A couple things before I begin

Procrastination

Today will be a workday for assignments. I picked up five last night. It is very tough to get started on them sometimes, mostly because of how dry they are and how slow the clients are to buy them once they are done. I still have $700 worth of stuff sitting in queue from Memorial Day weekend and earlier. Summertime is especially rough, and with inflation and fuel prices being so crazy right now, clients are pretty tight-fisted. But, I have the work to do and I can expect it to pay off…eventually.

Procrastination is very real with me, and as much as I dislike writing posts for law firms about slip and fall injuries or traumatic brain injuries, it beats the alternative, which is sitting on my ass, working for someone else who gets to treat me like garbage while they get to live their best life at my expense. If the work is there, I pick it up. If I choose to ignore it, that is on me. But at least I don’t have some morbidly obese albino yelling at me every six months for my performance review.

Work

The other day, I was visiting my dad and he desperately wanted to give me a copy of the local paper. “Did you see they have a job with the town posted? You need to apply for that!” When I asked him what it was, he said it was doing things around town like fixing stop signs, filling potholes, and painting curbs. I thanked him and said no thanks. I already have a job. It’s just different from what people are used to. I work for myself. Some weeks are better than others, sure, but writing is what I was trained to do and it is what I want to do. The other job was safe in my dad’s mind, because punching a clock makes sense. Right now, I’m struggling, but I feel fulfilled. My work has meaning. Yes, even when I write about motorcycle accidents. Hey, as much as I’ve paid lawyers over the last ten years, I kinda like the idea of billing them for once!

What I do worry about is what is coming. A Recession. Let’s be honest. Probably a full-on Depression. I’m not sure where writers stand in that whole mess, but I can guarantee as cheap as off-shore services are to write copy, and as tempting as AI programs are for people needing content, there is NO substitute for something an actual writer has created. I don’t care what your SEO app says.

SEO and Robots

Here’s a brief rant about that. I got a rejection from a law firm because someone else’s SEO content scored higher than mine. Does anyone else remember that scene in Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams tells them to rip out the pages? The reason for that was even back in the mid 20th Century, some jackass decided to apply mathematics to the quality of literature and poetry. That’s what algorithms are. So these companies go ape-shit for what scores higher. Of course their keywords and content are always things like BEST ORTHODONTIST ZEPHYRHILLS or some other nonsensical crap that Google will home in on. These are the same customers who go by strict Search Engine Optimization recommendations from their algorithm and you get 20 keywords or phrases just as stupid as that just to pump up their numbers. The truth of it is that Google might search that shit out when you plug in your keywords and bring it up, but it is nearly impossible for the content to be organic, much less interesting, for return readership. But, people just aren’t reading like they used to. They have zero attention spans(myself included).

I have actually turned down work before because the client wanted the SEO numbers first and foremost, while the copy I wrote got turned into garbage just to appease the algorithm. That was the hardest $200 I’ve ever gotten out of two 1000 word posts.

There is a catalog out there called The Sportsman’s Guide and for decades it has been called the Fun to Read Catalog. It used to be army surplus but has now gone the way of outdoorsman gear. It is still fun to read. Every product description has the same narrative voice. Each item has a story and convinces you that this item is going to be awesome because it has character. I love writing stuff like that. Because I love READING stuff like that.

Cursive

I worry about what our dependency on technology is doing to the human race. I entered a conversation today on a forum for the agency that I find assignments through about cursive. One person talked about how they would like their babies to be able to read the Declaration of Independence itself because they know how to read cursive. Cursive has been cut out of the curriculum of most schools now. It’s almost as dead as Latin at this point.

It concerns me less that the next generation won’t be able to read the primary sources such as the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution than it does they are effectively severed from nearly all previous generations by language.

If you have stacks of old letters saved by your grandma, your children won’t be able to read them. They are cut off from their heritage, their identity, and their history if they don’t have access to these family documents. I think our society wants it that way. If I sound a little woo-woo and Conspiratorial, consider what our government has done to every group of people they have wanted to control since the beginning. They cut the people off from their culture. Whether it is Residential Schools, forbidding people to speak their native tongue, eliminating foreign translations of religious texts, and removing art and expression from the public that doesn’t fit the narrative. When you can alienate entire generations of ancestors from children, you get to fill the vacuum with whatever the hell you want them to believe.

