Sunday, November 21, 2010 matter what

Ever since the mid-1990s, I have been a dedicated reader of SARK, the author of colorful, handwritten, life-affirming books. If you haven’t read SARK (acronym for Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), start with Succulent Wild Woman(as I did).

Earlier this month, SARK’s 16th book came out: Glad No Matter What. SARK describes how she faced losses large and small in her life (the large ones included the death of her mother, the death of her cat, and the loss of a love relationship). Even inside these big losses, SARK insists, you can find a piece of gladness that gleams like a rainbow.

Glad No Matter What came along at just the right time for me. Lately, it has been hard not to feel depressed about my career, with most of my applications and inquiries falling into a black hole (and not even a “thanks but no thanks” reply). Coupled with the chill and clouds of November, I’ve been feeling small and vulnerable and meaningless. Is there really a place for my work out in the world? How can I bring in some bacon (real bacon, not penny-a-word beggin’) for my household? Who should I be contacting for good, well-paying work?

Where’s the gladness in all of this? I have the time, means, and opportunity to find those good “whos”. I have Two Dogs by my side, and can go to him for the right answer when I have a question. I now know what I want and what I do not want, and am now able, at last, to say “no” to the “do not want”. When I remember this, I feel large and powerful and real.

Thanks, SARK! (And thanks also to Two Dogs for the photo of me with the book.)

A penny (per word) for my thoughts? I don’t think so

Meandering Mouse is my blog for personal thoughts. As of now, I don’t get paid for writing it. I do, however, search for paying writing jobs each week. A few days ago, I received this reply from a blog post company:

Dear ********* applicant (not Dear Jennie or Ms. Hakim),

Thank you for your interest in writing for *********. Before we move forward and hire you as a freelance writer we need to confirm with you a few things.

As a new writer you will typically be assigned campaigns that will be on a payment level of 1-2 cents per word. You will have the possible opportunity to receive higher paying campaigns as time progresses and after your work has shown quality and consistency. The campaign pay levels can vary from .01 to about .05, this is never a permanent amount We also ask our writers to be able to commit to writing 3,000 words per week. This does not guarantee that all writers will be provided at least 3,000 words a week as assignments are dependent on campaign availability, but we feel that a writer should have the capacity to contribute at least this much when situation demands it. Overdue work is unacceptable and we ask that you only commit to writing for us if you can provide your work on time and consistently meet your deadlines. Please keep this information in mind when responding to this email & committing to working for us.

If you are still interested in writing for ********* (under the above terms), please respond to this email message at your earliest convenience. Please note this is the next step in the process and does not necessarily mean you will be selected. However, we need to receive your personal acceptance of these terms in order to move forward in this process.

Please let me know if you have questions.

Thank you!

After reading this, I turned to my calculator. I found that as a beginning writer at ********* – at one to two cents a word, 3000 words a week – I would earn $30 to $60 per week. (Remember, there is no guarantee of any writer being allowed that many words per week.) At the maximum rate, five cents a word, I would earn $150 per week.

Now, $30 to $150 per week might be an acceptable pay rate for a ten-year-old. Or someone with a breadwinning partner who wants to earn some Christmas Club money. Or someone who has traveled back to fifty or more years ago.

It’s not acceptable for someone in 2010 who aims to bring in at least half of a two-person household’s income. And it is absolutely not acceptable for any professional writer who cares about art and craft, who will take the extra time to make sure the facts are right, who does sweat the stuff small and large.

A penny a word is an insulting wage. Period.

I can hear the blowback now: That’s the way the business is. We’re competing with Third World countries now. Beggars can’t be choosers. Shut up and take what you are given. Don’t be a job snob. Don’t act so entitled.

Excuse me?

Wanting to be able to pay my bills and live a modest but comfortable lifestyle makes me a “job snob”? Wanting to be paid like a professional adult (and by doing so, making it easier for all other pro writers to have good wages) makes me “entitled?”

So be it. People who just shut up and take what they are given don’t become heroes, or role models, or wisdom brokers.

People who say “no” to insult? As far as I’m concerned, they are all three.

As I say, act like a character you would want to read a book about.

(Thanks to Two Dogs for lending a hand to the photo above.)

If you needed just one more reason to avoid chain restaurants…

From In Pursuit of Silence by George Prochnik:

Customers exposed to slow music spent significantly longer at table: an average of 56 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes.…Stoked with data of this nature, chain restaurants, such as Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill, developed computerized sound systems that were preset to raise the tempo and volume of music at hours of the day when corporate wanted to turn tables. ‘A lot of the managers try to turn music down because they think it’s too loud for people eating,’ said Don Blanton, who developed the system for the grill. ‘So we’ve put in an automated system.’

In other words, even if every single customer complains about the sound volume at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill, the manager can’t do jack because “corporate” is hell-bent on reaching into customers’ brains and playing puppetry of the senses.

I have written about the subject of unwanted public sound here before, but this paragraph lit my fuse. I am tempted, oh so tempted, to say that if you eat at a restaurant named after a TV show, you deserve what you get – but really, no one deserves this insidious kind of mind rape. Yes, that’s the right word – rape – when marketers invade your consciousness without consent.

Sounds much more horrifying when you think of it that way, doesn’t it?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dancing in the dark

It’s going to take some time for me to get used to the return of Standard Time, which happened a week ago. I’ve missed every hour of extra sunlight like Disneyphiles miss the Skyway between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Five o’clock was once a pleasant hour to hang out in; now it’s the first hour of darkness, which makes this meandering mouse scurry back into her (figurative!) hole. Except for occasional forays with Two Dogs and other loved ones, I stay indoors when it’s dark outside.

(What happened to the person who drove out to Ducks hockey games and Meetups and mall trips without thinking of it?)

I need to remember that in has its unique joys. In is the world of home-cooked meals from Two Dogs, usually with a glass of wine that costs less than one I would get at the bar. (As in a bottle of wine costing $22 at the restaurant and less than $7 at the grocery store. We pay a premium for out.) In is the world of reading on the couch or on the bed, drinking herbal tea with Splenda and nibbling on dark chocolate squares (sometimes with kosher salt sprinkled on them). In is the world of bubble baths, sometimes alone with a stack of magazines, sometimes with Two Dogs and a bottle of sparkling wine. Our modest little bathroom becomes a spiritually healing spa. In is where my shell renews itself, so it’s strong when it’s time to be out again.

Years ago, I used to dance in the world of in. I would twirl and jiggle to the sounds of Smash Mouth’s Astro Lounge and a soundtrack of James Bond movie themes and anything else my Emerson 5-CD changer was carrying. My Emerson is now tucked away in storage, and we don’t have much space for dancing (a situation which is changing bit by bit). Maybe dancing is a habit I should renew this fall and winter – it is but one way to give light to darkness.