5.30 am: wake up, try to recall absolutely brilliant, bestselling story idea that popped into head at 2am but fail (research suggests those of us who grandly assume we have a creative streak have our best ideas at the most inconvenient time of day if you like – conventionally – to sleep at night).
5.45 am: get up, make coffee in the hope caffeine will jog memory and release necessary from Ideas Bank. It doesn’t.
6.15 am: turn on computer and check mails in hope that one of the 47 newspaper/magazine editors you wrote to yesterday with marvellous pitch for a feature has replied with a commission. 3 have. You open each message with trembling fingers.
The first reads: “so and so is out of the office until 24 January 2011, in an emergency please contact x” (you’ve contacted x before and know that not much you have to offer will be considered an emergency)
Disappointed, you read the second. “thank you so much for your idea. It is very interesting and would make a great feature for our pages but unforunately we have a story on precisely the same topic in next month’s edition/we have just covered this”. (They haven’t; you checked). I can rest assured my idea will be used. Only it won’t be written up by me. Ideas – I was told by an editor on one of the UK’s broadsheets – are the currency of newspapers and magazines. Which means I’ve lost quite alot of money.
You read the last message telling yourself third time lucky. Except that it isn’t: ”your idea on insomnia is most interesting and would make a great feature for our magazine” encouraging so far “however we feel that owing to where you live, you are not in a position to write this up for us”. Hellooooo! don’t you think people in Africa suffer from sleeplessness too? What the editor means – of course – is that because I live where I do, I must be badly educated and English a second language. Whether I live with insomnia has nothing at all to do with it.
Dispirited you drink more coffee and then – because if you call yourself a writer you need to do something to justify lofty title (largely because you’d quite like people to talk to you when you go to parties – especially if you live in an Outpost – which they might not do if you say you are Just A Mum. The general public lives by mistaken belief that those in paid employment have more interesting things to say than those of us who are employed and unpaid at home despite the fact we live life on the front line and have the peace keeping skills of a United Nations negotiator) so you trawl internet for:
freelance markets for writers
you get 1,890,000 hits. Which is encouraging. Until you remember you’ve tried most of them before. (really you have: it’s called Working when you’re a housewife pretending to be a writer).
Then you attempt to unearth Paid Work for Writers.
more than 2,000,000 hits – the top one is looking for writers in Miami. which instinct tells you will be a bit like trying to write up the insomnia story.
By noon this particular writer has written nothing except 107 emails to assorted editors/freelance markets/friends; a shopping list and her signature 26 times on sheet of scrap paper in the hope of one day being asked to sign inside jacket of her book even though she doens’t need the practice: in recent years she’s had to sign so many cheques for school fees she could do it with her eyes closed.
The afternoon hours stretch and relax to nothingness as you gaze out of the window seeking inspiration (not about what to write but whom you haven’t thought of yet to write to). And then you remember that a Real Writer once wrote ”having published my first book, I found I was able to make a substantial living as a freelancer”.
Needless to say, you’ve already written a book. Three actually. You hoik them out of computer archives and dust them off – metaphorically, of course – and wonder who you could resubmit them to, and whether the passage of time since you last submitted is long enough that they might have forgotten what they said. My choices are quite limited – 43 publishers and in most cases the commissioning editors are still alive and well with intellects insufficently eroded by dementia yet to remeber that they said, ”thanks for sending your work in but I regret it doesn’t demonstrate sufficient commercial appeal for our lists’.
It’s only at this point that you notice the time and scramble to your feet to throw supper together. Your husband pours you a drink and asks what you’ve been up to all day. You sigh dramatically, ”working”, you say, whilst you hastily put a pasta dish together thinking guiltiy that it’s the most useful thing you’ve done since remembering to put clean knickers on at 6 this morning.
Anything? husband asks hopefully – he means any work, proper paying work that comes with pound signs and number on it – nah, nothing, you admit, stirring bolognese furiously.
Never mind. Think of JK Rowling: she worked for years before she made any money.
Why do non-writers always drag JK up for those who pretend to write? Do they really think reference to her fortune makes our lack of success easier to bear? It’s either her or Mary Wesley.
And I don’t want to wait until I’m 70 to make any money out of what I pretend to do, for God’s sake: I need nice shoes now.