December 10, 2003

But I'm Supposed to be Studying...

Every now and then, I decide that I should really try to market my writing.
After all, what is there to lose?

"Market" in this case is a polite word for "sell".
That concept opens up a whole new batch of issues such as, how much is it worth and how do you assess the value of words thrown together in a certain way?
If someone pays for it, can they tell me what or how to write?
And why does it feel impure?
But I'll leave those for another time (or not).

Last spring I tried to sign up for a course at a local community college on how to submit articles or proposals for publication.
Unfortunately, by the time I arrived the class was already filled. They assured me it would run again in the fall, but it didn't.
But I don't need no stinkin' course... (especially since I have as much COURSE as I can handle with the tax preparation thing, which by the way I'm passing nicely so far)... all I really need is

this

or

this

or, what I ended up with, the Writer's Market online version which is continually updated and costs about the same as buying a book every year.

That is the easy part; to push myself to follow through is the near impossible part.

I got as far as making a list of possible entries that I could adapt as articles and surfing some magazine sites that I thought would fit nicely with my style.
And that was that.

In fact, every time I let myself travel down that road even a little bit, I would stop writing here, that's how frozen up it made me. Not so much writer's block as writer's terror.

Still I did manage to dash off a few letters to the editor of the local paper during this time, some of which were published. There was one last winter about anti-war demonstrators, and one more recently about the value of mythology.

But what I really wanted was to make the op-ed page.

They often print articles by non-journalists, experts in one field or another or just people with opinions.
(If nothing else, I do qualify as a person with opinions!)

I submitted to them once last year but heard nothing; I later took note when they posted a short message about how and where to submit articles for consideration.

Okay, I guess I've teased long enough... yesterday my first opinion piece appeared in the Montreal Gazette!

The subject is one with which I am painfully familiar: household sloth. It's a response to this article which appeared almost two weeks ago.

I sent them my submission on November 29; they sent me an e-mail accepting it on December 1; and I've been waiting for a week, afraid to tell the world lest they change their minds!

On Monday they called to ask what "tag line" they should use to describe me. I said, "middle-aged suburban housewife" and muttered something about "freelance".

They dropped the "middle-aged" and added the word "writer".

Writer.

Yes I know I've always been a writer, blah blah yadda yadda.
(Can't you tell from that sentence??)

But this is different.
Someone paid me for my work.
They offered me $200.

I suppose I should have negotiated or something.. (yeah right!) but from what I've seen in the Writer's Market, it didn't seem out of line.

Besides it's not the money.

Really.

Whether it was $20, $200 or $2000, the idea was that someone wanted my work and thinks it has value.

My article didn't make it to the online version of the paper, but thanks to Rob's digital camera, I can show you what my name looks like in print!

The text follows below.
They chose the headline - I was quite pleased with it!
Next hurdle: start writing in earnest.
Open a file, write something every day. Drivel, if nothing else. It doesn't have to be posted online, it's just to keep the fingers moving.
For me.
(Why is that so difficult!)
And start submitting to magazines.



Call Me a Slob but Don't Call Me Stupid

I must take issue with (Ms.) Pellerin's statement, "domestic chaos is a symptom of a larger problem: intellectual sloppiness".

As someone whose home has always been organizationally challenged, I am insulted at the suggestion that this is due to any intellectual shortcomings.

In other words, you can call me a slob but don't call me stupid.

Domestic chaos is not a good thing - most of us would probably agree with that.
The reasons for it must be varied and complicated and probably similar to the reasons why people persist in smoking, drinking to excess and remaining overweight.
If it were easy to fix, we'd have done it by now.
Sure, it sounds simple. Just stop smoking/drinking/overeating. Just tidy up. But most often, we don't.

There are, I believe, deep-seated psychological issues preventing us from doing what we know we need to do and have absolutely no logical reason for resisting.

One of the common problems, I believe, is the inability to see the trees for the forest. We are taught to approach a large task by dividing it into baby steps but the task just seems too overwhelming.

(Ms.) Pellerin in her column illustrated this concept:
"Getting even a closet organized requires thinking up a house-wide system of which that particular closet is but a tiny part."
If we waited until we could formulate a house-wide organizational system before we cleaned a closet or a drawer, we'd be in even worse shape than we already are.

You take everything out of the closet.
You discard or donate what you no longer want to keep.
You put everything else back neatly.
Simple.
No great intellectual leap required.


In fact, the mundane nature of housework is probably a common reason why people put off doing it.
It's boring.
It's thankless.
It's work.
And it undoes itself faster than any other kind of work.

This does not necessarily mean that the inhabitant of a messy house is incapable of solving problems at the office; perhaps the contrary. While a certain discipline may be lacking, it is made up for by creativity. Learning to function in daily chaos is probably the best training for a crisis in any context.
One needs to know when and how to overlook the minutia, how not to obsess over small details, how to, yes, see the forest.

Further evidence that intelligence and tidiness are not proportionally linked exists in the animal world.
Ants and other insects are highly organized by our standards.
Sheep and many other mammals are not.
A bird's nest is a marvel of engineering, routinely accomplished with only random materials at hand (or beak).
But don't look inside it.
Monarch butterflies find their way from Canada to one specific spot in Mexico without maps, charts, or compasses. They have the directions in their genetic code.
People, obviously, don't.
We survive by using our intelligence in place of the instincts that animals have.

In my case, I'm selectively disorganized. In most areas of my home, nothing is in its place (many things don't even have a place) but the kitchen and laundry function well. My CDs are fairly well sorted. I am obsessive about my finances, I routinely update my virus definitions and DEFRAGMENT MY HARD DRIVE!
Occasionally I even write a rebuttal to an opinion piece.
I am not intellectually sloppy.

I would even venture to suggest that if one must err, it is better to err on the side of chaos than of excessive neatness.
A person who is not comfortable until every object in their home (and life) is categorized and filed, and any dust speck or spill is wiped away, has at least as many psychological issues as I do.

Life is messy. If you don't accept that you cannot partake in the full experience of living.



Linque Du Jour:   Which Book
This thing is great fun to play with!
It's a flash (I think) thingy which recommends reading based on parameters that you choose on a sliding scale - for example, happy-sad, conventional-unusual, funny-serious.
You can also search books according to type of plot, characters or geographic setting.

Unfortunately, the database holds only books published since 1995. I hope they expand this idea!
Oh and you can even find a library in your area with the chosen book available.... that is, if you live in England, Scotland, or Wales! (And I think at least one or two of my readers do!)



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