Sure, why not?

Freelance writing is a weird thing.

I currently freelance through the website Fiverr, which has its ups and downs. On the one hand, you can find tons of jobs. On the other hand, tons of jobs can also find you and sometimes you get asked to write really strange things. Things you have not said you were qualified to write about.

One of my most popular gigs is simply “uplifting and humorous content,” and through this gig I have been hired to write a series of educational youtube scripts about microbiomes and gut bacteria (which I’m pretty sure never saw the light of day, but hey, I got paid), a blog post about a woman whose husband lit his dinner on fire, an article about why free-range hens make the best eggs for an omelette restaurant, and a 4,000 word article about “the soul of metal working from past to present.”

Every time one of these weird gigs dealing with a subject about which I know literally nothing comes my way, I am filled with a small feeling of dread.

How can I make gut bacteria funny?

What the heck does he mean by “the soul of metalwork?”

Are people seriously still questioning whether or not free-range eggs are a good thing?

But then I dive in, maybe have a small panic attack along the way, and get to work…. and weirdly, it starts to become fun. For those bacteria videos, I essentially went to science class every week, took a bunch of notes (way more about poop than I anticipated, which always makes for great comedy), and then wrote a funny essay about what I learned. And I ended up working for that guy for, like, 7 weeks. It was awesome.

And for this metalworking gig I’m working on now, I’m discovering this whole entire new-to-me world of people who make our world way prettier with metal by hitting it with a hammer or spraying it with fire. It’s insane.

Of course, not every gig pushes me completely out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I get gigs where I get to write about books or my dogs, but most of the time it’s these kinds of jobs.

One day, I hope to be able to get more of my own ideas pitched and published in proper magazines, but until then, I’m enjoying pushing myself further and further with my writing. Without these gigs I doubt I would have ever written about these subjects, and now I’m not so scared of saying “yes” when people ask. It’s a nice feeling.

I guess the point is that we don’t know what we don’t know, but what I do know is that I can at least try to figure it out. I never thought I’d be writing bacterial comedy, but if I had said “sorry, not my area of expertise,” I’d be a lot poorer and know a lot less about what’s happening in my own body.

So thanks, weird Fiverr gigs. Keep ‘em coming.

Ten minutes.

I'm actually writing this on Thursday, but it's being published on Friday so let's just all pretend that when I say "today," I mean "Friday" because that reality is easier for all of us to accept. Or maybe it's just me that cares. Either way, I'm using today to be lazily productive. Most of my writing days fall into this category because I never really get dressed or shower, but I do get things done, and today is a writing day, as most "todays" are, but especially so right now because it's NaNoWriMo and like the fool that I am, I decided to participate again. I'm very behind on my wordcount, but I'm perservering because that's what the point is (for me at least), to perservere even when I know that getting to the 50k by the end of this month is possibly not going to happen, but instead I have to believe that it definitely will happen because I have to believe that future me is going to muster the motivation to put the words down even though current me is struggling.

The way that I manage it is ten minutes at a time. I sit down and I set a timer on my phone for ten minutes. Then I hit play on my laptop so that loud music is blasting and I start typing and I don't let myself stop typing until that timer goes off. As soon as that little annoying sound starts playing, I stop typing - even in the middle of a sentence -, I hit pause on the music, and I go do some other task on my to-do list (i.e. putting in another load of laundry, working on a patreon reward, taking the dogs for a walk, or arguing with the ghost in my bathroom). As soon as that task on my list is done, I do another ten minutes, and then repeat until I have finished my to-do list. I've found that it takes me ten minutes to get about 350 words out of my brain, which means that I only need to do six writing sessions to surpass my daily goal. Suddenly, it doesn't seem so bad anymore.

This method is by no means an original or universal one, but it's the one that works for me. I'm not a person who can sit down at my laptop and write from dawn until dusk. I get distracted or discouraged when I start to run out of steam and then depression and self-loathing sets in, and frankly, those are demons that I'd like to not wrestle with if I can help it (The ghost in the bathroom isn't so bad, even if its sense of humor can be gross), and I'm thinking that maybe the reason this works is that those demons need just more than ten minutes of travel time to make it to the front of my brain, but if I don't give them more than ten minutes, they miss the train and they have to wait for another one, and then I just end up never letting them catch the train and they're stuck on a platform deep in the recesses of my mind for most of the day. I'd feel bad for them if they weren't such jerks when they came around.

