you’re like me, you hate sitting idly while editors and/or agents
consider the merits of your latest work. And if you’re like me, you
troll the Internet in search of freelance-type writing jobs that’ll net
enough in spendable cash to keep the wolf from the door.
So you write a snazzy cover
letter to send out with your resume. You include your bio, clips of
published articles, or a list of your books’ ISBNs. Not just a handful,
mind you, but a big fat stack of stuff that nearly gets stuck in the
mouth of the mailbox.
And while you’re waiting for those
guys and gals to call and say, “Holy moley; the writing gods are
smiling on me, ’cuz you’re exactly what we’ve been looking for!” you
pace, stare out the window, and wonder where in heaven’s name that
confounded mailman is. You count the wood slats in the kitchen blinds.
Maybe even try your hand at math: If there are 127 dots on every
ceiling tile in your office, and there are 253 tiles, how many spots really
are before your eyes?
Then, finally, it happens. The
phone rings, and while you’re scribbling fast and furious to keep up
with the assignment Editor A is doling out, the mail truck rolls up. Lo
and behold, an acceptance in the mailbox, too. Elated, you call Editor
B to thank him for the assignment, and promise to get the story
in-house well before the deadline.
You get busy, instantly, setting
up interviews and researching the topics you’ll turn into full-blown
articles. And when you lay your weary head down that night, the last
thing on your mind is the manuscript that’s been idling on Editor C’s
Next day, you get two more
calls. And another “Hey, give us a jingle, we’d love to work with you”
letter arrives. By the time every i is dotted and
every t is crossed, there are five assignments on
your desk. You do some more math: If each article takes between eight
and ten hours, you’ve easily racked up fifty hours of work ahead of
you. Which wouldn’t be a problem . . . if the articles weren’t all due
in the same week. And wouldn’t ya know, that’s the same
week your college pal is coming to town, and your spouse scheduled
dinner with coworkers, and you promised to bake cupcakes for the White
Elephant sale at the volunteer fire company.
So why did you accept five
articles, anyway? Why not say yes to one or two, and beg off on the
I’ll tell you why. You took ’em
all because freelancing makes Tom Cruise’s risky business seem like a
walk in the park; if you’d said, “No can do,” the big fear is those
editors may move on to the next freelancer on their “whom to call” list
and cross you off, literally and figuratively. Maybe even permanently.
that really happen? Probably not. Editors aren’t stupid. They know a
hard-working schmo when they see one. And being among the non-stupid,
they also know that if you’re too busy to say yes this time, there can
be only one reason: Some other smart editor has snapped you up. But
it’s the “probably” that hangs us up, that hangs
us, if we’re not careful.
juggled a couple dozen
personal and professional balls in a week is something I’ve done far
more often than I care to admit. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve
established myself as a pro in
this wacky industry, that fiction and
nonfiction editors alike made it possible for me to make that claim. My
schizophrenic brain is convinced that saying no is . . . well, if not
career suicide, then certainly a pellet to the toe.
All-nighters? Survived hundreds
of ’em! (Flavored coffee beans really do the trick, and they contain
zero calories!) Is it worth it the dark circles even Maybelline can’t
hide as I drag myself to the store to grab the latest issue of Whatever
Magazine, so I can snip out my article and add it to my clip
book? Is it too high a price to pay to sorta, kinda nod off during the
drive to the bank to deposit my paycheck?
Yep. Uh-huh. You bet.
Do I say, “Never again!” each
time I file a story, then slam onto the mattress like a recently felled
tree? Yeah. I sure as shootin’ do. Do I promise to quit beating myself
up this way, to practice saying a firm but courteous no when editors
pile assignment atop assignment? Mmm-hmm, I most certainly do.
Do I turn right around and say
yes to the very next editor who calls on the heels of some other
editor? A-yup. Indeedie. I do.
Am I that insecure? Well, yeah .
. . and so is anybody who believes they’re only as good as their last
success. Actors, singers, comedians, artists . . . we all stared into
the beady eyes of the hideous “But what have you done lately”
monster. Doesn’t matter if others believe you’re sittin’ pretty, got it
made, reached the top. In your own head, the word NO rhymes with
They don’t call me a crazy
writer for nuttin’!