I've been going through the intermediate growing pains of running my own little business. It's not easy, but it is infinitely rewarding.
I'm trying to set up my home office. I'd already had a setup, but then I realized sitting in a plastic chair set in front of a too-high desk was extremely uncomfortable. More on that later.
I'm also working on what is probably one of the most dreaded projects a writer can work on; their own bio. I'll admit it, I was embarrassed to even mention that I was struggling with it on my professional website. I thought that by publicly stating writing my own bio presented a uniquely difficult challenge, it would be like openly admitting I'm a bad writer. Not so.
Apparently, writing one's own bio is probably one of the toughest projects most writers will ever have to do. Of course, this doesn't go for all writers; some of my peers seem to have had a much easier time about it than others. Still, the shame of not having produced my bio gnawed at me. That is, until I saw a discussion and "how to" pointers crop up on one of the writer forums I belong to.
Learning that other writers have the same problem definitely eased the stress (of how I'd be judged by my peers). Now, I was able to talk about it openly. When I searched online for "bio" and "how to," I stumbled onto a plethora of other writer web pages where they explaining they'd gone through the same thing.
What's stumping me? Well, first of all, try to speak of yourself in an objective manner without sounding like a pompous ass. Personally, I feel guilty heaping praise on myself. It feels like cheating somehow, even though it's not (in this case, as applies to my career).
The second and more important roadblock, is figuring out how to word one's own bio. Do I write it in the first person or third person? I spoke with my peers about this; their responses confused me even more. One friend (whose professional opinion I highly respect) told me that under no circumstances should I even think of writing in the first person. That was tantamount to a cardinal sin in the publishing industry. Well, guess what I came across when I looked around on the internet at other writer's bios? All the best bios (in my opinion) were written in the first person. I also enjoyed reading first-person bios a heck of a lot more.
Finally, a (very successful) journalist friend of mine gave me the best advice. He said he'd written his bio both in the first and third person. In the long run, that didn't matter so much as writing a GOOD bio. The rest was a matter of personal preference.
Which brings me to the conclusion of this post. My foray into becoming a writer was out of personal preference. My continuing on to start my own business was out of personal preference. So, it stands to reason that my bio should reflect my personal tastes, and not an industry standard (which as I saw, it actually wasn't).
Now all I need to do is stop procrastinating and get. to. writing. my. bio.
So I'm starting out as a freelance writer and so far, so good. So good, my plate is full of projects I'm happy to be a part of. So good, I'm thinking about branching out and doing some marketing. So good, my schedule is flexible enough to allow for down time, school, and life in general.
And yet, I have so many questions. "Welcome to the world of freelancing," my friend Emma said about the unstable nature of being your own boss. From wondering what the heck Creative Commons is and guessing it's probably important to have, to figuring out how to balance my career with life in general, wondering what to do next can be daunting.
Every step of the way, part of me is happy I was finally able to achieve career independence. The double-edged sword lies in that independence exactly. Example:
Projects=pleasing clients=deadlines=schedule=marketing=financial stability=eeek!
For being new at this, I'm pretty happy with how my foray into freelance writing is going so far. I just wasn't cut out to do a 9 to 5, and being my own boss allows me to do whatever I want with my schedule. If I don't impose a project schedule, though, I don't get paid. I'd like to expand my client base, too, but better to get used to this first before I take on too much and implode.
Part of me thinks I'd benefit from having a mentor, but I don't like being told what to do. That is what got me here in the first place.
I was born and raised in New York City, and there are two things New Yorkers are famously known for NOT knowing how to do; drive a car, and swim.
Yes, I have New Yorker friends who know how to handle a vehicle, and swim too, but they are not in the majority. I am in the majority. I didn't learn how to drive a car until I moved down here to South Florida. Now I can drive pretty much unruffled through any condition (although I don't like to drive at night). But, swimming? Nuh uh. Can't do it.
It took me years to learn how to float. It seems like an easy enough thing to do, but try telling that to an adult past their late 20's who doesn't know how. If I had three wishes to be granted, one of them would be the ease with which one picks things up as a kid.
I've taken swimming lessons before, too. When I lived in Philadelphia, I briefly had a wonderful personal trainer whose name I think was Sean. He was first-generation Irish, complete with the brogue.
Sean taught me a lot about physical fitness; he was also the first person who tried to teach me how to swim. We were making good progress; what little I do know now I owe to him. One day, he announced him and his soccer team were going to Brazil for a competition. He was straight, and young, and Caucasian. I've lived in Brazil, I know how Brazilian women would flock to men just like him; they'd treat him like a superstar.
I told him he'd fall in love with Brazil and never come back. He never did. My swimming lessons stopped. Now, more than ten years later, I'm at it again. This time it seems the instructor, Frank (who is also a lifeguard) is going to stay put and actually teach me. This is the second week I've been taking classes with him; so far he's taught me very well. I still feel like a frog with a rock tied on its back, but my technique is slowly sucking less.
Yesterday, Frank said something about how many hours of practice it takes for swimming to become natural. So far, I've dedicated about four hours to it. For it to become second nature, Frank says it takes about 50 hours of practice. I guess I know what I'm doing this summer.