Anyway, I'm not sure if any of you are slogging through something this month, whether it's a wordcount or some other daunting task, but if you are, I hope you have something like my ten-minute system to make it less scary. If you do, leave a comment down below and tell me what it is, because it took me a while to find mine and maybe someone else reading this is in need of one.

 

And they shall call me "#Sedawson!" Wait. No.

For my birthday The Mr took me to see David Sedaris. He was performing, we didn't pay him a visit or anything. It's not like The Mr was all "Pack a picnic, darling, we're off to visit with David!" and then drove me to some grand estate with groundskeepers and things.

 

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Why are David Sedaris, The Mr, and I suddenly in a Jane Austen novel? None of this seems right... Oh duh, that's because The Mr bought tickets to go see David Sedaris speak in Massachusetts. Now things make more sense.

Clearly, I do not hang out with David Sedaris (and I believe it's pretty obvious that that won't be changing anytime soon.), but I've been a big fan of his since college when Bestbian introduced me to his work. I thought he was funny then, but now my affection for him and his work has grown from being a fan to being inspired. His ability to write an essay is frustratingly brilliant.

 

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The personal essay is something that I've been working hard at lately, and in doing so, I've been turning to his work more and more.

There's just one problem with looking to my heroes for inspiration: They always seem to be more interesting than I am.

David Sedaris seems to witness a completely different world than I do. Jenny Lawson always ends up in these ridiculous situations and conversations. After reading their work, I find myself not feeling inspired, but instead feeling inadequate.

But then David Sedaris said something in response to a question at his reading that changed things for me. A couple people asked him questions about how he got into writing memoir or if he goes out and gets himself into situations for the sake of the story and he began talking about how none of this was ever part of the plan.

"If you read my work, you'll notice that nothing big ever really happens to me," he said. "I just have to figure out how to make something out of nothing most of the time."

He also said something along the lines of how going out and doing something just so that you can write about it immediately turns that story into a lie. He writes about things that happen to him and what he thinks about those things. Staging those situations immediately takes away the truth from the story.

I couldn't stop thinking about this. For weeks prior to this reading, I had been saying to The Mr that we need to go do more interesting things and get ourselves into more interesting situations - all for the sake of having material. Of course, now I realize that this notion is completely ridiculous. I can't put myself in situations like David Sedaris' and Jenny Lawson's and expect the great, fresh material to flow out of me. The world already has David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson. They don't need a Sedaris-Lawson impersonator. (#Sedawson?)

I'm me. It's my perspective and my ideas that should be going into my work. I just need to learn to make something out of nothing.

I simply need to learn to make something out of nothing.

And maybe when I'm feeling like I can't do it or that I have nothing good to say, I'll call my good friend David for a little pick-me-up. Oh... right. I'll just think about that time I sat in an audience of a thousand people and heard some good advice.


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Do you write words? I need you!

First of all, thank you for all of your well-wishes over the past week! I'm happy to say that I survived the plague and everything except for my voice is back to normal. I did an amazing Fran Drescher impression the other day and I regret not capturing it on film now.

 

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This weekend is a holiday weekend, but it's doubly special for us, because it's also Fiancé's thirty-first birthday, which we are celebrating by pretending that we live in the woods like wild people... wild people who happen to have access to grocery stores and air mattresses. We're not exactly glamping, because we're still doing the tent thing and we do have to hike to our campsite, so I'm giving us a pass with the decadent sleeping arrangements.

Anyway, all of this is to say that this isn't really a real blog post as much as it is just an update, but also... a request:

I am getting married in less than a month and I'm also going to be going on a honeymoon for two weeks! Yay!

BUT I don't want to abandon you all, soo..... I need you! Specifically, I need guest bloggers. This gig does not pay in dollars, but it pays in gratitude, and hopefully some new fans for you, so if you're interested, please email me: samuelson dot emelie at gmail dot com.

That's all for now! Tata!

 

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Why I Write

I’ve never been one of those writers who writes because she has to. I always hear writers say that writing is like breathing for them. If they didn’t write, they’d suffocate and die.

