That’s all I’m going to say. Okay, not quite. Because, well, the INGRATITUDE of some people.
When I write an article about somebody for our friendly local Jewish newspaper, I usually BECOME the paper for that person or organization. From then on, whenever something exciting is going on in that person or organization’s life, I am the “go-to person” for media coverage.
I swear, I NEVER represent myself as more than the humble freelancer that I am. I love being a freelancer – note the word “FREE” as in “I have the freedom to ignore you and your organization when I’m not receiving money to pay attention to it.”
It’s largely a committment-free life, which is good, because most of these people are not folks I want to commit to. Mostly because every person and organization have basically the same events: galas, inaugurations, speakers, maybe a heart-breaking or heart-wrenching thing or two.
I have covered countless “show support for Israel” events, countless Yom HaShoah and Kristallnacht commemorations.
Innumerable “somebody died so let’s do “something semi-noteworthy in his honour” evenings.
Dozens of “we are Jews and this is what we’re doing so this is a Jewish thing.” Like the Jews in canoes or the Bat Mitzvah ballerina collecting ballet supplies to send to Russia.
And more than a few “old/crippled/extraordinary” person does “hard/big/unusual” thing (these stories are usually a bit on the heartwarming side).
I enjoy almost all of these while actually researching and writing them, and even like the challenge of writing journalistically. But I don’t fool myself that I’m changing the world. The changing-the-world stories inevitably take more time and attention than I have at present, so the stories I do work on are basically (like this blog) my way of keeping my fingers nimble and my brain from calcifying completely.
What I don’t enjoy is the follow-up. If I cover your Chanukah event, pretty please do NOT send press releases every week for everything from your Shavuos learn-a-thon to your preschool graduation party? If I just wrote an article about your headstand juggling act, don’t email me a month later to tell me you now juggle with fire. Learn how to do it with fire BEFORE I interview you the first time, please. Fire makes any juggling act better.
And don’t call me out of the blue on a busy Sunday afternoon, tie me up on the phone for half an hour (doesn’t ANYBODY read my blog and know that I hate using the phone???) so Ted can’t reach me, to tell me about your little community project which by the way is coming to an urgent culmination in exactly one week and you need an article in the paper right this second.
Give me a little lead time here.
And then if, after that aforementioned half-hour conversation, I DO go out on a limb and email my editor on your behalf and send you a copy of the email to prove it, don’t tell me I didn’t quite get the facts exactly right. Say THANK YOU.
If, after that aforementioned email, I follow up with an actual phone call (For me, this is BIG! I hate using the phone!) to my editor, a person whom I have met in person twice and with whom 99.9% of my communication is email-based, say THANK YOU.
If, during that aforementioned phone call, my editor says we can do an article in two weeks but not beforehand because you have given us ZERO lead time and the issue isn’t really complete until all the facts are in, don’t tell me there IS enough time. He’s the editor of the WHOLE PAPER; I’m a freelancer. Say THANK YOU.
So here’s My Freelance Writer message to the world:
I don’t have superpowers. I’m not even that good of a writer, though I did write a heart-warming children’s story this afternoon about a family of trash-picking weirdos (based loosely on our real lives!). I’m not even very industrious.
Clue: if I wanted to be a hard-working writer, maybe I’d have gotten a journalism degree instead of a philosophy one.
No, I dream of being the Slacker Mom, twiddling away at the keyboard and cashing in with the occasional cheque in return for my more payment-worthy musings. Short of that, I dream of the easiest article assignments with the highest pay and fewest interviews. Short of that, send me to interview friendly people who are willing to talk about why they’re interesting so I don’t have to haul it out of them like a stubborn tree root.
If you want me to write an article for you, sum up the topic of the article in one sentence. Write it down on paper and decorate it with curlicues. Ask yourself if you’d go see it if they made a movie out of it. Discuss it with your neighbours and see if their eyes glaze over. Place it under your pillow and see if it infiltrates your dreams.
Now add your curlicued idea to the blender and whiz it up with some water. Paper is hard on the blades, but hopefully you won’t get these ideas all that often. Drink the water. If you feel okay to go about your everyday business, go forth and do so. May your life be blessed.
If, however, you swell up and explode, only this is the true proof of an article’s ultimate newsworthiness; feel free to have your heirs send it my way.
Postscript: Maybe I should have listed “crow” as on my Menu Plan last night, since I seem to be eating quite a bit of it today. Just as I finished writing this, the person in question emailed to say she’d read my email too hastily at first, hadn’t understood what I was saying… and yes, there’s even a “Thanks” in there, too.