the topic interests me (a lot), so I have written a few articles, and I am inviting you to take a look, or to refer the place to friends and colleagues who are out of work, or are afraid they may soon be..

Some of the juicier article titles:

Laid off: the 5 stages of grief
Have big banks apologized to the unemployed?
Perfecting your elevator speech while falling 17 stories
Chronicles of the unemployed: bizarre layoff stories

This email is my stab at viral marketing. If you click on one of my stories, or tell your friends about them, I will be most grateful. Also, if you know of anyone looking for a good writer/editor, put in a good word for me. Thanks.

So there you go, Mike; you have been plugged. Which no doubt is much better than being served.

Finally, since it is St. Patrick's Day...

I was going to relate a brief but highly amusing story involving copious quantities of green beer and one of the seedier punk-rock nightclubs I used to hang out in some thirty-plus years ago, but I'm out of time now. Paying work calls.

Have fun tonight, stay safe, and if you have to choose, stay safe.

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