Friday, November 19, 2010

Reading... own work. Well, a fraction of it, anyway. One of my former clients just sent me copies of some* of what I've done for them over the past decade, and it's quite a stack: a box-full of oversized printouts --running from one to six or seven sheets each -- and a couple of CDs containing all the original PDF files, which I can then pass along to potential future clients as samples of my writing and (in some cases) photographic "skills."

Wading through all this is not exactly a thrilling experience. First, and perhaps foremost, I am not working with this company now, and may never do so again. The obvious reasons -- "personality conflicts," complaints about the work itself -- don't apply; it's simply a matter of money. When the coffers run low, freelancers are the first to be shunted aside. Moreover, my "rabbi" there** with whom I worked from first to last, has been promoted to a new role at the company, and doesn't yet know how -- or if, or where -- he can use me.

I'm also not a big fan of rereading work I did years ago. Or, for that matter, months ago. Once it's in print, there's nothing I can do to improve, add, delete or generally mess with the story. As any writer can tell you, that urge is strong; nothing has ever been written that couldn't be improved, no photo has ever been taken that couldn't benefit from a rethink. At this stage, all those urges do is cause frustration.

It wasn't all great stuff. Editors messed with some of the copy***,  photo editors chose less-than-perfect images, layout people made text disappear, and once in a blue moon I screwed up, getting a fact or two wrong or grinding out a sentence so convoluted that editors just threw up their hands in horror and let it slide.

But there are a few winners in the pile, articles that I'll be proud to use as examples of what I can do.

Mind you, that's what I can do when I'm paid for it. Though these people were fairly free with the mazooma, they did have a bad habit of offering me rush jobs that didn't pay well, which I did simply to keep them smiling. I won't make as much anywhere else today, as story rates have dropped considerably.

The worst part of the whole deal is that I'm not doing this -- or any -- work right now. Never mind the fun I had doing some of the articles; not writing at all is painful. That has to change, and soon.

Much of my working past -- particularly in my most recent "career" -- was not all that wonderful. That it was better than now is depressing, and looking back at what I was doing tends to make that worse. If the favor these people did by digging up and sending me this pile pays off, it will be worth the sad moments spent looking at relics from a former time.

Cranky old Henry Ford famously said: "history is more or less bunk." To some extent, I have to agree with him. He might feel more strongly about that if he was around to wade through my past work....

* I'm guessing about 25-30% of the total, which went into three magazines the company published. These all come from one of them; more are said to be on their way soon.

** That's an old Noo Yawk term, likely with some underworld associations. In this case, a "rabbi" is not your spiritual leader, but someone who helps move you, for whatever reason, through a system.

*** In fairness, that seldom happened to me, and less often than normal with this company. Still, a hamfisted copy editor can mess up your whole day....


John0 Juanderlust said...

Hopefully the material will help in your quest. Starting over is not easy, and hardly ever goes as planned.

Kit said...

That is a good looking spread you put out there.