Friday, August 14, 2009

The Play's the Thing

I’ve had some excellent successes since I last made an entry here, though they are on the periphery of my freelance writing career. Writing is writing, I’m proud of my work. (I’m also working freelance as a Marketing Consultant these days, and Marketing is writing, too. Isn’t it?)

My one-man show, STUPENDOUS, COLOSSAL FAILURE! premiered at Chicago Dramatists on Saturday, April 11th. It was well received and I want to do a full-length version sometime, and have a venue in mind.

More recently, a short play of mine, THE WORST THING, also premiered at Chicago Dramatists (as a staged reading), and was directed by Kathy Scambiatterra, Artistic Director of The Artistic Home, a wonderful coup for me.

What’s next?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Make It Happen

Anyone for a footrace? Want to give yourself a deadline? Comment here if you're interested, I'd be happy to encourage you to give yourself a time limit. It works for me, maybe we can help each other get things done. Just gentle reminders, no trash talk.

Any takers?

A Gratuitous Blog Entry

"Gratuitous" means "unnecessary, without cause, unwarranted," and there are many ways to achieve gratuitousness. Any aspect of a piece of writing is gratuitous if it doesn't do the work it should.

I recently wrote a draft of a play with situations and language that those who heard a reading of it judged gratuitous, and their reasons were sound. I had not convinced them of the point, use, function of those situations and my use of language in the service of the work. Among other insights I gained from the experience was an idea that, while it likely isn't original, has novelty and may help me in my continuing development of the play.

I have decided to write a synopsis of the play to clarify the story I am attempting to tell. Writing a synopsis should help a great deal in sloughing off any gratuitous elements. I intend then to build out from the synopsis and basically re-write the play.

Reduced to even simpler terms, I suppose I will be outlining the play's plot.

Let me know if you've had any comparable experience in your own work.

Value of Deadlines

I recently had a reading of a play I've been writing for more than a decade in front of a dozen or more playwrights (led by Sarah Gubbins, FAIR USE and many other plays). The opportunity presented itself at Chicago Dramatists, with which I'm pleased to be associated as a Network Playwright.

I got very useful feedback, but the main take-away was the power of the deadline. I had learned less than a week before the reading that I'd get this opportunity and had to distill hundreds of pages of notes and a couple hundred more pages of dialogue and stage directions into a comprehensible first-draft, bona fide script.

Never underestimate the power of a deadline. For better or worse.

Blogging Hiatus

Please read today's post on my Meta blog, which explains my recent absence from these pages.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Time Management

You've probably seen as many clever time management schemes as I have. I don't think there exists a time management scheme or formula that's 100% reliable. Whether they work or not depends at least in part on personal temperament.

What works best for me is just doing what's in front of me. Is it a truism that time well-spent on a sound plan saves hours and days of revisions and fixes later on? When I plan too much time flies by. I say focus on what's in front of you, and let your intuition tell you what's next.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Force of Habit

You have to be ahead of yourself if you want to succeed. The unexpected always happens, and the best way to prepare for every eventuality is to be done already.

I'll prepare some posts in advance.

Are you prepared? Do you get sidetracked?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don't Pay for Work

I make it a rule of thumb not to pay for an opportunity to write. I understand that all professions have necessary expenses, but paying for writing “leads” turns me off.

Have you seen ? Google them and entertain yourself with all the pro and con comments on their service. Of course, I suspect all the comments in favor are made by lackeys who have been paid-off, perhaps given a discount coupon to GoFreelance. And, surely, all the comments against are by GoFreelance competitors, disguised as clients.

That’s why I’m making my own stand here, in vvriters. At least I’ll have a coterie of persons I get to know and trust and hopefully we’ll find legitimate opportunities together.

I found one reference to GoFreelance which seemed reasonable, a soft-sell thumb's-up:

What's your opinion?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Forcing Myself to Write

It’s odd that I should have to force myself to write when I so much love the act of writing.

But it’s true. This blog is an effort, because there are constraints. I have to pick a relevant topic, write whether or not I have a deathless idea about it, and then I must meet a self-imposed deadline, posting something every working day.

It’s also challenging because I’m writing exactly on topics about which I’m unsure. I’m unsure how to make a living writing. I’m unsure how to reach an audience. I’m unsure how to pursue clients. I do it all, but I don’t pretend to be an expert—yet.

It’s those things about which we are most unsure that often provide us with our best material. And it’s those things about which we are most unsure we are well advised to know, for safety’s sake.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Time was you'd get your degree and you were ready. Today, of course, education is ongoing and unending. I'm not sure the world is really moving faster, I am sure a lot more is expected of us each day. Whether the quality of our output has improved or not, we succeed first and foremost because we showed up—paraphrasing Woody Allen, unless someone else with the same idea showed up before he did.

