Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm Not Carrie Bradshaw

Recently I have been watching reruns of Sex and the City on E! because I missed the show when it originally appeared. I had never seen an episode when I caught the first movie on HBO one evening. I greatly enjoyed that (though the second one deserved the thumbs down it received) and after the viewing I was sorry I had missed the series.

Carrie Bradshaw, as most of you know, is a freelance writer who pens a sex column. Apparently she is paid well for this, well enough that said column is all the work she does.

In an episode last night, she discovered that she had a total of $1,600 to her name and needed to step up her freelance efforts (apparently the column did not pay all that well after all). At the end of the show, she said Vogue had agreed to pay her $4.50 a word.

I've never made $4.50 a word at anything I've ever published. The best I've ever done is $1.00 a word. Locally the going rate is about $0.05 cents a word. Yes, that's right. A nickel. A nickel a word. A few places may pay double that but they are few and far between and hard-sought  as well. Those gigs are hard to come by.

At $4.50 a word, Carrie Bradshaw is making $4,500 for 1,000 words. That's just a few paragraphs longer than the average op-ed column in The Roanoke Times, which, I assure you, pays nothing close to that.

One thousand words is about four double-spaced 8 1/2 x 11 pages in MS Word.

With 1,000 words, you can describe almost anything. In four pages you can bring a character to life. You can write a really long blog entry. You can talk about politics, religion, your mother, and your dog, or all of them at one time (wouldn't that be an interesting read?).

And you can get paid $4,500 for those words, if you are good, lucky, connected, and Carrie Bradshaw.

Which I am not.

Lately I have been mulling over how to become a more prolific freelance writer. I don't write about sex so I am not going there. I write about more mundane things - history, local government, features on the lady dentist or the female airplane pilot or some such. I don't live in New York where things are happening, so I have no idea about best restaurants. Food is out as I am a mashed potato and baked chicken kind of girl who doesn't even know what creme brulee is, much less how to write about it.

I also am not a fan of writing about health, though I think that's a hot topic to pursue if you like it. However, writing about it makes me nervous as I am afraid I will write something like, "experts advise taking Vitamin D-3 every day now because as a society we receive too little sun," and someone will read that and swallow too much D-3 and then sue me for it. People do that, you know. Also, when I have written about health in the past I have found doctors to be real assholes when it comes to interviews or offering up information. Maybe I should have interviewed proctologists.

This little blog entry should come to a point here, wrap itself up neatly, and refer back to the first paragraph, maybe. However, it's a musing, it's 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and I'm still wiping sleep from my eyes even though I've been up for two hours because that's what farm wives do. They rise and shine, though I don't shine all that much at the crack of dawn. It's more like I glimmer. Or maybe go off and on like a broken switch.

Anyway, to make a long piece even longer, I have practically stopped freelancing and am focusing on school. My masters level courses are a lot of work, rather like tearing apart a water pump and trying to put it back together when you don't know how. It takes a lot of grease.

I still miss writing for the local newspaper - so much that it's like a little mini heart attack sometimes when I stop and think about it - but that's getting easier. However, I had to stop writing for newspapers completely to ease the pain.

To become Carrie Bradshaw, I need to do a lot of things (besides lose weight and about 20 years). Mostly, I need to come up with ideas and send out query letters to magazine editors, if that is the way I want to go.  And this I do not do. And do you know why, dear reader?

Because I'm terrified they'll say no. And I'm terrified they'll say yes and I won't be able to produce. So isn't it better then, to do nothing at all, says the little timid mouse as it hunkers down in its little house?

So to become Carrie Bradshaw I must overcome this fear, even though I am highly published, with my byline under several thousand articles (really!) and move on, yes?

Maybe.

5 comments:

  1. Have faith in yourself and go for it. You can do it!

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  2. We are a lot alike, fear I will, fear I won't.

    The same thing happened for me with Sex in the City. I caught it late in reruns and then had to watch everyone (checked them out from the library). I enjoyed the series, especially so because Carrie was a writer with a writer's mind that I could relate to. I wondered less about what she made than how the people she wrote about felt about that!

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  3. Several thousand articles! Anita! Get cracking! If that's not confirmation of your talent, I don't know what is! Stop worrying about how you feel--ut oh, they might reject me, ut oh, they might accept it. Just do it!

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  4. "Maybe I should have interviewed proctologists." Ha, that's funny!
    Oh, how I can relate to this - the fear is a huge factor. But you're a marvelous writer, you've been published for God's sake! Yet that little fear thing can absolutely immobilize a writer.
    I'm still working on that, trying to get up the nerve to just figure out how I might freelance. And as past mid-life career change, it is terrifying. But I'd be so happy to get a dollar a word!
    And the master's programs can suck the life out of you. I've taken two courses thus far, and am now taking break, trying to figure out of it's worth the investment. Do you think it is?
    Anyway, just go for it, follow your heart, whatever it is you want. ;)

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  5. I too loved the show back in the day. I thought the movies were pretty awful, and for those of my friends whose only impression of the series is based on the movies, I keep begging them to watch the actual series!

    I remember that episode. I did think $4.50 a word sounded like a lot!

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