Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dealing with distractions of a bigger kind

The past week and a half has been pretty busy. For one thing, there was my friend's wedding stuff: Last weekend we had bachelorette party, and last night was the wedding, for which I was a bridesmaid. I also had a handful or so of doctor's appointments, mostly pertaining to the diabetes study I'm currently participating in. And on top of it all, I had some major work deadlines mid-week.

As a result of this combination, I was feeling very unlike myself this past week. First of all, although I wasn't physically hung over after the bachelorette party, I was mentally hung over from the overstimulation. The sensation of being "out of it" lasted for several days, which made it difficult to work as hard as I should have been.

Fortunately, my deadlines did eventually snap me out of my funk, but I had to work extra hard to get my work done. Wednesday night I had to go to bed for a couple of hours because I was so tired, then get up and work until dawn to finish before going back to bed. You do what you have to do sometimes to get it done, but it certainly didn't help my week to feel any less crazy!

Do you ever have weeks like this, where all you can do is to hang on for dear life and hope you get through it in one piece?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

NPR's 3-minute short story contest

Can you write a short story that can be read in under three minutes?

Flash fiction is not my forte, but maybe someone else would be interested in NPR's three-minute fiction contest. Stories have to be under 600 words, and the due date is August 25, 2009 &mdas; a week from today.

Good luck!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The freelance internship myth

I often see ads on job boards (particularly Craigslist) seeking writers for "internship" positions. Don't be fooled — these "employers" are deliberately and despicably attempting to take advantage of unsuspecting newbie writers.

On Wednesday Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly.com addressed this issue in her "Ask the Expert" column. She researched the actual U.S. law governing internships and provided several links. To sum up, in order to be considered an internship, the goal of the position has to be to train the intern. The company also can't benefit financially from the intern's work. And finally, the training has to be done on the company's equipment.

Particularly that last requirement eliminates every ad I've ever seen claiming to be hiring freelance "interns." So does the requirement that the company can't benefit from the intern's work.

So if you are browsing the job boards for writing work, beware of any ad that claims to be looking for "freelance writing interns" — or you could do what Angela has been doing, and inform them that their "internship" is in violation of the law!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What a feeling!

Just typing that title made me think of Flashdance — that lovely scene where she dances across the floor with the theme song playing, at the end when she is auditioning for the balley company. The rush I get when I watch that scene is exactly what it feels like to truly love your job.

Even if it doesn't have a theme song.

Anyway, to get to my point — every once in a while when I'm working I just get this feeling like I want to stay in the current moment forever. Today it was when I was sitting on my bed just after lunch, working my tail off so that I could get something done before my afternoon horseback riding lesson. Both of my cats were sleeping on the bed while I worked, and I felt like I almost didn't want to leave — not even to see my horse. I would have been quite content just to stay there and continue working.

Do you get these moments too, when you just love writing so much that's all you want to do? What triggers this feeling for you?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Laray Carr returns

Do any of you remember the Laray Carr scam from two years ago? It was the most involved get-rich-quick scam I've ever seen, but apparently it worked, because Quincy Carr is back — this time as Quinn Rhodes of Niche Age Media. Victoria Strauss has posted a very thorough recap of Laray Carr, and the results of her investigation into Niche Age Media, over at Writer Beware.

Back during the Laray Carr fallout, I had the name and number for a detective who was handling the case. At the time he asked me to send any Laray Carr victims his way. I am going to find his contact information (buried somewhere in my archived emails), inform him of Quincy Carr's newest scam, and see if there is still a pending investigation. I'll let you know what I find out!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ethical issues of ghostwriting

An article that just made top headlines highlights one of the main issues of ghostwriting: being sure you are not accepting payment to do something unethical.

Medical Papers by Ghostwriters Pushed Therapy

Basically, over 7 years ghostwriters were paid by the pharmaceutical company Wyeth to produce 26 scientific papers supporting hormone replacement therapy for women. According to the article:

The articles, published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005, emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia.

Of course, in 2002 a real study found that hormone replacement therapy was actually connected to some very serious complications, such as increased risk of breast cancer and dementia, and the drugs fell out of favor.

But what about those ghostwriters who traded their morals for a nice fat paycheck from the pharmaceutical companies?

This demonstrates a very simple rule when ghostwriting: Don't write anything under the protection of anonymity that you wouldn't write under your own name. Even if none of these writers are ever identified and publicly discredited, how do they sleep at night knowing they pulled the wool over millions of women's eyes?

Another rule: Don't ever be dishonest about your motives. If someone is paying you to review their product, don't try to conceal that relationship. It could really come back to bite you in the butt if you do.

The potential conflict of ethics is actually one of the top reasons I hear other writers saying they don't do ghostwriting. I personally think you can be a ghostwriter and still maintain your morals, but in order to do so you have to be sure that your clients know right from the beginning what you will and won't write.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Revamping my goals

After a busy and emotionally draining weekend, I'm now back to work — more or less. I have a lot of non-work activities planned for this week, particularly because my mom is on vacation and wants to spend some time with me. So I'll be in and out a bit all week.

Anyway, after my successes and failures with my experiment in productivity, and after setting a record for 2009 with my July income, I decided it was time to revamp my goals a little bit.

This came partly from realizing that while increasing my productivity was increasing my income, there were still many things that I wanted to do that weren't getting done. For instance, I've been wanting to finish a long-overdue update to my website, and ever since we got back from Europe in March I've been meaning to start working on fiction a little bit every day. And what good is increasing my productivity if I can't achieve some of these goals as well? I'm a person, not a factory drone.

To address this issue, I've decided to rework some of my goals. I want to increase my marketing activities, as I've grown a bit lax in that department in the last year or two, and I also want to be sure that I work on my own projects (fiction as well as my blogs) regularly.

Here are the changes I plan on making to my schedule:

1) Making Monday an admin day. I really liked spending Monday on administrative tasks last Monday. Things like my email inbox tend to get rather out of hand if I don't set aside a dedicated block of time for managing them. Once those types of things are done, this day can also be spent on marketing and working ahead on my blogs.

2) Spending an hour every weekday on marketing. This time will be spent on website updates until I get those finished. After that, I'll spend it on checking job boards, writing queries, blogging, etc. — anything that leads to new clients.

3) Setting aside an hour every day for my own projects. This also includes blogging to some extent, but primarily I'm thinking of the novel ideas I'm always outlining and a couple of ebooks I've been wanting to write.

If I can work these things into my schedule, plus work about four billable hours a day Tuesday through Friday, I should be able to meet all of my goals — income, career, and personal writing!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A successful July

Last week, Lori Widmer over at Words on the Page posted with her monthly assessment for July. At the time, I already knew my July was going to be phenomenal, but I didn't want to post about it until I was sure. Then the weekend happened, and I had no time or inclination to blog at all until today.

Basically, July surpassed every other month this year, nearly achieving the high-end, reach-for-the-stars monthly income goal that I'd set at the beginning of the year. Boy was I surprised! Part of it was because I received a check from a client that only pays me every few months, but even without that check, my earnings for the month were well above last month's!

So far this year, I've noticed a distinct pattern. With the exception of March, which was a little bit skewed because I received several payments for February work at the beginning of March, I have increased my earnings every single month since the beginning of the year. January and February were a bit low, granted, but things are looking pretty darn good right now.

The question is, can I keep up this trend? Can I beat July's record in August? I'd like to think I can, especially with some changes I will be making to my schedule (more on that tomorrow). In July I was really able to increase my productivity, but I know I also need to market a bit more regularly. If I can do that, who knows — maybe I really will beat July's record this month!


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