I find it useful to wake up each day with selective amnesia. I remember only what I need to know to keep trying. I hope you keep trying too.

I am trying to get some leads on some good writing assignments. When I find them, I'll post them here, assuming they can be shared.

Write when you find work.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Prototype Your Assignment

What do you prototype?

The urge to provide quicker and quicker turnaround can result in sketchy work—but creating a quick sketch can be good. Think about prototyping your next assignment. Give them what they want in the end, but in the beginning give them a rough draft of what to expect.

Prototyping allows for change. You can work with the client in lockstep, develop the desired copy not only to specification, but to ongoing revised specs as well.

Take a page from computer software prototyping, and be both the first with the right answer, and the one who goes the distance and provides every nuance the client wants—in revisions.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Should I Be Blogging?

Of course writing on the internet is the future. Everything and everyone is moving to the web. And blogging is a potential revenue stream, right? Let me know if you've made any money directly from blogging, from passive advertising, selling baby chickens, whatever. Also, let me know if you've won a lottery.

I'm blogging in a an attempt at networking with other professionals. I'm blogging to give myself ideas. I'm blogging because I write everyday anyway.

This may be my way forward and I just don't realize it yet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Freelance Freefall

Will the current economic crisis help freelancers, or hurt them?

It feels to me like the times are hurting everyone, even those in supposedly safer areas. For example, lots of nurses are losing their jobs even as we have a nursing shortage. Why? Because our economic system is not functioning properly.

Here's someone else's blog post, with savvy comments on this subject:

Isn't it a moot point, though? You can be a success while everyone around you falls, and fail with your best work while others sail by. Statistics don't really matter, ultimately. It's all or nothing, either you're making it or you're not. At least it seems so to me.

Enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Potential Problem

I have a lot of potential, and so do you. It's a real problem, isn't it? It is for me.

I have no problem writing, but I always need to be writing more, and I need more readers as well. I was talking to an acquaintance, telling him how I admired his writing career, that I was not satisfied with my own. He advised me he wasn't too please with himself, that the writers he admired were far more accomplished. Assuming there may be someone at the top of this heap, that person is perhaps satisfied with himself.

The rest of us aren't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Persistence Pays

You know persistence pays.

You probably have seen this famous quotation:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."—Calvin Coolidge

We like to think we have a rational understanding of events, but science suggests reality is more random than we like to think, and that the order we perceive is often a matter of our seeing patterns where none exist.You probably feel your talent and training give you an edge. Knowing that the probability of an event (for example, securing a paid writing assignment) relies more on chance than we'd like to think, perhaps we should all spend greater effort increasing our numbers—more contacts, more words written, more self-promotion.

This is not to say we shouldn't strive to improve our game, only to consider the likelihood that luck plays a large part in our careers, whether we are inclined to think so or not.

Increasing our exposure is at least as important as improving our skills.

You agree?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Resume Critic

Someone critiqued my resume recently, with the intention, it turns out, of selling me their services as a resume doctor. I should have known, the tip-off was the critique was "free."

You're a writer. Do you hire writers to do your writing for you? Ever?

How many times have I written a letter, only to tear it up (or save it in my scrap file). This time around, I'm splitting the difference--not sending it, but posting it here:

Hello, [Name Withheld]:

Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful evaluation.

Many of your suggestions I am able to incorporate immediately, some I’ve heard before and thought I had addressed, but I agree I can improve my resume in ways you described.

Having said that, I am a professional writer and know my audiences. I am disinclined to overstate my accomplishments, and have found a measure of humility wins the best prize in the end. The very version of my resume you panned prompted a call to me recently from the president of a large and successful consulting firm.

The crux is, trust in any critique becomes alarmingly problematic when accompanied by a hard-ball sales pitch. Do you have any inkling how many times each day on the internet someone’s shouting at me how I urgently need something?

Fortunately, as I said, you gave a useful evaluation of my resume which stands on its own merits. Perhaps it embarrasses you to have to add that boilerplate at the end offering professional help. (And at a discount!)

So thanks again, I’ll keep my money for more prudent uses. You told me it was in the interest of honesty that you were blunt in your remarks, so you won’t mind my being blunt also: expunge the exclamation points from your critiques and look up “passive voice”—perhaps you were being clever?

Someday all sales pitches will fall on deaf ears. I think it will happen all at once. Some Monday morning no one will purchase anything that’s hyped. I think the internet, for all its abuses, will make it possible. We’ll all just price compare and buy what we need from passive vendors.

“The meek shall inherit….”

My thanks to you are sincere,