Here are the most recent articles I've published with petMD:
The Hype of Hypoallergenic Pets
Unapproved Pet Shampoo Prompts FDA Warning
Pilot Whales Stranded in Florida Keys, Volunteers Needed
Pictures of Cat Injured by Arrow on Facebook Raises Money for Feral Felines
VCA Animal Hospitals Providing Free Pet Shelter in Disaster-Struck Areas
Here's the latest news article I wrote, published on Monday, May 9th, 2011:
PETA Fights 'Dog Wars" with Their Own App
I began working with PetMD (www.PetMD.com) about a month ago as a freelance associate editor. Since then, I've had quite a few articles and news features published. Click on the headlines below to be redirected to the live articles, and enjoy!
Over 130 Malnourished Horses Rescued from Maryland Farm
Pig Ears for Pet Treats Recalled Due to Salmonella Risk
Animal Rescue Organizations Provide Midwest Rescue Aid
Canine May Have Lent a Helping Paw in Bin Laden's Capture
Holistic Medicine and How it Can Help Your Pet
Non-Toxic Pest Control: A Green Alternative
I will be posting more links as they're published. Stay tuned!
Last month, one of my English professors posed a seemingly innocuous request to our class: try and track down a copy of a 1981 Great Performances video of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth.
Simple? Not so much.
I took the ball and ran with it. Part of an old job was rights and permission requests (those of you in publishing know how time-consuming and daunting that can be), so I have some experience with that. Also, I did a stint working with private investigators and picked up a thing or two on research and tracking.
At first, it seemed easy. The internet put a New York Times article at my disposal, and provided me with all the preliminary information I needed and then some; the repertory company the majority of the cast came from, where it was filmed, who were the producers...
Armed with this information, I contacted the Trinity Square Repertory Company, only to discover they'd lost their only copy. They requested that in my continuing search, I'd please try and obtain a copy for them, as well. The library in Providence, Rhode Island didn't have a copy either. The repertory company wished me luck in my search.
Now the real challenge was on. Did I mention my venerable professor had been looking for this for years? Following the information on the producers, I excavated information on the executive producer, who'd moved on to become the President and CEO of a television network in the Midwest. When I called the television station, and spoke to a gentleman in the Human Resources department, they didn't have any forwarding contact information on him. He wished me luck in my search.
Next, I tried the New York Public Library (specifically, a branch dedicated to live theater performances and funded by one of the producers). A very nice librarian suggested I contact the Paley Center (formerly the Museum for broadcasting and television). The librarian informed me they didn't have a copy, but wished me luck in my search.
I contacted the Paley Center, and was directed to call back and speak to their library later in the day. When I called back, a very nice gentleman there told me they only had the third installment of the trilogy, but were not able to release it to the public because they didn't own the rights to the program. They suggested I contact the Channel 13 offices, as (according to their records) WNET New York was the owner of this production.
I searched and searched for contact information for PBS, WNET, anyone who could tell me where to go next. I'd called the WNET offices the prior week and asked for the archives department, only to be told, "There is no archive department." This, while I was sitting in front of my computer looking at the archives page on their website.
I called the WNET offices back. Again, when I asked, I was told there was no archive department. I told them the Paley Center had suggested I call them. I was then asked, "Are you a producer or something?" Insert inkling of delusion of grandeur HERE. I was tempted to say yes, but instead replied, "I'm a researcher or something." That got me through to the archives department!
Digression: Anyone who's ever seen Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" will nod their heads in dystopian sympathy.
The very nice lady who picked up the phone listened to my request, then informed me I could have easily contacted her by referring to the archives page. No, not really.
The lady from PBS then looked for The House of Mirth on her internal database, reminding me all the while this was usually an internal procedure, and these services weren't available to the public. Hey, she was helping me look, right? Big picture.
Aaaaannnd.... They had a copy! Overjoyed, I took down the rights and permissions procedure, and forwarded it to my professor (we'd been keeping in contact). The lady at PBS also told me just because they had a copy in their possession, didn't mean it could be released to the public.
In the meantime, I hadn't given up searching for contact information on the executive producer, who has since retired. There. Was. Nothing. Then I thought, "He's a retired media executive, he must have a LinkedIn account." He did, but there was no way of sending him a direct message. I did see, though, that he'd written a recommendation for a colleague. And I tracked down that colleague.
Digression: It was at this point that I came to the realization, "This is FUN!"
Fast forward to the present. The professor sent a request to WNET, only to be denied on the grounds they didn't own the rights to the production. Who does? The retired executive producer. The production company listed as owning the rights to the production had an address, but no phone number. Suspicious. I believe the company went out of business a long time ago. The retired producer's colleague sent me a contact email. Today, after no response, I emailed the exec producer a second request.
The other producers? One is in the United Kingdom (and the repertory company doesn't think he has a copy) and the other passed away. As for the other companies who donated funding for this production (such as the National Endowment for the Arts), they don't have a copy either.
In the meantime, I'm hoping and waiting for a response from the executive producer. I'm also going to try to track down the retired executive producer for Great Performances. Maybe if the repertory company asked for a copy from WNET, they'd get one?
Also, there's always the actors...
My research efforts resulted in Florida International University's acquisition of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) 1980's film adaptation of Edith Wharton's A House of Mirth. It is the only copy currently available for public viewing in the United States. The link to the IMDB page for the production is here.
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