Aug 04

Make Big $ Writing Alumni Profiles

For all freelance writers who want to (or have to) write for college-alumni magazines, don't go crazy; save your soul and sanity by using this template. Copying or reprinting just this template, though, requires permission from me, the author.

On the job, NAME, class of ___, is busily working on ___________. NAME recently won the ___________award for ­­___________, but is not contented to rest on his well-earned laurels. “It was a great honor,” said NAME, “but there’s much more to be done.” He points to the ___________, adding, “___________.”

NAME, a native of ___________, has been ___________ for ___ years, and before that, ___________. “I was lucky to ___________,” NAME said. “And I am so grateful for my time at ___________University. A professor in the ___________department, Dr. ___________, was like a mentor to me and urged me to follow my dreams.”

In his [lab/book-lined office] NAME works most of the time on ___________ but also is responsible for ___________. He is the “go-to” person for ___________. And there is always the challenge of securing funding for his projects. “It takes a lot of time and teamwork,” he said.

NAME is married to___________, who is a professional ___________, and has two children: ___________, age ___, who attends [name of fancy private school], and daughter ___________, whom they adopted from China. The family lives in a renovated home in ___________, and NAME enjoys ___________ and ___________ when he can, although his work is always on his mind. “It’s not so much a career as a calling,” he explained.

His colleague ___________said, “I admire NAME’s commitment to ___________. On the job he always gives 110 percent. At the same time he’s very down-to-earth and approachable.” Another colleague, ___________, said “Although he’s achieved so much already, ___________. He’s a great inspiration and role model.”

NAME’s reputation for excellence is gaining him leverage in the ___________community, and funding is being sought for [expansion/equipment] which will ___________. “Not only will this ___________, but it will also, hopefully, ___________,” he said. That will fulfill a lifelong dream. He is already planning for ___________.

NAME says the values he learned at ___________University were crucial to his success. “Technology has certainly changed the face of the profession,” he said, “but the goal is the same. Ultimately it’s all about providing people with the best possible ___________.”

And “___________,” he smiled, “___________.”

Jul 21

Crazy

8 January 2009

This past week I drafted new work that I think is crazy: way, way off my usual path. This is the good kind of crazy for a writer.

That was during vacation time. Now I'm back to being mentally healthy, according to the standards of this culture: A clock wakes you, you shower and go to work and earn money, and try all day not to destroy your body, bank account, and relationships. You never tell your co-worker or boss, "I need time to myself" or "I'm busy writing a poem; go ask somebody else to do that" --that's so seriously nutty that they call it career suicide. If they catch you working on your novel or memoir (or blog), they won't listen when you explain that you are DRIVEN to do it by unknown forces and that you were born that way.

So we writers lead two lives from the start. One is crazy (according to non-writing mom, stepdad who wanted me be a court reporter because they really rake it in, boyfriend who thought writers get thousands of dollars when they complete a book, etc.). The crazy one is the fun one, the one with the starry dream world and infinite potential. That's also the one with the workshop that is happy, even thrilled, to read each other's crazy writing.
Jul 06

I'm Booked

Neighbor says: My sister's daughter is having a wedding shower Saturday at the VFW Hall; you will drop in, won't you, and say hello to Marie and give your blessings to the bride?

Writer says: I am booked.

Relative says: I've tried for an hour and I just can't get the inkjet cartridge out or the new one in. And I've got to get this thing printed by tomorrow. You're into computers, right? You can come over tonight, can't you?

Writer says: I am booked.

Dear Writer: You're working on a book, aren't you? (Who isn't?) Then you can confidently say -- when someone tries to railroad you into doing something you didn't promise to do, aren't obliged to do, never agreed to do: "I'm booked."

Your score doubles if you use that time to work on your book for real.
Jun 24

Do Real Writers Write Every Day?

It is said that "real writers write every day," but of course that is a myth.

I once was in conference with a famous writer. (It was E. L. Doctorow.) The first thing he asked me was, "Do you write every day?"

I said, "No. I have to work."

His manner changed. I understood that my answer had disqualified me in some fashion; that it proved I was not truly committed, and had no future in the big leagues. The rest of the conference was perfunctory.

I didn't think it was a rude question at the time. I had read, over and over, that some writers were "too lazy" or "not disciplined" if they did not get up two hours earlier in the morning or use their after-work time to write. I tried those things, for about three days each, and couldn't see straight, much less think straight.

"Do you write every day?" E. L. Doctorow is a fine writer. But that question proved he was not a teacher.

Maybe writers who do nothing else can and should write every day, but writers with responsibilities other than writing can get too burnt-out. Tired. Depleted. And if you feel that way -- you are exactly what you feel like!

The following coping idea came from a writer with a full-time job. She tried writing in the evenings, but at best put in a spotty half-hour. The results were not worth her efforts. Weekends had to be spent on housework and errands. So she told herself:

Okay, no writing Monday through Friday. Period. You are not to go near pen and paper on those days. Writing is permitted on the weekends only -- and then only if you feel like it.

The first week she rejoiced in her freedom from the mental burden of "writing every day."

By Friday night of the second week she could hardly wait to get to her computer. She did her housework and schlepping on weeknights, didn't short herself on sleep, and on Saturday and Sunday, rested, she got good chunks of time to sit down and write. She's a real writer.
Jun 21

The Green Light for Creative Writing

EXERCISE: 1. Close your eyes and picture a traffic light, any type you want. 2. Make the light turn green. 3. Hold the picture of the green traffic light in your mind. Try to hold the picture for at least 15 seconds. 4. Picture the green traffic light whenever you think or hear stuff like this:

"I can't get an agent" "Writers never make money" "Nobody wants the kind of stuff I write" "Artists are doomed to be outsiders" "I wish I'd been born with another talent"

Gently, shine the green light on these thoughts. You have a green light to write -- whatever you want -- and be great.

Having trouble picturing a green light? Draw a traffic light. Draw rays coming out of the green lamp.

Every time you see a green light, no matter where you are, tell yourself, "That's the green light for my writing."