M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Friday, March 28, 2003  

Into the Woods

Because writing 500-1000 words a day on my own personal website just isn’t scratching my creative itch—okay, it is, but it’s also not earning me a cent—I’ve been sort of casting around for some paying freelance writing gigs. Trash has been a huge help; what with being a librarian with mad research skillz who helps people find work for a living, she’s found me enough resources to occupy an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of résumés. There’s a lot of stuff out there. Sadly, there’s a whole lot that I’m either not interested in or not qualified for.

Trash says that latter thing shouldn’t stop me, and that I shouldn’t take experience requirements so literally. That’s when I remind her of a certain job interview she sent me to in 1991, when I was unemployed for two months and getting less and less picky:

Potential Boss: So, you know C programming language?

Me: (in accordance with Trash’s pre-interview coaching) I could learn.

Abruptly-No-Longer-Potential Boss: Ah, I don’t think so.

Me: Okay, bye.

At least it was a short interview. But its specter rises up in my mind whenever Trash sends me a link to an online want ad that begins with the words “New York Times seeks Editor-in-Chief.”

“This is asking for applicants with at least sixty years experience running a large city newspaper,” I’ll point out to Trash.

“They’ll be lucky to get someone who has half that,” Trash says.

“A person with a sixth of that still has a decade more experience than I do.”

“Experience isn’t everything.”

“No, they also want people with several Master’s degrees.”

“Like they’re going to ask to see your diploma.”

“And at least three Pulitzer Prizes.”

“Tell them you’re working on those.”

“I’m really just working on the one.”

“You don’t have to volunteer that, though.”

“I suppose not. I mean, it’s not like they want me to know C or something.”

“Shut up!”

I certainly can’t accuse her of not believing in my abilities.

The thing is, I have to narrow down my possibilities somehow, because I don’t have time to send in queries or proposals for everything. I look for phrases like “successful candidate will be have proven ability to perform brain transplants” or “time-travelers preferred” so I can move on to the next listing. Then when I actually do find something that says “illiterate droolers welcome” I can spend the appropriate amount of time customizing my pitch, rather than indiscriminately carpet-bombing millions of places that aren’t going to hire me anyway.

And let’s not forget that there aren’t only the “not qualified fors,” there are the “not interested ins.”

Like what, you ask? Like Shoelace Grommet Weekly, which bills itself as North America’s only weekly publication dedicated to those little metal or plastic rings on your shoes. This 350-page periodical, with its circulation of twenty, is on the lookout for writers who can bring life and sparkle to shoe-hardware-related prose. Writers with five years experience in writing about the footwear appointment manufacturing are preferred. Representatives from the slip-on industry need not apply. I’m wearing slip-ons right now, and something tells me that they’ll know.

Not all magazines are so specialized, mind you. The eight annual issues of Driveway cast a wide net that includes both paved and gravel within its purview. Alas, try as I may, I just can’t come up with any heartwarming driveway stories. I can think of plenty of heartbreaking driveway stories, but the editors of Driveway assure us that they receive a glut of skinned-knee and squashed-pet essays from people who haven’t even bothered to comb through the magazine’s back-issues. I’m not going to make the same mistake.

And then there are the stacks and stacks of religious and inspirational magazines that get churned out every day. I had no idea the market for print versions of Touched by an Angel was so huge. Nobody who reads all this stuff would ever have time to go to church. And that’s not even the half of it, because it’s not confined to Christianity, either. I’m kind of starting to wish I’d paid a little more attention in Sunday School, because Satan Digest is offering seven cents a word for personal tales about the Prince of Darkness. At those rates, I’d almost be willing to make something up.

Given the Byzantine depths of the writer’s market, maybe it would be easier if I just hung up a shingle right here. I’d be more willing to do work that came to me rather than vice versa. If you want me to write something for you, drop me an e-mail and we’ll work it out. I don’t care if you want the Great American Novel or a blind item for the gossip column of Modern Phlebotomist. I’ll take a crack at it. Even if you’re from Shoelace Grommet Weekly.

posted by M. Giant 3:40 PM 0 comments


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