The Freakin’ Sad Pity of It All

So in this writers’ newsletter there was a request for help.

“I Can’t Think of Any Article Ideas!
I am so new at freelance writing I haven’t even attempted to send any articles to any of the magazines yet. I try to think of topics they would be interested in, but my brains just go dead. I am at a stalemate. I am not an expert in too many fields to know what magazines to address. And there is the problem of editing. I do not want to send in an article with grammar errors, and it cost me money to have someone edit. Do you have any advice on this.”

Well, yeah…here’s my advice. “Forget it. Stop kidding yourself. If you can’t think of any article ideas, you’re not a writer. A real writer has more ideas than there will ever be time to utilize.” I’m ready to take off on a monster rant, covering such topics as self-delusion, chutzpah, etc.

The kindest thing I can say is, this letter must have been written by someone who got hold of one of those books with titles like 433 Jobs You Can Do From Home. Bright idea #201: “Be a freelance writer!” Like there aren’t already thousands of people who have tried for years to do that very thing, and who still need to hang onto their day jobs.

To garner more ammunition for my snit, I read the letter again. “….and it cost me money to have someone edit.” That’s too perfect. Maybe the letter is a put-on, somebody’s little attempt at satire. I want to believe it’s a joke. Nobody could be that dumb.

On the third reading, something tugs at my awareness. The style is familiar. The letter could have been written by Trina, a young woman I love, who is coming down off a long series of disastrous choices, and currently has a toddler to take care of all by herself. I can visualize her writing it. I can just see Trina paging through 433 Jobs You Can Do From Home and connecting with the concept of being a free-lance writer, making a living for herself and her boy, writing articles while he takes his afternoon nap.

The naive hopefulness of it breaks my heart. This is the same gullible kid who once phoned me all excited, thinking she had won a sweepstakes. (Do they still exist? I used to get dozens of them in the mail. “You may have already won…” There hasn’t been a sweepstakes in my mailbox for a couple of years now. Repressive legislation? Or have all the con artists simply taken their business online?)

Anyway, a feeling that resembles shame is starting to come over me. I’m such an intellectual snob, to look down on the pathetic efforts of this loser and to have the condescending, patronizing nerve to feel sorry for her. Meanwhile, it would behoove me to remember that somewhere out there, somebody else is shaking their head over my pathetic efforts. So who am I to sneer at this clueless questioner? No free-lance writer, that’s for sure, not if you define it by making a living. Maybe it’s just me who needs an attitude adjustment.

But I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I don’t necessarily enjoy being the cynical witch who says, “The only e-books that sell are the ones about how to write e-books that sell. It’s a self-perpetuating hoax, a pyramid scheme of the mind.” I wish there weren’t thousands of them out there, the functionally illiterate, hopelessly disorganized, and terminally boring, who think they can carve out careers as writers.

There ought to be a socko concluding paragraph right about here, but I am at a stalemate. My brains just went dead.

About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for
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