September 19th, 2005

stella stella can't you hear me yella

The Scribble

As I have mentioned, I’ve been trying to get more freelance work for national publications, to ease my reliance on local rags in case of relocation. This has its upsides and downsides. Here are some things about writing for national magazines:

1. The pay is higher. Much, much, higher. Leagues, light-years, parsecs higher.

2. It’s much harder to get. National publications tend to come out monthly, and they are able to select from a labor pool consisting of every freelancer in the country. Which means you’re competing with hundreds of thousands of people instead of hundreds, for far fewer jobs. So you have to come correct, every time. And except at a certain level, you’re guaranteed to be rejected far, far more than you are accepted.

3. The work is also much harder. The benefit of the higher profile is that you usually get a lot more creative control – you pick your own subjects instead of being assigned something, and you’re given way more space and way more freedom in terms of style, format, and content. The downside is, you better not fuck up, and you better know your audience, and most of all, you better do your research. The consequences of not knowing your shit are exponentially increased with the larger audience.

4. You tend not to have anything like a personal relationship with your editor. They don’t know you from Adam Horovitz: you’re just some faceless name whose pitch they decided to accept. There’s none of the give-and-take, hey-just-checking-in you get with local publications.

5. About that pitch they decided to accept: this, to me, is the worst thing about freelancing, and it’s numbingly common writing for bigger publications. Some of the time – indeed, a lot of the time – you will do a ton of research (I mean, a ton; what equates to days and days of reading) for a pitch that is going to end up being rejected. Not quite, but almost, as frequently, you will get an initial acceptance that will, after you’ve already put in a chunk of work, turn into a rejection. And sometimes, you’ll actually write the piece in its entirety only to have someone not buy it or buy it and then not publish it. The latter can be okay financially (some publications, though not by any means all, pay a “kill fee” – that is, if they take an article, you write it, but they don’t run it, you get paid anyway, a percentage of what you would have made if they’d published it), but it can be frustrating creatively, since it represents a big investment of time that you put in researching and writing only to have the piece never see the light of day. It can be especially frustrating since most publications retain the rights to the piece for quite some time – meaning that even though they didn’t publish it, they own it, so you can’t pitch it to anyone else.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m still amazed when anyone decides to pay me for anything that I’ve written; it feels like I’m pulling one over. It’s just an adjustment. All my life, I’ve had the problem of carrying a lot of useless knowledge; I like knowing things just for the pleasure of knowing them, but this is how you make a useless life-waster. Now that I’m getting paid a bit for writing, it’s only gotten worse instead of better: this week alone, I got two responses to pitches for national pubs (a rejection from Film Threat and an acceptance from American History) that both represent the dumping into my overtaxed brain dozens of man-hours worth of useless knowledge. Ah well, I’ll probably die in a gutter, but I can still take all comers at pub trivia.
bizarro am drunk motherfucker

Instead of Talk Like a Pirate Day

OKSTOBER 1. I was playink a rousing game of faro down at Ruff House’s jernt with Pappy and Alice the Goon and Mona Walfleur and Mayor Stonefeller and some other dogses. I hates to say dis because it is a seriousk infamy against your ownsly fodder but I thinks dere is sometink going on between Pappy and Alice. De old man spends a lot of time at seas, and, you know, a dame is a dame, goon or udderwise. I am only glads dat he had me before he beguns dat peculial dalliansk because the genetikal repercussinks are abdominable.

OKSTOBER 4. Well here it is Tuesday agin and not a farthink from that blustery moocher Wimpy. Why nobody has exskorted him to Davy Jones’ Locker is unfathomable. Uk uk uk! Gets it? Unfathomable! Because, you knows, the sea! You measures it in fathoms! I’m glad I’m writink dis down.

OKSTOBER 9. Had it out with Pappy after I catched him clotting Ham Gravy in the side of the cup with a rye bottle. I finally makes the deskision to bring up the think about Alice the Goon, and he says he’ll cuts it out “as soons as you dropsk dat plank you’re sleepink wit.” I tells him I ain’ts been sleepink with no plank sinsk I was a teenager, and he says dat he minsk Olive Oyl. I tells him that my intinkshusn wit Olive are enterseley honkerable, and he just makes dis screwy vinegar face and axes me how Swee’Pea is doing. I forgets what happinks after dat because he hads anudder rye bottle it turnsk out.

OKSTOBER 14. I’m no analysikal philoskofer, but sometimes dat Jacques Derrida climbs right ups me bilge pump. Ruth Barcan Marcus goes too far in her constink detraction of him as an inkelkshable fraud, but his deliberick obscurantantism does no servicks to his ambishkus phenomenologies.

OKSTOBER 23. Some fat man and a pansy was sniffink around Sweethaven lookink for a black bird. I tole him there was no suchk bird anywhere arounds but he insisked and spent about nine watches locked up in conferinsk with Bluto. Meanwhiles da little pansy kepsk making google eyes at me. I tole him I was flackered but not really inkerested. The tub of gutsk axed me if I had seen his rara Avis and I said the only way on or off of Sweethaven was by sea. He gives me a queer look and then says I am wild and unpredickable. I should have tossed him in the harbor but he probably would have floated away and then four monks from now I’d end up havink an adventure on him. Sometimes I really hates this town.