Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Two Jobs

Today, standing dramatically before a metaphorical expanse of water (in reality a series of seemingly unending mechanized moving belts carrying in-transited commercial product), I realized something important. I realized that for the past eight or so months, I have had only one job.

Now, this is not at all a bad thing, in general terms. I am extremely grateful for the job I have. It has acted as a life preserver in the sea that is the harsh reality of expensive American living.However, this generous, income-giving job has somewhat obscured what I have long believed to be my other, equally important job - writing.

Writing has become a hobby. It's something I do casually on my days off, a form of unwinding, a fun activity to de-stress from the work week. And there's nothing wrong with that. Unless of course, one is serious about the pursuit of achieving authordom.

And I decide, while peering out at the imaginary rolling waves of this calm, nonexistent lake, that the despite the importance and necessity and time consumption of my income-based job, that I do indeed wish to someday achieve, for myself, the title of author. And not simply for the sake of having such a title, but because I enjoy the craft of literature and enjoy sharing it with others and what better way to share it than to become published to some sort of degree as an author.

And I decide that the only way to achieve this dream, this title, is to discard the idea of writing-as-hobby. Because yes, I enjoy writing and story-crafting very much as one does a hobby, and it is indeed something I am quite passionate about and that I find fun (most of the time...) but in order to achieve anything from it, ultimately, it must be treated as a job - hard work, real work, same as any other job.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Resurfacing

I make popcorn for a living. Microwave popcorn.

That's not even true, I put bags of microwave popcorn into boxes for a living.

But I can't really complain. What I do, unglamorous as it is, pays for a roof over our heads, puts food on our table, keeps the lights and the heat on,  fills the gas tank - it's a living. And it's a hell of a lot better than hustling for freelance work or making minimum wage as a sandwich artist.

And I'm sure there are many many writers who make a decent to good living doing freelance work but it just isn't for me. There's just something soul-sucking about writing boring, repetitive, SEO-keyword-laced copy for car dealership websites and scuba equipment shops. I know there's more rewarding work further down the line for those writers who stick with it - but honestly I just couldn't hack it.

So I got a job, a real job, 40+ hours a week - yes, I am officially an adult.

But where does that leave me as a writer?

Lately? Stuck ankle deep in the mud.

However, I am, if not happier, more content than I have been in a long, long time in my life. I am living independently, paying off debt, eating healthier, exercising, and basically getting my life in order. I'm learning to operate a motor vehicle and in the spring, I'll be getting married.

Did I mention that I'm an adult now? It's a strange concept.

So, back to being a writer. It's been on hold, more or less. Here and there, I'll get a few words written, but for the most part, The Block is in full effect - back with a vengeance. I'm trying my best to integrate writing back into my daily schedule. I have a plan, I have a novel's worth of ideas floating around in my head, haunting me as I roam around during the work day, helpless to transfer any of into concrete form. And of course, the moment I get myself to sit in front of a computer screen or have a pen in hand, my mind becomes as white and pure as the driven snow.

Which leads to the real question:

Can Diego begin anew the task of re-demolishing the re-enforced writer's block that's been re-built? Stayed tuned to find out...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Value of a Word

Words ain't worth much.

At least that's how it seems. Just about anyone can string words together into a sentence and most folks don't like to sully up their day with too much reading anyhow, so why should words cost anything at all?

But everywhere you look - be it in print, online, on advertisements, storefronts - the written word can be found. And there's a good chance that somebody, somewhere, at one point or another, wrote those words.

But is that worth?

Not much by the sound of business owners who need written work - advertisements  product descriptions, employee handbooks, reviews, mission statements, blog articles - and think so little of the worker holding the pen that it is all they can do to disdainfully throw a few pennies at the diligent wordsmith.

If my opening foray into the wild, seemingly unregulated world of freelance writing has taught me anything, it's that people truly don't give a crap that you know how to string a sentence together without sounding like a drunken six-year-old.

"If you are a good writer, this should be EXTREMELY easy for you" says the client seeking a 50-page manual on forklift operation for a the extraordinary price $50 USD. 

Easy? Yes, if you want the work to sound uninformed and be without any form of grammar check or time spent on proper diction. Good writers produce good writing when given TIME - and time is indeed money. Time spent not only writing but also spent researching, and less compensation offered for that time, the less time is spent on a particular piece. Because yes, strangely enough, writers also need to eat.

Let's do a little math, shall we?

Let's say an average page is about six hundred words, no, five hundred words - to make things easy. Okay, now let's say someone wants fifty pages of five hundred words each. Sure, 50 X 500 = 25,000 words. Alright, that's a decent-sized project. Even if I'm a good writer and the work is relatively easy, it's still going to take a good amount of time. At 25,000 words, your $50 compensation works out to exactly $0.002 a word or two-tenths of a penny...

But, words are easy right? Why should they be worth more than that?

Some more math (bear with me).

Even if I was a reasonably fast writer (which I'm not) and could come up with about 1,000 words of perfect copy each and every hour, at the rate of $0.002 a word, I'm still only making $2.00 an hour.