My kids don’t know cursive. I would have loved to have taught them, but I was busy working my ass off at a job that used me up for twenty years, paying just enough to scrape by every month (while the mucky-muckys flew to Thailand every month). See now why I’m not so eager to go right back into something like that unless I absolutely have to?

Anyway, it’s time to work on my assignments.

Happiness in a New Normal World

“It’s all good.”

Why does everyone keep saying that when I know good and damn well it isn’t all good? I remember when hippies used to say it in their tie-dye and drug-rugs, baked to the gills and it meant something different back then. It meant they were so high that nothing was going to bring them down. It was a Zen state back then. Now it has become the Diet Coke of my least favorite expression:

“It is what it is.”

I hate that expression. Fucking hate it. Why is that? Because two kinds of people use it.

  • Someone who has given up and resigned themselves to their fate of being miserable.
  • Someone who already has everything they want and they aren’t sharing.

Even though Dylan Thomas was a complete prick, he had one thing right.

“Do not go gentle into that good night

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas

We waste so much of our lives saying things like we are “surviving” or “tomorrow I’ll do X” or just biding our time until the Big Black Car comes to pick us up one last time. Or waiting for things to improve. There isn’t tomorrow. There is only today, what we do right now. Whether it is laugh or cry or work our asses off, tomorrow does not come with a guarantee and for whatever reason even though we are living in times when people are dying all around us from an engineered cold, we still just keep grinding.

Why can’t we just be happy? Why don’t we just do whatever the hell fills our tanks?

Right now we are living in a time when people should realize that a big chunk of what we do can be done differently. People could work at home instead of fighting rush hour traffic. They could be comfortable. They don’t need some Overseer staring down at them in a cubicle maze. They don’t need to feel the stress and frustration of the day to know that they have earned their paycheck.

I did that shit for over twenty years. At the end of my job, my bloated waddling supervisor acted like I did nothing, and what I did was never good enough. My pay never changed, but they were happy to heap more responsibilities onto my list of duties. Things really got shaky when they wanted me to do training on some ridiculous LCD TV bulletin boards in the hallways. A university that was $10mil in debt every year decided we needed monitors in the halls to display things that were going on in the college. You know, like those corkboard thingies that had been there for 40 years did for free.

Not only did the refusal to pay me more for constantly updating that shit go against the standards I valued when I accepted the job, but blowing money on stupid shit while they were laying off 70+ people (myself included I would find out) seemed to go against any sort of logic.

So, I said, “No.”

The job was bullshit. So, on top of being exposed to asbestos, lead paint, no raises, inept leadership, gaslighting, watching administrators and faculty flaunt their wealth (and cry about it), I knew that place was just polishing brass on the titanic. Why did I stay?

It was a comfort zone.

“It is what it is.”

Right now, being self-employed scares the absolute shit out of me. I don’t know when my next paycheck is coming. I have to push myself every day to create content, to pitch, and then there is the frustration of knowing that almost nobody is going to respond. So, yes, I’m hemorraging money, trying to build something for myself. I’m taking advantage of this “New Normal” because working from home is suddenly on the table for a lot of us.

I hate that when I pitch an article to a magazine, or I query a venue to ask them if I can write about what they have going on, not only is there rejection, but more often than not (about 95% of it) there isn’t even a response. I can’t help but wonder what they hell they are doing over there at their job when they can’t even respond?

But you know what I hated more? Having someone drop a steaming pile of bullshit on my desk, tell me it’s all my fault, and then flounce off to go jabber about some show on TV or talk with the other mucky-mucks about their last trip to Thailand. Or complaining about how expensive something is when they make four times what I did.

So many of my friends (and believe me, it’s a decent number of them) are struggling right now and are absolutely miserable in their jobs. It’s the constant influx of bullshit they are dealing with. They aren’t respected. They are taken for granted. And because everyone has bills to pay, they don’t have a lot of choice on what else they can do. It’s the return of the Company Store.