I could easily live my life without writing. Because writing (for me) is hard work. It’s not the thing I do to survive, it’s a thing I struggle through and have to convince myself to sit down and do it. It’s not like breathing for me. I don’t simply sit down, inhale, and exhale beautiful prose. It’s not that easy.

And yet, I write anyway.

I write because I enjoy the process. Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s work that I enjoy. In the same way that people claim to enjoy running (those people are truly crazy, for the record), I enjoy writing. It’s my workout.

Do I enjoy waking up early in the morning just to write? No. Sleeping is much nicer than writing.

But do I feel better about myself when I do it? Yes.

I do not write to make money, although any writer would laugh at the obviousness of that statement.

I could stop writing right now and most people wouldn’t even notice.

And yet, I write anyway.

I write because it’s fun to create stories and play with words. I play with words like kids play with legos. I’m constantly putting them together and breaking them apart again only to reassemble them a few more times in a few different patterns.

I could say that I write because if I didn’t, my brain would never stop chattering, but my brain doesn’t stop chattering no matter what, so I’m not sure that’s true either. Writing might be feeding into that chatter instead of quieting it, if we’re all really being honest.

Which brings me to my next point: I write because it forces me to think. Writing keeps my brain moving and talking and turning things over. Reading does this, too, which is why one should never have one without the other. Reading is the cake to my writing coffee.

I do not write because otherwise I would die. I write because someone once gave me a book and I read it and I liked it, and then later I realized that someone wrote that book and I was impressed to the point of envy, so then I picked up a pen and a piece of paper and the rest is history.

And perhaps the reason I keep writing is that I keep reading books that impress me to a point of - well, not envy anymore, but instead now it’s inspiration. Perhaps that is my driving force. I keep reading things that make me say “Oh man, that is good. I wonder if I can do that, too.” And then I’m off. I’m at my laptop or my notebook and words are coming out and I don’t even know how to keep up some days.

But then there are plenty of days where the activity doesn’t make it that far.

Because it’s easy for me to not write, too. It’s easy to read books and fill my day with other distractions. It’s easy to watch amazing movies and tv shows and play incredible video games. It’s easy to take up baking. It’s easy to not write.

And yet, I write anyway.

My identity (or lack of one?) as a writer.

I've been in an interesting stage with my writing lately. Even though I've been doing this blog for a few years now, I’ve always seen myself as a potential novelist. I just wanted a way to exercise my writing brain and to use my sense of humor along the way, so I though this blog would be fun. I've completed a first draft and a first round of edits on a novel, and I'm really proud of that, but I'm starting to wonder if that's the route I really want to take.

I really enjoy personal essay. It's an incredibly fun thing to work with and it’s a great way to explore that whole “write what you know” concept – or in some cases what you don’t know.

But it’s also so damn personal. And what if I write something now that I’m going to regret later? What if I choose to rant about gun control or women’s rights and I end up looking back on it and saying “Crap, that wasn’t what I should have said.”

Maybe that’s not the attitude to have. After all, if you constantly live in fear of regret, you never do anything, right?

And maybe this just means that I need to set up rules for myself.

So that’s what I’m doing. Here are my rules for writing:

  1. Never write anything that will hurt someone else’s feelings. Or at least, never intentionally do so. Obviously I can’t avoid everyone’s hot buttons, but if I can foresee someone getting hurt, I will try and do my best to back away. Basically: only make fun of myself.
  2. Avoid major political or social issues as much as possible. This isn’t to say that I’ll remain completely neutral on subjects, and I might allude to my feelings, but I’ll probably never write an essay about why a certain candidate is amazing or terrible. I’m not smart enough to tackle that shit.
  3. Be honest. I think this is one of the most important ones. I don’t want to be fake with my writing. I don’t want to try and adopt a personality because I think it’s what everyone wants to read. I want to be me, and if some people find that interesting, then yay. If they don’t, at least I didn’t lost myself or lie about who I am in the process.

And I think that’s all I need for right now. Those are my three things that I will check in on before publishing anything.

And lastly, I’m going to start trying to submit my content to places. While I edit my novel, I want to start actually working on getting published in other ways. I want to start receiving rejection letters and maybe even some yesses.

If anyone has any tips or knows of a place where I should start submitting, I’d really love to hear what you have to say. We’re all in this together, right?

Here’s to the writing life.