What kind of sweatshop bullshit is that?

Quality pay = quality work

The above is an extreme example. Most clients offering work are more reasonable than this fellow, but not much more so. It's one thing to offer work up at (a fairly standard) rate of one to two pennies a word (far better than being paid in fractions) but it's quite another to then lay down a list of extremely unreasonable and contradicting instructions and expect hours of research poured into a 500 word article that will ultimately net the writer a whooping seven dollars - if it's accepted.

Though the basic act of slapping down words is relative easy and requires no heavy lifting, there is something of an art to making that mass of words first readable, then comprehensible, then interesting. Not to mention all the work that must go into actually making sure the words say something relevant to the real world and aren't a delicately-spun web of fabricated nonsense (which, by the way, is actually my specialty).

And all of that takes TIME.

In other words, the less you pay me for my time, the less time you get back, the less value you get for the words you paid for.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Flightplan

Time is moving fast. It's something I've been noticing over the past few years, the older I get, the shorter the week feels, the month, the year. When I was a kid, a summer break lasted for years and the school year took centuries to get through.

Now?

It seems every other day a new calendar month is hanging on the wall, Monday to Sunday bleed into one another, and suddenly I'm drifting towards the deep end of my 20s, of my youth. And now, at this particular point in time, it seems as if time is flying by at supersonic speeds.

Photo by Michelle L
In the next few months, a few major changes in my life will take place. I will be working full-time for myself as freelance writer, I will move to a new state to live with my fiancée, and will have (hopefully) released my very first published work out into the cruel, cold world.

In short, I will become a self-sufficient, professional writer, an adult, not a student or a kid or a part-timer working retail - a real-life adult.

But this blog isn't about my life, it's not one of "those" blogs, it is, primarily, a blog about words, about the process of putting them together to form sentences and stories and the frustrations that occur when that action is stalled or interrupted. And so you might have noticed something big up above:

I'm writing a book! And I intend to finish it.

Within a few months I will be releasing a collection of short, inter-related horror stories centered around a small town in Northwest Indiana - a truly terrifying place all on its own without any added supernatural urgings. So far, I have finished first-draft work on 7 of the 13 stories planned and have outlines/ideas in place for the remaining six.

More news as it develops, but those of you following here will be the first to know.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Charlene

A flash written for the +Flash Fiction Project based on the below image. This has also become an excerpt of a large piece and is based on an older story of mine. 540 words.




by aThunders


Her eyes open to greet me, good eyes, eyes I want to see when I wake. My big tough puppy, my little wolfie, still cowering in the hall, same spot all night, when she sees me coming her bent-down tail starts to wag. Ears folded, tongue hanging loose, Charlene belly crawls, paws gripping into the floor, up t the bedroom threshold but not further – she won’t come in, not anymore.

“Come Char.” I say as I walk past, out the room – I don’t like it anymore than she does, don’t care how sunny the walls are, I know they’re still there, still watching, waiting for the dark to hide them again.

Mom is awake, coffee pot gurgling, frying pan sizzling – her usual sausage, peppers, and eggs – and she grunts at my entrance. Charlene is my shadow, just beside my legs as I move through the cramped ‘L’ of the kitchen, elbows bumping, wet nose painting streaks down the back of my legs.

“Sleep good?” Mom asks out of habit.

“Just okay.”

I lie, she doesn’t need to know, doesn’t care to know. What would I tell her? Ramble on about the tiny demons that invade my room, cackle in the night, and threaten to suck out my soul, tell her all that while she nervously – obsessively – fingers the rosary hanging from her neck? No, that just earns me a trip to see Father Rodas, in the back office, breath smelling like mint and his office like dirt and dying flowers. We keep quiet and out of her way.  At the breakfast table, Charlene gets a piece of toast crust for her silence.

Dread school but dread going back to that room for clothes more. Got to be quick in and out, give mom no reason to pause, no reason to ask questions. Charlene knows better than to keep following me once I reach the short hall, only once place for me to go and she ain’t going. Without a noise she’s back in her place, head on the floor with a sad stare looking upward and hopeful that I make it back out alive.

Charlene always seems to know when something bad will happen, she’s been that way since she was a puppy. Always knew when we were taking her to the vet or going on long trips away from – back when there were still family vacations, dad singing in Polish all the way to Chicago – or she’d know whenever a bad storm was coming before the sky even started turning black. 

Get an outfit for today, anything, I’m beyond caring about looking cute or looking at all coordinated. Just clothes to cover and I’m out, head down, wanting to see that tail wag again for me like I was gone for three years. Almost out and I see something strange on the floor, dark stains on the wood, droplets going all across from the bed to the far wall.

I look closer, bend down, and see that their not just random drops of something but footprints, tiny prints like three-toed lizards or maybe birds – prints dark colored, almost a brown but red too. Charlene whines from the hall. Blood, has to be, blood ruining mom’s wood – her first concern – but whose?