Well, there is always a choice. I had a choice at UNC, but it offered stability in exchange for just suffering through asshattery. Along with the promise of hemorrhoids and ulcers and constant stess and stiff necks and weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart problems and knowing that you are a parent who has provided for others and kept them alive and somehow some fuck who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with instructions written on the heel comes in and degrades you for not doing a good job were just a small price to pay for stability. Taking that every day or scaring the hell out of myself with doing something else was my “It is what it is” moment. Until they laid a bunch of us off and started paying new people half of what we were making.

We need to be better.

Our leaders are no longer leaders. They are nitwits living in positions of privilege. The metric of their leadership is putting their employees on blast and not even knowing what they do. Our “essential” employees are burning out. Most of them could quit and get a job at McDonalds for better pay. We are working for other people who aren’t even paying us enough for a decent funeral, which most of us will have to call in sick to have ourselves buried when the time comes.

But here’s the thing. My “job” right now doesn’t pay a lot. And sometimes I have to remind myself (and my family) that I’m not unemployed. I’m just not punching a clock and getting regular checks. But I am self-employed. And I am trying. And I am struggling–mostly with just finding a rhythm. And when everytime I turn around and somebody wants another $1000 and I watch my savings evaporate, yes, it would make sense to chuck this dream. But that’s a lot like running a marathon and getting to the halfway point and turning back because it’s so hard. You might as well keep running the race.

I have something right now that 20 years at a university NEVER gave me: Fulfillment.

If I’m going to have crippling and anxiety and fear, I might as well have it because of something I want to do, instead of being afraid someone is going to come around and fire me on a whim.

So, I might starve. But I might also get everything I ever wanted in life too. It’s all good.

Why can’t we be happy?

That’s just the thing. We can. Keep fighting. Keep striving. Keep going. Fuck the haters. Get out of your own way and fly.

You want happiness? Reach out and TAKE IT.

Amateur Dreamer

Today is a day I have to coerce myself to stay focused and put my ass firmly in the chair. Maybe I feel the pull of the collective unconciousness telling me I need to go shopping. Maybe it’s a need to distract myself and continue running away or towards something unseen.

There is a passage in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield that I have bookmarked. It helps me start work every day. I have begun calling it work, because writing sounds so artsy and pretentious. It is work. It’s work I enjoy doing, but it is work nonetheless. It’s probably a little more than that too. It’s also a gamble, and right now I feel like the House always wins.

Here’s the quote.

Resistance and Being a Star

Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work, and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.

There are moments when I fantasize about the kind of life I could have and that motivates me. Money has been an issue for me but only because I think of ways that I could improve my life experience. It would allow me to travel more, to live more comfortably, and there is always that teaser that talent and appreciation come with monetary value. Which sucks. We literally put a price tag on our hearts. Other than court and child support and keeping up with bills, I am actually pretty comfortable right now. I simultaneously love and feel uncomfortable with being able to just write. I feel guilty when I talk to friends who are working their asses off to break even at a job that would replace them before their funeral if they happened to croak. I will have to step up my game and multitask with stuff that pays and stuff that might change my life forever. A man’s gotta eat.

There is one true thing about life that everyone should get to try at least once. It’s knowing that no matter how much money you have, it won’t fix your real problems.

There are times I remember the year in college when I lived alone and how I would just peck away at my MacBook 190CS writing stories and then reading late into the night. There were the days I wasted too and did nothing, and I still kick myself for that. To be fair, as a 21 year old, I might not have had a lot to say anyway. It was all practice. It was whetting my appetite.

So, once I get done with this post, I’m going to work. And hopefully find some success in the labors of the day. Daydreaming about cool stuff you want (I’d be happy with a 4Runner. I don’t need a McLaren GT) is fine, but there have been times I have overwhelmed myself. I wasn’t getting the THINGS I wanted right away from working. How can you? If Black Friday is an indication, the collection of things is like digging a hole in sand. There’s always going to be more things to get.

Didn’t yesterday teach us to be thankful for what we have? Oh how soon we all forget.