Deadlines and what it means to be Freelance

The other day, I visited my friendly local Starbucks.  Only because I was running late for work and didn’t have the half hour to drive to Dutch Bros.  There, I talked with Suzie the barista and caught up, since she hadn’t seen me in awhile.  She mentioned to one of the other baristas, a skinny college guy, that I was a writer and had my own travel blog.

I could tell from his reaction that he was an aspiring writer himself.  I offhandedly mentioned that I had five articles to write about boats, compasses, rigging, and PFDs.  Due on June 1st.  That’s today.

He said “I don’t write anything with deadlines.  I like to keep everything I do more freelance.”

Freelance.

You keep using this word, but I don’ think you know what this word means.

With his mindset, if that was how I wrote, the only thing true about “freelance” would be that I was writing everything for free.  Yes, I have written a book and many short stories that may as well have been for the love of writing.  But as a writer, as some point you might want to get paid doing what you love.  If you truly love it, then writing about clamps and pocketknives and boat rigging and asbestos testing won’t diminish your love of the craft.

It will get you out of a freaking office where everyone thinks you suck and one day you will die having nothing to show for it other than hemorrhoids and carpal tunnel syndrome.  At least as a writer, you get those, AND a sense of fulfillment.  You have created something.  That is rare in this world.

So, I just nodded and smiled because the kid is 20, maybe 21 and knows everything.  Just as I did at that age.  And it has taken me that much longer to understand that sometimes you don’t want to write the stuff that isn’t fun.  But when the checks come and you get to fly to London and dink around for nearly two weeks, it was worth all the stupid copy you had to write for companies.  It is an investment in getting to experience more of the world for the stories that matter.  Inspiring pieces that are beyond the scope of your imagination, which I gotta tell you, without inspiration from the outside, is pretty limited.

Anyway, enough procrastinating.  I have copy to write and maybe some stories.  Because that is what a freelancer really does.

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Making Progress (?)

The new website is still stalled.  Anytime I try working on it, I get some error telling me my IP address has been blocked by the firewall.  This is after two or three failed attempts to login, which turn into the black hole of resetting my password.  Then customer service with the hosting service just sends back a cursory “It’s fixed, try it now!” which is the equivalent of helping your dad work on the car and he yells out from under the hood “Okay, turn it over!” and then nothing happens.

I have been using WordPress to blog for a while.  LiveJournal before that.  And I am the guy who makes changes on the website for work.  But for the life of me, I cannot get this to work.  It is frustrating.  I am losing time I could be writing with fiddling around with authentications, email proxys, and DNS errors.

When people say, “Hey, Danger Harris!  Why don’t you work in IT?”  I have two responses to them.

First of all, “Danger” is my middle name.

And second, I don’t like the alphabet soup of IT.  Even the name of the profession is an abbreviated version we are forced to say.  I personally take offense at this.  I am a writer.  I write entire words (mostly) and sometimes I even make up words and slip them into the conversation.

Recently, I was commended on my invention of the word “Canadia.”  It means the same thing as Canada, but it is much more majestic.  One could say it is the most majesticalest.

But I digress.

Anyway, there are delays, but I haven’t given up hope. I have an entire week to work on the website and hopefully I can really get it going.  I might stick to more personal posts here or writing posts.  But the travel and adventure stuff is going to be at the new site.  Rest assured, I will promote the hell out of that.

It simply beats the idea of sitting around here at the dayjob, (which is not as sexy as it sounds) waiting for the day when my neck is on the chopping block.  They are laying off lower level admins.  Because cutting eleven jobs for people who make under $50k per year is going to fix a $10m per year deficit.  While the upper administrators who caused this mess all still have jobs and just happen to be the people who were at the helm for the last ten years, driving the ship straight into the iceberg.

When people caution me about leaving this place because of my retirement, I am reminded that the decision to stay won’t always be mine.  One day, like a couple friends of mine, I could get dismissed without warning and I would be in the same situation anyway.  Being let go is a lot more emotionally taxing than leaving.  The difference is control.  Would you rather be pushed into the swimming pool or dive in?

The end result is the same.  Uncharted territory.  Working on my own to build a business.  Maybe I will have success.  Maybe I won’t.  But I take the words of the Great One to heart.  “You miss 100% of every shot you don’t take.”  –Gretsky.

What I know is I can write.  I can observe.  I truly enjoy new experiences.  And I am young enough to be able to pull this off.

Ironically (to bash the dayjob) I am usually passed over for simple editing tasks or writing memos.  Because reasons.  The amount of condescension around here is enough to make me aspirate. (I’ll give you a minute.  Just flexing on my $5 words).  I write copy for companies that pay the company I write for around three times the amount they pay me for each of my assignments.  Why not work for myself?  It could be the greatest thing I’ve ever done for my writing career.

So, onward. Upward.  Everword.  TTFN.

Marijuana: Paying attention and having new experiences

Paying attention and having new experiences is key to writing.  Whether it is travel, fiction, technical documents, or writing copy for a company website, the command of the English language is really secondary to just keeping your eyes and ears open.

Last summer, my aunt came to town.  In Washington where she lives–and Colorado, where I live–marijuana is legal.  She uses it instead of opioids to manage the pain several surgeries throughout her life, from scoliosis as a child to joint repair and replacement.  I got the recommendation of a local dispensary from a friend who manages her pain similarly and has been opioid free for years now.

I won’t get on my soapbox about how there are people rotting in jail right now who were caught with a bag of weed, while soccer moms careen through neighborhoods in 3 ton minivans while doped up to the gills on Vicodin–but there you have it.  Maybe that is for another discussion.

Anyway, my first trip to the dispensary was informative.  The “Budtender” as they are called, knew everything about the products, from marijuana leaf varieties to resins, edibles, drinkables, gummies, their effects, their dosage, administering them, etc.  Unlike the giggling stoner of the last century, or the really scary guy with the long hair and jean jacket, the workers at the dispensary were accommodating, friendly, and  made us feel comfortable the whole time.  My aunt got her hook up and I got to check another thing off my list of new experiences.

The idea of a marijuana dispensary is still the subject of controversy throughout our country.  Even when doctors prescribe a lot worse every day.  Maybe my next article should be how school kids are hooked on Ritalin from the second grade onward.

Just last week, I took my mom to the same dispensary.  We were on the search for a cream that would help my dad with pain in his feet.  After having our ID’s checked three times, the Budtender quickly suggested a product with CBD and THC components for topical pain.

My dad used it.  Said it worked great.  And no, he didn’t get high or have the munchies afterwards.  He’s about as straight laced as they come, and it’s good to know that there are ways he can control his pain without having to be high all the time.

The cool thing is recently I wrote a few articles for an online cannabis dispensary site and from just two experiences, I have sold two articles for them already.  Just from keeping my eyes and ears open.  The writing is secondary to that, since you have to find a voice and hone your skills with language.  But anybody can write something, and sometimes people who can’t write well, equipped with the right research and information, can compensate for that little detail when it comes to having something good to write badly about.

Or at least something interesting other people will pay for.

And how about that title?  Did it get your attention?  😉   –C