When you are a ‘lancer, you write for anyone who will fork over, presuming it doesn’t violate your basic life principles (hope you have some). When it’s slow, you have to get creative.
With that in mind, this winter I turned my pen to technical writing on contract. No, it is not la vie litteraire. I honestly don’t think much of said vie, with all its pretense, pomposity and poseurs (and frequently poseuses). It is my belief that there is no such thing as writer’s block; there are people who want to write, and they do that. There are people who don’t want to write, and they do not do that. Right now I want to write, and I am obviously doing it. Well, to be a ‘lancer, you have to ‘want to write’ because you’ll get paid, if for no other reason.
Which explains why I spent the morning assembling a document concerning specifications for cable plants. (No, you goof, you cannot grow them in your garden. Silly gardeners.) Would I prefer to be approached by a major publisher to write a balanced history of the United States, one that would thus piss off everyone with a political filter and earn me hate mail calling me a Commie pinko and a Fascist pig in the same day? Moot point, for I will not be so approached. In the meantime, should I be expanding the ways I can present my ‘lancing résumé? If I don’t, I evidently don’t want to write that badly.
So, I’m writing about cabling. There are some benefits to this besides the money. While my engineer boss is a very good writer as engineers go, it’s fun to be engaged because of the perception that I know more than him about my trade. I realized that when I had to explain to him some of the proofreading marks and issues with punctuation. Mine to present the knowledge, his (as owner of the firm) to say how he likes it and wants it done, and mine in turn to do as all good ‘lancers do: produce quality content to spec on time with a diligent work ethic and a positive attitude.
Here’s the interesting revelation from the process of application. He had quite a few applicants, most of them fresh out of college with liberal arts degrees. I did not expect my nearing-fifty age to be an advantage, but it was. He found his applicants not mature enough for what he wanted in his workplace, which was someone who would show up on time, work without texting every few minutes, observe the recognized protocols of workplace dress, demeanor and focus, and in the end, do as asked without making some excuse. As I was working on my first assignment on my first day, he took a call from one applicant that pretty much said it all. The guy was checking on the status of his application, which had not received a response because he had misspelled his own e-mail address on his résumé. Let’s see. I’m applying to work for an engineer. Should I assure that my presentation demonstrates some attention to detail? Why, yes. Yes, I should. If I cannot manage that, should I pretty much fold the tent and find a new line of work? One thinks so. In any case, my new boss was urbane and courteous to the caller, but within my hearing, advised him that the position was filled. I smiled to myself and kept picking apart the proofreading I had been assigned. I perforated that sucker.
It’s not full time, and it’s not as many hours as I’d like to get, but that’s ‘lancing. You saddle up, you find out what is asked of you, and you do.
It is better training for your own writing work than you might think. It’ll expand your knowledge (I’ve learned a lot about how telecomm cables are organized, and why). It’ll give you the happy glow of cashing checks.
Most of all, it will teach you to write whether you are in the mood or not, whether you have a headache or not, because it’s time you did some writing. That’s how this blog post came about. It was time to do a blog post. I did not grant myself the option to just go upstairs and read my S.M. Stirling book, which was my personal whim–at least, not until I finished this post. Enough people have shown that they will visit here regularly that it is incumbent on me to continue supplying content I think will please at least some of the readership. Do that, and unless you have no idea what people like, that readership expands. Decide that you are in a blah mood and don’t want to write, a little too often, they forget about you soon–as good ol’ Stroker Ace taught us. “Blow their doors off, Stroker.” Just listen to that banjo work.
When in doubt, remember that bloggings will continue until morale improves. This one improved mine, at any rate.