About a year ago, I cut my hand trying to saw a few inches off the bottom of my desk’s legs. With a bread knife. What? It was IKEA wood, not real wood. I thought it would work. It did not. Probably because it was also an IKEA bread knife. But I did get a local hardware store to trim my desk legs for me, because I was newly hung up on the idea that, as person who spends [fill in embarrassing number here] of hours a day staring at a computer, I should start thinking about ergonomics.
Robots have been driving me nuts recently. Two specific kinds of robots, actually.
First, there’s the kind all journalists know about: the human PR robot who refuses to answer the question you just asked them. Sometimes this is fine. Even if their language is painfully robotic, you really just need them to say something, and you can fill in the narrative around their quotes. Other times, particularly when you’re trying to report on something in depth that asks “how” or “why” something happened, it ruins the entire interview. If you ask a question that should be answered beginning something like, “Well, this one day, Tom said to Mary, ‘I’ve got a great idea!’ And the first thing they did was…” and instead the answer begins, “As a company Big Brand has always been committed to supporting great ideas…” that is not anything. It’s robot sludge. It’s definitely not a story.
By and large, I have no complaints about working from home. I love it. I’ve always wanted to be a freelance writer, and so a home office has always been a default part of that dream. Buuuuuut, sometimes I suddenly remember something about having a “real job” that I sort of miss. Really? Even with all the pajama working and make-up not wearing and proximity to dogs? Yes, really.
Today has been..[sigh]…a day. In the last 48 hours, the number of people who have totally flaked on scheduled interviews with me can barely be counted on one hand. They have caused me stress, wasted my time, made me miss deadlines and some actually cost me money. This happens on occasion, but rarely does it occur multiple times on the same day, much less then same project, which a couple of these instances were. Not all though. For whatever reasons, multiple sources from multiple stories for multiple publications all decided to hate me at the same time.
On a scale that includes world hunger and human rights abuses, my day hasn’t been that bad, but as I finally gave up and turned in the pieces in question, I felt the unsettled ache in my stomach of a passing nightmare. It was over, but it was still pretty bad. I might have had a little cry. I’ll probably soak in the tub in a bit, but first I had to share this little piece of wonderful that came out of the misery.
When a needed interview vanishes hours before a deadline, a writer must take to the internet to find “web content.” This is no easy task. There might be dozens of articles, blogs and websites that would prove the right point or support the narrative at hand, but the tricky thing about being a journalist is the source and quality of the content matters. The source has to be verifiable, legitimate, etc. For this piece, I was searching everywhere from business news sites to eBay, and it was on eBay – where treasures are known to be found – that I encountered back copies of GMC Truck News, a General Motors magazine that was once in print. It was written by R.A. Sumpter, also known as Robert Sumpter, also known as my grandfather.
My aunt recently gave me a copy of GMC Truck News that Grandpa had given her before he died. She wanted me to have it, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. It’s not just that I am also a writer. I also, 50 years later, write a good deal of branded content for companies, very similar to what he did for General Motors. It wasn’t something I aspired to, it was just one of those lucky things I stumbled upon. Though I can’t ask him, as he died 15 years ago, I believe he would have said the same thing.
And as it turns out, there are more volumes of his work available on eBay. I sort of want to buy them all up. I might. Whether or not I do though, it feels so wonderful to know that his work is still out there, in the same industry as mine, and that I even had an assignment that caused the paths of our work to cross. That no-good, super-annoying, tear-inducing horror of an assignment. That I am so glad I received.
So there’s this hill, right before I get to my gym, that is a total nightmare to ride up on my bike. I strain and groan and stand up on my pedels and almost fall over, and by the time I get to the top, my heart is thumping wildly and I can hardly breathe. Sometimes I just get off my bike and walk it. Every time, I get mad at the hill for even existing. Stupid hill.
The life of a freelancer has a number of “free” things in it. Freedom from offices; freedom from oppressive employers; free time, if you can swing it; and free reign over your own schedule, priorities and ability grow.